More flags please – we’re British Labour!

By stewartb

Tucked away in the BBC News website on Thursday (4 February) there appeared an article by Jennifer Scott, online political reporter. It is entitled: “Labour: Historic divisions over patriotism pose challenge for Starmer”. I had considered, and initially rejected, the notion of commenting but my Friday morning read of the Source Direct newsletter convinced me.

Today’s issue has a link to a piece by David Jamieson entitled: “Starmer’s ‘national’ turn makes little sense in a fractured Union”. He provides a link to the Guardian of 2 February 2021 and the headline: “Leak reveals Labour plan to focus on flag and patriotism to win back voters – leaked internal strategy presentation reveals plan to ‘change the party’s body language’.” The Guardian reveals: “Labour must make ‘use of the [union] flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly’ as part of a radical rebranding to help it win back the trust of disillusioned voters, according to a leaked internal strategy presentation.”

What struck me on reading Jamieson’s piece was that never once did he refer to the ‘p’ word – ‘patriotism’. He makes multiple references to ‘nationalism’ and British Labour but note, ‘patriotism’ is the word in the Guardian headline. And patriotism is the word now much in use by Keir Starmer, evidence already of the party’s re-branding being implemented.

Words mean what British Labour decide they mean

Which brings me back to the BBC article. It begins by reminding us that early in his tenure the Labour leader said he wanted the party to be “proud of being patriotic”. (Maybe ‘loud and proud‘ is next?)

Ms Scott writes a good piece. She tells something of the Labour Party’s history and its attitudes towards patriotism over time. For example, we learn of an incident involving Keir Hardie: “.. Hardie was against World War One and spoke out about it in the Commons. But some Labour backbenchers defied him by quietly singing the national anthem ‘like a cold, cold wind’ from behind, in a stunt to discredit him as anti-patriotic.” On learning this, we’re told present Labour peer, Baroness Chakrabarti: “was shocked, not just that Labour MPs could be so wrong about that tragic imperialist war, but that they were so nasty to their first leader who brought them into being.”

We also get an insight into Labour patriotism now from Chakrabarti. She states that Starmer’s task is to redefine what patriotism means. “I personally have no problem calling myself a patriot,” she said. “I am a universalist, an internationalist, a human rights activist, but I also understand that people are rooted in place, language, culture and stories.” (my emphasis) Seems to me a case here of assigning to oneself a collection of labels and having to redefining meaning selectively in order better to fit the times and/or your party’s campaigning needs.

Chakrabarti wants Labour to focus its patriotism on sources of pride and not on the more traditional, flag-waving patriotism of the right. (Has she not noticed yet? To be fair, her party leader’s flag accessory doesn’t flap.) She adds: “We should be patriotic about the NHS, not looking for more wars or trying to compete with the right wing populism of Johnson and Trump.” In short, Labour should and will (of course) do ‘good’ patriotism not that ‘bad’ patriotism of others! Chakrabarti then calls Labour’s version: ‘contemporary patriotism’.

The BBC article wheels out Ed Balls (remember him?) for further insight into Labour’s – what I suppose we must call – ‘contemporary patriotism’. For Balls, the “right balance” here is one that brings together an internationalist view with the country’s national interest.

National pride and national interest together

Did you spot the focus on ‘sources of pride’ can be linked to a country’s ‘national interest’? I wonder if that’s the kind of ‘national interest’ pursued in politics by a ‘national party’? Or is Labour’s patriotic British national interest – using Labour’s definition of ‘patriotic’ of course – the only good kind of national interest? Balls advises that campaigning for “change” will not be enough to win back red wall (i.e. so called ‘traditional Labour’) seats: “Standing up for that combination of change and national pride is vital if Labour is to succeed”.

How many types of patriotism?

The BBC article helpfully provides a link to a January 2020 survey of 1,005 Labour Party members at the time of the leadership contest conducted by YouGov. It asked questions about patriotism. Specifically it asked: “Do you think it is possible for there to be a ‘progressive’ form of patriotism that you would find acceptable?” Alert readers will note the appearance here of another adjective: there is now something called ‘progressive patriotism’ being put to Labour members to add to that other term we’ve learned, ‘contemporary patriotism’.

