Conservatives no longer 'patriotic party' and have denigrated 'some of our proudest national institutions', says Starmer

21 April 2024, 08:33 | Updated: 21 April 2024, 10:36

Keir Starmer says the Labour party is "now the patriotic party"
Keir Starmer says the Labour party is "now the patriotic party". Picture: Getty Images

By Flaminia Luck

The Labour leader blasted the Conservatives in an opinion piece in the run-up the St George's Day in which he accused the Tories of denigrating "some of our proudest national institutions".

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Sir Keir Starmer declared Labour "the patriotic party now" and accused the Tories of denigrating "some of our proudest national institutions" and lacking faith in the strength of British identity to "withstand discussion", in a piece for The Sunday Telegraph,

Sir Keir spoke of his "pride and gratitude" at being English, saying Labour was "at its best when it has celebrated, defended and served the values of our country and its people" and promised to "always put country above party".

Asking whether the Conservative Party was "really capable of serving anything other than itself", he said: "I don't think so.

Players take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
Players take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Getty

"In fact, frankly, when you've trashed the economy, hammered mortgage holders, weakened the union, neglected our forces, repeatedly broken laws you expected others to follow and denigrated some of our proudest national institutions, from the BBC to the National Trust to the England football team, I'm afraid you have lost any right to call yourself a patriotic party."

In recent years figures in the Conservative Party have criticised the National Trust for examining its properties' links to slavery and colonialism, while others condemned England footballers for "taking the knee" as a protest against racism.

Saying that the Conservatives had overseen a period when pride in British identity had become "more contentious", Sir Keir added: "Shouting 'woke' doesn't just undermine the proud British traditions of free speech, dissent and independent thinking.

"At best, it suggests they don't have faith in the strength of our history, identity and flag to withstand discussion.

"At worst, they don't care if division weakens our nation if it strengthens their grip on power."

He added: "I won't let the Tories chip away at our boldness and confidence.

"To be proudly English means to be proudly ourselves, to hold firm to our convictions and be able to speak our mind - and be civil when others speak theirs. No, Labour is the patriotic party now."

Read more: Braverman calls for Met Police Commissioner to be sacked over force's poor treatment of British Jews at protests

Sir Keir's comments echo those of Tony Blair
Sir Keir's comments echo those of Tony Blair. Picture: Getty

Sir Keir's comments echoed those made by Tony Blair nearly 30 years ago when, as leader of the opposition, he too accused the Tories of lacking patriotism, telling the 1995 Labour Party conference: "It's no good waving the fabric of our flag when you have spent 16 years tearing apart the fabric of our nation."

Last month, a backbench MP claimed Labour's use of the Union flag on its campaign material was "detrimental" to its chances in areas with large ethnic minority populations, prompting condemnation from both the party leadership and Conservatives.

In his piece, Sir Keir said he had "no time for those who flinch at displaying our flag".

He said: "The cross of St George belongs to every person who loves this country and seeks to make it better - a symbol of pride, belonging and inclusion.

"We cannot allow it to become the preserve of the tiny minority who want to drive hatred in our communities."

Read more: Siblings, 8, and 5, killed and 15 others injured after suspected drunk driver smashes into children's birthday party

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