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Labour: Proud Of Being Patriotic?

The Union Jack - Photographer: LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson - Attribution -NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The polling is in: the party must be patriotic.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he wants the party to be “proud of being patriotic”, which from my perspective is a massive shift from where the party was under Jeremy Corbyn.

But is this actually going to happen? Is Labour suddenly going to start singing the national anthem? Starmer said: “I ask you: take another look at Labour. We’re under new leadership. We love this country as you do”

Of course, this is welcome rhetoric, something pretty much everyone or at least the majority of people can get behind.

According to a YouGov poll at the start of the leadership race, 50% of Labour members thought that it was important for the next leader to be patriotic.

That is quite a statement from a party that has had a complicated history of patriotism since its inception. In the 80s, Labour was pushing for the unilateral nuclear disarmament ideals at a time when the Cold War was at its height. Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls even recently commented: “Every Conservative conference had flown the Union Jack and used as many patriotic symbols as possible, as well as being strong on law and order, and defence,” according to the BBC. “Labour hadn’t matched that”.

The left has a complicated history in terms of its notable thinkers’ views on patriotism, with some viewing patriotism as a way in which the Bourgeoisie control the proletariat, whereas others see it as vital to the soul of the nation. What is clear, however, is that the nation as a whole wants patriotism – even half of the Labour membership, filled with momentum activists.

This shift in the Labour Party is a dangerous one. It brings them closer to power, even when we all know they are not really patriotic. If they paint themselves as such, they will improve in the polls and, when the General Election arrives in four years’ time, they will have successfully rebranded back to a more patriotic version of the Labour Party.