Keir Starmer should be championing Labour's past achievements to show how they are the party to make Britain the best it can beby Gerry Hassan / September 24, 2020 / Leave a comment
In his keynote party conference address Keir Starmer indicated that he wants to reclaim patriotism as a principle and thread that runs through everything the Labour Party stands for.
This on the surface might sound uncontroversial but it isn’t. The Corbynistas had an instinctive opposition to all things patriotic and to many of the traditional symbols and institutions of Britishness.
More than this the Conservative Party have long claimed patriotism as their own. In response, many on the left have conceded this ground—with Labour historically uneasy about how it champions the country and its history which it aspires to govern and change.
Labour prides itself on its rich history and values and these were centre-stage in Starmer’s speech. Central to this was reclaiming Labour’s record in office and its leaders who won post-war elections and led governments: Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, and Tony Blair.
This points to the future terrain of a politics of patriotism for Labour—of understanding and championing its own record as a party of patriotism—a party which made the best of Britain through the extension of democracy, standing up to fascism, advancing worker and consumer rights, and freedom and equality under the law.
For the message to have real value, a couple of key examples from the party’s past should be at the cornerstone of how it sees itself, its past achievements, and the story it tells of its role in the best of Britain.
Take the watershed events of May 1940 which saw Winston Churchill become prime minister, with Attlee and Labour entering a coalition government and taking on responsibility for the home front.
If the Corbynistas had known their party history better they would have known that the fate of Britain was decided by the machinations of Labour internal democracy. In the critical days of May 1940 Neville Chamberlain considered his plight as prime minister after the defining “Norway debate” in the Commons had seen him win the vote numerically, but lose the argument, with many Tory MPs voting against their government or abstaining in a vote of confidence.
Chamberlain knew dramatic action was needed and hung onto office as long as he could. His premiership…