Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Labour, Patriotism and the Union Flag.

with 10 comments


Harold Wilson. Labour P.M.

The professional anti-Starmer crowd have been out in force today.

Here is why:

You would have thought that those who backed Rebecca Long-Baily and her call for “progressive patriotism” would be well pleased. (“To win we must revive this progressive patriotism and solidarity in a form fit for modern Britain.

Alas, no.

The anti-Labour site, baked by a well known Trade Union,  the Skwawkbox, yells,

Starmer’s ‘flag-shagging’ can’t even fool his own front bench, let alone working class communities

Move looks desperate and as false and stupid as it is – and will probably end Labour in Wales and Scotland.

This is the story itself (Guardian):

Leak reveals Labour plan to focus on flag and patriotism to win back voters

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.

Let us treat the  froth of the likes of Steve Walker, other ‘alt-news’ sites and professional anti-Starmer haters.  with the contempt they deserve. It comes from nothing and destined for the Wheelie Bin of History.

One could,  by contrast, write at length on this, about George Orwell’s efforts to distinguish patriotism and nationalisa, about Imperialism,  the theory that the “national popular” can be captured by left populism.  about how Scottish nationalists get off the hook despite their country’s own contribution to the British Empire, and about how in most countries, France and the USA, just about all politicians use the Flag. Not to mention the long list of Labour Party leaders and politicians have been pictured with the Union banner in one shape or another.

The Harold Wilson government of the 1960s supported this campaign in 1968:

I’m Backing Britain

I'm Backing Britain - Wikipedia


Things have developed, obviously.There is also a history to be written of the nationalism behind Brexit (indulged by many anti-Starmer people who helped Leave win). In the last decades internationalists have opposed those brandishing Britain in at the end of a pole. UKIP, the Brexit Party, Johnson and his cronies have made the sight of the Union Flag distasteful at present. There are serious left wing reasons to be wary of it, and a discussion to be had.

That is, what kind of country does it stand for?

That critical case needs to be explored and expanded.

But this is not what this Blog is going to do today.

Real love of the country is love of people and things dear, it is demonstrated not by symbols, it is shown by acts.

What can that mean?

One of my favourite, fictional, stories explaining English patriotism comes from the satirical novel England, Their England (1933) by A. G. Macdonell.

It is ‘travel memoir’ by a youthful Scots, Donald Cameron, who has been invalided away from the Western Front  With “no qualifications for any profession except the ability to drive a moderately crooked furrow and to direct the fire of a six-gun battery of eighteen-pounder guns” “he resolved to try his fortune as a journalist.” Donald writes for a series of London newspapers, before being commissioned by a Welshman to write a book about the English from the view of a foreigner.

To collect material for his book the young Sots enters the Dragon hostelry in Fleet Street at a Quarter to Twelve.  Engaging in conversation he encounters that he has met once of twice,  a man of about thirty-five from  circles he had begun to get to know. The  man exclaims, “”Have a drink. Flaming fish! but this is a stinking country.”

“This is on me,” he said. “It is the anniversary of Roland’s death in the Valley of Roncesvalles. The world came to an end on that day. It has never really existed since. We must drink to my fellow-countryman who saved Europe in the Pyrenees a thousand years ago, just as that other fellow-countryman of mine saved Europe in the marshes of St. Gond on the River Marne in 1914.”

“Do you mean Sir John French?” asked Donald.

The red-faced man became apoplectic. He swelled like a frog and his eyes appeared to become bloodshot. A queer, hoarse croaking issued from his lips. At last he managed to say, “I mean Ferdinand Foch, Marshal of France,” and he stood to attention.

“I beg your pardon most profoundly,” said Donald in great distress. “I had no idea—I mean your English is so perfect—is it really possible that you are a Frenchman?”

“My family name is Hougins,” replied the man with superb dignity. “And there were Hougins in the Channel Islands a good long time before Duke Robert of Normandy cast his eyes upon the tanner’s daughter.”

After his departure a perplexed Donald was informed of the truth,

But he said his family name was Hougins.”

“So it is, in a sense. It’s Huggins. Tommy Huggins, and he comes from Bolton. His great-grandfather was Mayor of Bolton about a hundred years ago.”

“But he sneered at the British Army,” protested Donald.

Mr. Hodge laughed again.

“That’s a favourite pose of his,” he said. “He went to the War as an infantry Tommy and performed prodigies of valour.”

True valour and irony, mocking patriotism, love for others, for countrywomen and men, courage, and humour, are not Jingo.

The below captures the right tone as well…

Susan Press says,




Written by Andrew Coates

February 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Swawky’s mates at it,

    And again…after stammer sold your arse over Brexit, I went from xenophobic faragist ukipper to Zionist…
    And stammer even dry-bummed you over that by handing the zionists more clout than they’ve ever had, didn’t he?”

