The official guidance from the College of Arms is clear. So far as "flags on buildings belonging to central and local government" the following should be observed:
On the day of the funeral, the flag should be flown at half-mast from dawn to dusk.
For those interested the general protocol is also covered:
Q. When should the Union Flag be flown at half-mast?
A. Occasions on which the Union Flag is to be flown at half-mast:
- from the announcement of the death of the Sovereign until the funeral
- in the following cases, half-mastings will be by special command from Her Majesty:
- the death of a member or near relative of the Royal Family or the funeral of members of the Royal Family
- the funerals of foreign Ruler
- the funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
- the funerals of First Ministers and ex-First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (unless otherwise commanded by the Sovereign, this only applies to flags in their respective countries)
- any other occasions as commande
- The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will inform Government departments of any other occasions when Her Majesty has given a special command.
Of course overwhelmingly this is being followed. It is something that decent people of all political persuasions wish to respect.
However if a council ignores this "special command" from The Queen there is no sanction. But they should be honest and not pretend they are following protocol when they are defying it. Nor can they pretend that lowering a flag to half-mast costs any money.
Amidst the bogus excuses in public the true reasons sometimes emerge – showing us how Labour is the nasty party.
Cllr John Mutton, the Labour leader of Coventry City Council, emailed colleagues:
Whilst I have had to smile at some of the jokes doing the rounds following the death of Thatcher, it has been brought to my attention that normally, following the death of a former prime minister, we receive an instruction from the Queen telling us to fly the Union Flag at half-mast. I would like to gauge the views of comrades. My own view is that I would fly a flag with a happy smiling face on.’
In response, another Labour councillor Cllr Dave Chater wrote:
"Would have preferred to see her hanging from a flag pole in the early 80s! A definite no from me."
Certainly there willl be many Labour Party members who will genuinely find these sentiments repugnant. But will they call for Cllr Mutton and Cllr Chater to be thrown out?