Patriotism and the Labour Party

By Vicky Gill

"It is now up to Labour to redefine patriotism into a movement that is centred on social cohesion, social progress, and the “basic fairness and human compassion” that Keir Starmer spoke of in his keynote speech."

Patriotism is a contentious term and one that has been frequently brought up in the past days during the online Labour Party conference. It has opened up debates on my Twitter timeline on whether this stance is one that fits the values of a progressive party that champions minority voices, or one that contradicts and shifts away from those values.

The most problematic incident in the promotion of Labour patriotism occurred when Lisa Nandy spoke of “British values” on Radio 4 Today on September 22nd, stating: "we stand up for Britain, we stand up for British people, we stand up for British interests and we will always put that first." Whilst Nandy, as well as the PLP, have used such phrases as “British values” in good faith, it is evident that the idea of ‘Britain First’ and ‘patriotism’ has been hijacked not only by right-wing extremists such as the EDL, Britain First and UKIP but also by some Conservative narratives to promote deeply racist and xenophobic views entwined to the Brexit debate, shifting it entirely from one of sovereignty and economic benefit to one that stoked a completely misguided and prejudiced fear of immigration and immigrants. This is language soaked in the divisive politics of the right and should never be used by a Labour MP without clarification of their intended meaning rather than its connotative meaning which is damaging and hurtful towards the minority groups Labour claims to defend.

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