    “a Zionist such as Starmer, it won’t stick. For your benefit and others such as Doug, take note that Zionists hide themselves in blogs such as this and they will snipe at antiZionsts by trying to undermine them just as they did to Jeremy Corbyn. You can often spot them because they come out with things such as “you accuse every one who disagrees with you of being a Zionist” or “stop mentioning Zionists” does that fit you Toffee troll? Zionism destroyed Corbyn and it is for that reason..” https://skwawkbox.org/…/starmers-flag-shagging-cant…/


    Andrew Coates

    February 3, 2021 at 8:37 pm

  2. Oh dear. I’ve missed Skwakie this time…..I guess I’ll have to look-see. But, on a more serious note, we have, in Labour to somehow detach this debate away from the fixations of image and brand consultants and the souped up interpretations of the (deliberately led) focus groups they convene. We must not succumb to an England of the stereotypes – of the village green and the quaint church with the flag of St George flying high. That awful image has no room for the cities and towns of the North, for their ‘student quarters’, or for the cosmopolitan (in the best sense of the word) urban, multi-cultural London, Bristol,Brighton and Birmingham. For the people Labour needs to re-connect with, the up-rating of Universal Credit, or the re-engineering of an economy away from precariousness comes well before an abstract flag.

    david walsh

    February 3, 2021 at 8:52 pm

  3. And following that, Clive Lewis’s piece for tomorrows Guardian seems to hit all the right buttons. More’s the pity that he was seemingly left by the wayside in the last Leadership / Deputy Leadership contest. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/03/labour-red-wall-voters-patriotism-keir-starmer

    david walsh

    February 3, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    • I like the bloke a lot.

      But given the stuff Swawky, and others, are coming out with, “Keir sleeps nude in a union flag…….with his pot of Brylcreem so he doesn’t have to dry hump it and stay authentic.” https://skwawkbox.org/…/starmers-flag-shagging-cant…/ it ill have got drowned out.

      Andrew Coates

      February 3, 2021 at 9:22 pm

  4. One of the joys of Lock-Down is that it gives you time to play on your laptop mouse. A quick flip through news reports elucidated the fact that the now infamous branding report that which came up with the stuff set all these flagstaff hares running was commissioned by the party from a Communications Agency called ‘Republic’. Republic (https://republic-london.com/) lives in chintzy Fitzrovia and look to be made up of of a crowd of 20 something wunderkind who keep the local deliveroo guys busy with their meal and latte demands. In turn they are part of something callled the Brewery Group, which itself turns out to run by a firm called Freuds. Unsuprisingly, this is run by Matthew Freud, a guy whose tentacles run deep into the heart of the British (or rather, English) establshment. Freud’s first wife left him to marry Charles Spencer, younger brother of the sainted Di andi the deliverer of Westmister Abbey eulogies.His second wife, also now gone, was Elisabeth Murdoch, second daughter of media magnate Rupe. Wiki says of Matthew F “He is a friend of several members of the Conservative party, including George Osborne and David Cameron. Freud has also invited Cameron to many events and is part of the so-called ‘Notting Hill Set’ of influential Conservative-linked figures. During their marriage, Murdoch and Freud owned Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, and hence were also considered members of the Chipping Norton set.”

    I suppose the motto of all this is “Reds sail with the fun set”……

    david walsh

    February 4, 2021 at 12:37 pm

  5. The obvious next step from wrapping yourself in the flag, supporting tougher Tory Immigration Controls, Cheerleading Brexit, and defending British War Criminals from conviction would be to emphasise the British nature of the Labour Party and its commitment to the nation. In Scotland the Labour Part reflects that by being called the Scottish Labour Party, for example.

    So, it makes sense that Starmer might want to rebrand Labour as the British National Labour Party. All that would be required then, at some point would be to drop the Labour bit of the name as it became obviously redundant.


    February 4, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    • Labour has to do what it has to do to win power. Without power you’re nothing. If that means wrapping yourself in the Butchers Apron then so be it. Once in power we can drop it like a hot stone, get back into the EU with the Euro and institute free movement and really change the nation in a Left wing direction. We should phase out in person voting too and switch to all postal or even online (citing safety concerns). Then we will never see a Right wing government again. The Democrats in America are doing it right. Learn from them. They have united minorities, the educated middle classes, the Security Services, the Armed Forces, most of Wall Street, and Big Tech against the Right. It’s genius.
      We can get Socialism by taking over the institutions of the State. The mass of the Electorate are not that sophisticated. Wave the Union Jack , tell them what they want to hear, get into power, never give up power and then change everything.


      February 7, 2021 at 10:16 pm

  6. Coatesy is naturally annoyed that his hero Starmer is flailing around in his policy vacuum. With Johnson benefiting from a vaccination bounce and Labour heading for losses in the May elections, it’s chickens coming home to roost. I put forward a political alternative here: https://labourbriefing.org/blog/2021/2/4/the-return-of-focus-group-politics-first-time-tragedy-

    Stuart King

    February 4, 2021 at 5:13 pm

  7. And shock overnight news from Skwawky Towers. Whisper it not in the proletarian fastnesses of SE Northumberland, but the SB title of ‘King Over The Water’ for the next ideal Labour Leader has been wrenched from Ian Lavery’s faltering grasp and transferred – with the blessing of King Howard of the Wirral – to the mature gravitas of Jon Trickett. This move has, it seems, been endorsed by a Dublin based firm of bookies. The army of BTL followers are suprised – nay a bit aprehensive – over such a move, but are willing to give all for the new heir. See https://skwawkbox.org/2021/02/05/trickett-surges-into-pole-position-to-be-next-labour-leader-as-odds-shorten-after-multiple-interventions/

    david walsh

    February 5, 2021 at 8:10 am

  8. I don’t really understand. What are the positives about flag waving and jingoism at this time, when the far right are the most ascendant I’ve known them to be, with a hard Tory government? This just seems to be playing to that crowd and ultimately self defeating.

    I also don’t understand what you mean by anti Starmer crowd who helped Leave win? Do you mean the likes of Galloway?

    G. Whistler

    February 6, 2021 at 2:26 pm

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