The ProudScotbut British Labour (progressive/contemporary) Patriot

Now here in Scotland we are used to a certain prominent Labour politician, who presumably we can characterise now as a ProudScotbut British (progressive/contemporary) Patriot (the ordering of the words is probably not fixed), telling us in terms that ‘nationalists’ and ‘nationalism’ are very, very, always (well certainly in Scotland) just irredeemably bad!

But hang on: Labour is re-defining ‘patriotism’ to suit its purpose, encompassing ‘pride’, ‘national interest’ with ‘internationalism’. However, in Scotland the term ‘nationalism’ is incapable of qualification according to Labour as it dismisses progressive or civic nationalism as the same bad nationalism as every other nationalism. And the leaders of British Labour in Scotland promote this ‘all nationalism is bad’ slur towards the remaining, naturally left of centre, social democratic Labour voters in the hope they are (still) less than well-informed whilst at the same time the party is embracing ‘patriotism’ that has to be re-defined as ‘contemporary’ or ‘progressive’.

And finally – and of course – Scotland’s Labour MP and British Labour more generally seem conveniently to forget about their sister party in Northern Ireland, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). That is the party British Labour still chooses not to compete against in elections. Do they hope we don’t know that the current SDLP leadership explicitly espouses ‘progressive nationalism’ (see–276171/ ).

But to repeat: words mean what British Labour decides they must mean, regardless!

19 thoughts on “More flags please – we’re British Labour!

  1. If you really want to understand how politicians manipulate patriotism
    Then you are well advised to study the Rise of the Nazis
    And we all know how that ended for them
    History NEVER repeats
    It merely echoes and rhymes
    Ignore at your peril
    The Brit Establishment are now juggling with
    Grenades and the pin is out of one them

    Liked by 7 people

  2. All the Brit Nat parties are pro-Brexit. They are against immigration. Against Erasmus, cooperation on research and science.
    They are for Britain, but it is a small, ugly insular version. They like the Union flag ( Boris now has four), but not a union of four equal nations.
    They believe in democracy, but only in a system where the London parliament has ALL the power, and the Prime Minister is a de facto dictator for as long as he can maintain a majority (with his party, not the electorate).
    It has become inevitable that economic decline will happen here. Then, to maintain the wealth of the elite, scapegoats will be required–beyond the usual imposition on the poor and powerless—sabres will be rattled, and gunboats dispatched–c’mon, wave your flags!
    WW2 on 6 channels, and the imagined “spirit of Captain Tom” invoked. Boak!

    Scotland needs to be gone before then.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Gavinochiltree
      If you study the history of great Empires when they begin to collapse which is very different from slow decline
      When collapse begins it is fast and furious
      A good signal of the onslaught of the impending collapse is when its leaders start espousing past glories, We world beating, a bright sunny future dawns and let us make ourselves great again
      And when such deployed with increasing vigour then they know full well that the foundations are now utterly useless
      But they also clever enough to plunder for themselves what little of any wealth is left
      But as far as Scotland concerned all such collapses ALWAYS end up with The original Empires ending up having to retreat behind the boundaries from where they commenced
      And in the case of England’s Empire such true
      Beginnings are to be found firmly and squarely with Hendry viii
      He got rid of papal control not only to be rid of his wife but more importantly so to build his navy and army all in order to gain lands and control of the seas
      This Empire will retreat and collapse very fast now,all starting with the Loss of the real Jewel in the crown Scotland
      Swiftly followed by NI &Wales
      Believe me such is more than capable of leading to the loss of Cumbria,Northumbria
      & Devon/Cornwall
      More ominously Very Very Serious civil disorder and even civil war in England possible
      This is by no means far fetched
      Most examples of collapsing Empires cleary
      Demonstrate all i speak off
      But their is always a common result
      It is always fast and furious
      Why will this Happen to England
      Simple it refuses to recognise far less its decline but impending final demise
      Examples of Former great Empires who quickly recognise such greatly increase their chances of developing into a new Nation state that then goes on to prosper
      E.G. Denmark,Sweden,Spain albeit belatedly ,
      And one could argue the former Soviet Union
      Who are actually building a successful Russia
      Hate or Like him Putin understood all of which I speak and commenced by in a very clever way rebuilding the Armed Forces in such a manner that many of its enemies who would at the drop of a hat attempt to defeat it
      But now find themselves never to be so stupid as to attempt taking them on,as defeat almost certain now for them


