During this latest lockdown, I’ve been travelling down the coal-laced roots of my family tree. To my shame, I had no idea that my great-great-grandfather was killed in one of Britain’s worst-ever mining disasters: the West Stanley pit disaster, in 1909, as he, and the 167 other boys and men who died with him, were mining the coal that powered the nation. He was only 32-years-old.
Nor did I know that my great-great uncle, Private Peter Grimes of the Tyneside Irish Brigade, volunteered to fight, and was killed, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme: the bloodiest day in British military history. It puts our current travails into context, to say the least.
I thought of my ancestors, and all the young working-class men like them as I read a Guardian report on a leaked internal strategy presentation that said Labour must make “use of the flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly at the war memorial”. The report is touted as the latest attempt to win back voters like my County Durham family, in “Red Wall” constituencies like theirs whose voters have abandoned the purported party of the working class in droves.
I am not for a moment, of course, suggesting that our politicians ought to work down the pits or volunteer for our armed forces to prove their patriotism, but the very fact that Labour deems such a presentation necessary, that they would “use” our flag and “use” our veterans for a cynical photo op, shows just how far the Labour Party has fallen. Gone are the days of being the kind of party someone like Private Peter Grimes may have wanted to support.
The Labour Party of today has diverged so far from being the party of Clement Attlee, of Hugh Gaitskell, of Peter Shore and of Babara Castle to being the party of Islington Ignoramuses such as Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Sir Keir Starmer QC and Clive Lewis. Clive Lewis was quoted by the Guardian as saying of the report: ‘The Tory party has absorbed Ukip, and now Labour appears to be absorbing the language and symbols of the Tory party.’
If it is true, as he says, that Labour, in shaking off its cringing embarrassment and shame in being photographed with our national flag or in standing up for our armed forces, is ‘absorbing the language and symbols’ of the Conservative and Unionist Party, does this not go to the very core of the rot at the heart of Labour?
Labour’s most excellent leader, Clement Attlee, was a proud socialist. Still, he was also a military man, intensely patriotic and a social conservative who believed in those critical pillars of family, in defence of the nation, and who fiercely opposed the United Kingdom being subsumed by European federalism. Were he alive today, it is hard not to conclude that the likes of Clive Lewis and his parliamentary colleagues would accuse him of pandering to UKIP or the Conservatives.
That pride in place, nation and family, found in Britain’s communities and in voters such as my family, is replicated throughout our country’s towns. They will find it pretty damn hard to believe that the architect of the Labour Party’s shockingly arrogant, democracy-denying second referendum policy, Sir Keir – who also brazenly boasted of being an anti-monarchy member of the elite Queen’s Counsel – is suddenly a Union-flag waving and proud Attlee-esque patriot.
We’re supposed to believe that a party that has over recent years offered succour and support to Britain’s enemies overseas is suddenly a staunch defender of the nation-state. We are supposed to applaud when its Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, under Sir Keir’s supposedly Corbyn-cleansing leadership, backs a report proposing the replacement of our Armed Forces with a ‘gender-balanced human security’ corps.
Sir Keir was even at it at the dispatch box during Prime Minister’s Questions. In reply to Boris Johnson, he alleged that he never called for the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency. But he did, several times. Standing next to the Union Jack as you robotically address the nation, and seek to rewrite the history of every anti-Brexit stance you’ve ever taken, simply won’t wash, Sir Keir. We’re not as thick as the modern-day Labour Party assumes we are.
This leaked presentation shows just how far removed the Britain-bashing Labour Party is from its patriotic past. If you have to remind yourself that your one-time voters quite like their country, its flag, its values, its veterans and dressing smartly at our war memorials, only to be attacked by your own ranks for attempting to do so, it’s not hard to conclude that Sir Keir and his party are attempting to take us for mugs.
I’m confident folks that, just as in the 2019 election, when the British electorate, in their wisdom, swept from the House of Commons a horde of democracy-denying, taxpayer-funded career politicians, that voters won’t so quickly be taken for mugs – or taken for granted – this time around either.