The British government has controversially requested that all national flags be flown at half-mast today in honour of the Saudi King Abdullah who died last night.
Following the absolute monarch’s passing at the age of 90, a government statement read: “It is with great regret that we learn of the death of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia. It is requested that all flags be half-masted from 8am today until 8pm this evening.
“Any other UK national flags flown alongside the Union Flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the Union Flag, it should be removed.
“Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.”
But the government decision to mark the death of King Abdullah by flying flags in Whitehall at half-mast was almost immediately criticised by MPs.
The Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said it was an “extraordinary misjudgment” in the light of the kingdom’s human rights record.
Carswell said the “Sir Humphreys who run British foreign policy” were to blame for the tribute and that they were out of touch with public feeling. It is an extraordinary misjudgment by the out-of-touch elite in Whitehall who think it is appropriate to do this,” he said.
Labour MP Paul Flynn said the tribute was evidence of the establishment’s “extraordinary subservience” to foreign royals.
The gesture is emblematic of the economic importance of Saudi Arabia, which is a close western ally.