      1. The average length of time an Empire lasts is a surprisingly consistent 400 years. That’s about right for our big neighbour. Once they gave up on conquering France, they turned to easier prey; the triangular slave trade funded and enabled by Elizabeth Tudor ( who supplied money and ships and shared the profits). They weren’t quite a match for the Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch initially, but sucked us daft Scots in with them, then the Americas, Africa and India fell to them: the middle and Far East.
        The sun never set on this squalid exploitation, but hey, the Boris Regime are to prioritise protecting statues of the slavers—from us, the mob. Let the old die and the poor starve, but statues need protecting!

        Get Scotland the f*** away from this!

        Liked by 3 people

  3. So when folks in England are scrabbling about for pennies to feed their kids, when their parents despair because they have no work, when people can’t pay their rent or bills, just wave a butchers apron at then Mr. Starmer and they will feel much much better at knowing something is ‘progressive’, because their lives are being taken backwards by Labour and the Tories by decades if not centuries. That’s if they live through the Covid crisis and their NHS in England can weather that storm.

    Labour in London are a regressive party, and they have all but lost Scotland if they think waving a few butchers aprons in Scotland will win them their popularity back, well it’s hilarity all round.
    Maybe they should be rebranded the English Nationalist party and have done with it. How can anyone be ‘internationalist’ when their preferred nationalism means narrow, inward looking, insular Brexit. They must think people are really stupid. Flag waving is the last thing folks need, they need policy, equality and a country that moves into the 21st century.

    I get daily/weekly updates from the ScotGov about their work and policy etc and it’s ‘progressive’, and they are not perfect but today for eg, news they are opening the ‘next asymptomatic testing site for Covid’, and ‘reaching net zero, a vision to transform heating in Scotland’s buildings’.
    I don’t see anything about waving the Saltire about everywhere to make people feel warm and cosy, or to give them hope re Covid.

    Labours’ push for ‘progressive’ nationalistic flag waving is just a gesture, it’s symbolic (of what?) and is an insult to people right now. Brexit is a catastrophe, hanging their butchers apron on a pole every time they appear on camera just won’t cut it with people suffering terrible Brexit induced poverty, destitution and hardship.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Perhaps it is just me…but the Butchers Apron puts me in a dreadful mood!
    Labour can wrap themselves in that rag if they want but the shouldn’t expect Scots to be impressed.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This reminds me of a minor ‘altercation’ I had when canvassing in 2014 on the doorstep of an unkown to me SLabour ‘coonciloor’ when he bitterly complained how the SNP and the ‘Yes’ movement had, in his words, ‘Hyjacked’ the Saltire. They didn’t get it then and certainly they still don’t today.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Indeed they hated seeing the Saltire on yes badges etc, they called it ‘nationalist’ and ‘blood and soil nationalism’ which is weird when you look at those photos of Starmer adorned with the butchers apron it could hardly be more prominent and in your face, the stuff of blood and soil nationalism.

      The Scottish Saltire became symbolic of Scotland’s identity and status as a country, no longer an appendage to England, when independence started to become a very real desire and prospect. Before then, for many outwith Scotland, it wasn’t really recognised as a real flag and Scotland would not have been recognised as being a country in it’s own right either. The BritNats still try to deny that and would love to remove that status from Scotland.

      Scotland is viewed in a different more positive light abroad now, and that is what the BritNats hate, and why they try to undermine the integrity of the SNP party, that is going to get worse in the coming weeks.
      As the saying goes, in sport for eg, if Scotland is losing they are Scottish, if winning, they are British!

