Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

When Murray wins he’s British. When he loses he’s Scottish.

No, he isn’t. No, he isn’t. Can we put this one to bed? And can Alex Salmond put his flag away?

Sun, Jul 7, 2013, 21:06


I have, for my sins, just dipped a toe in the electronic ether to discover that an annoyingly persistent fantasy is, yet again, being trundled around for the amusement of paranoiacs. Have you noticed…? (Adopt unbearable smirk.) Have you noticed that whenever Andy Murray loses he’s Scottish and that whenever he wins he’s British? Huh huh?

No. No! I haven’t noticed that. I have never noticed any such thing. Life is too short to trawl about the internet and compare British reports of Murray’s loss last year with those of his victory this year. But, at no stage in Mr Murray’s career, have I observed any such strategic allocation of nationhood by the British media. This is something that people say without really bothering to wonder if there’s any truth in it. “Oh I suppose he’s Scottish again,” folk said when Murray lost to Roger Federer last year. Do you? Why do you suppose this?  For the record, the rule doesn’t apply to Rory McIlroy either. The BBC don’t go back to calling him Irish when (as happens all too often recently) he knocks his ball into the lake.

It’s that European player. It’s that male player. It’s that player from the Northern hemisphere. And so on.

Oh, hang on. There’s also the issue of Alex Salmond and the Saltire. If you have eagle eyes, you will have spotted the Scottish First Minister unveiling that nation’s flag after Mr Murray’s impressive triumph. Within seconds, Twitter was alive with arguments for and against this gesture. The general consensus is that — unusually for such a canny politician — he’s made a bit of a tit of himself. His defenders rather miss the point by pretending that the objections hung around a denial that the Saltire is Murray’s national flag (or one of them). Nobody was making that argument. Everybody accepts this (even the most pro-Tory Unionist). Out there in the stands people were waving many smaller Saltires. On that hill named for an English player (don’t make me say it) the white crosses were greatly in abundance. There have been no objections to punters brandishing the things in less formal  communal areas.

The argument was that it is somewhat undignified for the leader of a nation to begin waving a flag while a guest in the Royal Box at Wimbledon. I have many “issues” with Enda Kenny (don’t get me started), but I can’t imagine he’d whip out a tricolour if an Irish player managed a similar achievement. This isn’t even about the snootiness of tennis in general or Wimbledon in particular. We wouldn’t expect our leaders to behave in this manner if they were in the royal boxes at Wembley or Twickenham. Imagine the furore if, while attending an England game at  Lansdowne Road, David Cameron sneakily produced a Cross of St George from his pocket.

Anyway, I doubt this typhoon in a teacup will have much bearing on the upcoming Scottish referendum. It was, however, a rare misstep by Mr Salmond. The SNP may, for a day or so, be calling him a “British politician”. Har har!