Labour has patriotism problem but Starmer right to sing anthem

Keir Starmer introduces National Anthem at Labour conference

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A Brexiteer has defended Sir Keir Starmer’s decision for Labour members to sing the national anthem at their conference, saying the wider party has a problem with patriotism. Many people were seen singing the national anthem with applause heard once the rendition concluded at the conference hall in Liverpool. The Labour leader earlier paid tribute to the late Queen, telling members it still felt impossible to imagine a Britain without her.

Brexiteer Paul Embery said some members would have felt unsettled at being asked to sing the national anthem given Labour’s anti-monarchist tendencies, but described the move as shrewd politics.

He said: “Let’s be frank: we all know Labour has a ‘patriotism problem’. Millions of voters still view the party, not without reason, as being populated by anti-British, ‘progressive’, citizen-of-the-world types who sneer at any demonstration of patriotic sentiment.”

Mr Embery, writing for Unherd, said this perception was especially prevalent among voters in Labour’s old Red Wall constituencies whose support the party needs if it is to win power again.

He added: “Starmer probably understands that it is among these working-class communities that monarchy enjoys some of its highest levels of affection.”

The GB News presenter explained Labour’s position probably owed itself to “crude electoral calculation” than to principle.

Sir Keir’s position stands in stark contrast to that of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was criticised for not joining in a rendition of the national anthem at a commemoration service.

Ahead of the start of Labour’s conference, Mr Corbyn, who now sits as an Independent MP, described the decision to sing the national anthem as very odd.

He told the BBC: “It’s never, ever happened at a Labour conference since the conferences were first held at the time of the First World War. I find it peculiar and not really necessary.

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“I mean, the conference is there, hopefully, for a democratic expression of party members’ views, to discuss policies and so on. I just find it rather odd.

“We’ve never done it before. There’s no demand to do it. We don’t as a country routinely go around singing the national anthem at every single event we go to… We are not what I would call, excessively nationalist and I don’t see the point or the need for it.”

Mr Corbyn sits as an Independent MP after having the whip withdrawn due to his response to an Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism in Labour.

But some party delegates have forced a vote on a proposed rule change in a bid to allow the MP for Islington North to be re-selected as a Labour candidate ahead of the next general election.

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Supporters say it is focused on allowing a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to be in control of who their candidate is rather than the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).

The party believes the proposal represents a “significant legal risk to it”.

Peter Talbot from Islington North CLP said: “We need a range of Labour candidates. We need to demonstrate the Labour Party truly is a broad church. And that’s particularly important in relation to the thousands of young people that Jeremy brought into supporting Labour.”

He continued: “If we don’t change the rules and Jeremy can’t stand for Labour at the next election, well that would just be a disaster for us frankly, it would not end well.

“It would be a gift to the Greens, to the Lib Dems and the Tories.”

Michael Wheeler, vice-chair of Labour’s National Executive Committee organisation sub-committee, said: “The rule change represents a significant legal risk to the party.

“In order to successfully defend legal claims the party must be able to show there it’s applying its rules consistently and fairly.

“Changing the fundamental rules midway through a parliamentary cycle leaves the party open to legal challenge from candidates that may be put at a disadvantage.”

Explaining the proposed change, Mr Talbot said: “It will ensure the Parliamentary Labour Party cannot disqualify a sitting Labour MP from standing in an election by simply withdrawing the whip.”

A vote on the proposal took place at the end of Sunday’s session in Liverpool.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves is to set out Labour’s economic vision for Britain at the party’s conference later today (September 26).

She is expected to outline Labour’s plans for a state-owned investment fund so the British state could invest directly in productive projects and create a return for taxpayers.

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