      If the COP26 goes ahead in November, in Glasgow in Scotland, it will be interesting to see who is in attendance, those heading the whole thing are all Tories so far, based in er, England, nice work if you can get it!
      If anyone is hyjacking anything it’s the EngGov, in pushing Scotland and Scotland’s elected respresentatives into a ditch while they take over COP26 to big up themselves, wonder how they will explain their go ahead for the coal mine in Cumbria, hmmm.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re right about the saltire not being “…recognised as a real flag and Scotland would not have been recognised as being a country in it’s own right either” before moves towards independence started in the 1970s. I was a 1940s baby and my memories of the 1950s, 60s & 70’s are that the Butcher’s Apron was routinely flown from Town Halls and all public buildings in Scotland. The only time you saw the Saltire or Lion Rampant would be at football or rugby internationals. My grandkids find that hard to imagine as they’re everywhere now, but it goes further too: the history we were taught in the 1950s was British and Empire history, so more like English history with occasional bits of Scottish history thrown in on anniversary dates etc. It was the same with the Lallans leid: you could speak it in the playground or in the street, but it was a “belting offence” if you used it in the classroom. It was literally beaten out of us, yet it was the language most of us spoke at home and with friends.


      2. The Saltire is probably the oldest National flag still recognised and in use to day
        It was 1st raised at The Battle of Athalstaneford
        In E.Lothian against a advancing Army of King
        Athalstane of Northumbria
        The Scots were heavily out numbered but still won the day
        The Leader of the Scots Army had a dream the night before seeing a clear blue sky with 2 long streaks of white cloud forming a cross
        And heard a voice if he made a flag of this and raised it at the impending battle then he would be victorious
        The Saltire Society are in the process of raising funds to protect the decaying visitor Centre for which they originally set up and maintain
        at the site of the Battle
        So let none tell you that The Saltire is not a National Flag


  6. The main plank for Labour’s support of the union in Scotland has been solidarity with fellow workers in England.
    They were always lukewarm,to say the least,about solidarity with workers in Europe which struck me as being somewhat dishonest.
    Now that the workers in the North of England are voting Tory,they know that they are flogging a dead horse here in Scotland with that old fable.
    So,who is this new patriotic policy aimed at?
    Even in Red Morningside,those who voted Labour are not going to be impressed with Union Jacks and patriotic fervour,so that probably leaves them with England.
    Looks like British Labour have now given up on Scotland,which is bad news for England’s Tories.
    Who are they going to get to front up their next anti Scottish independence campaign?
    Willie Rennie?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Labour just do not matter. Trying to become Tories. Covering up with a flag because they have no policies. The majority want to stay in the EU.

    It will just get worse. The Tory mess and shambles. Labour offers no alternative. The SNP do, They have better policies and see them through. The unionist parties just stand in the sidelines carping. Or making a total money wasting mess. An utter shambles.People are sick if it. The unionist parties are so thick. Thick as thieves. Abusing the public purse at every opportunity.


  8. Starmer doesn’t need a flag. . . He wears one

    Blue Suit
    White Shirt
    Red Tie.

    Shareen Nanjianni’s talking Heads show

    Posh guy ” although Scotland’s rolling out the vaccine now, they are still miles behind where England are”

    Not so posh Mr. Beacom ” The Scottish Government want to be stricter on international travel than Westminister. . . . But I didn’t hear them calling for restrictions on international travel during the first lockdown”

    Todays panel all unionist. The show rarely mixes opposing voices. Stops Unionist arguments being expised.


  9. Not so posh Mr. Beacom ” The Scottish Government want to be stricter on international travel than Westminister. . . . But I didn’t hear them calling for restrictions on international travel during the first lockdown”

    I did. On the earlier Coronavirus briefings. NS pointed out then that she was asking for them but border control is a reserved power so even if Scotland closed airports etc we couldn’t enforce it.

    How quickly they ‘forget’…


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