Long gone are the days of Emily Thornberry, then-shadow attorney general, sneering at the flag of St George, so it would seem. Labour’s candidate for the Hartlepool by-election is now using it on his campaign leaflets in an attempt to woo disillusioned Labour voters to back him in the dogfight ballot on May 6.
Dr Paul Williams tweeted on Friday a flyer decorated with the red and white flag, encouraging prospective voters to place it in their windows as a celebration of St George’s Day, in a move described by political opponents as “desperate” and “insulting the intelligence of Northern voters”.
“Happy St George’s Day from Dr Paul Williams and the Labour team”, the flyer said, adding: “Display this poster with pride in your window. Please enjoy St George’s Day in a Covid-secure way, helping us all defeat the virus together.”
Conservative MP Jake Berry claimed the stunt wouldn’t fool anyone, telling the Telegraph: “This Metropolitan elite Labour party is insulting the intelligence of Northern voters by thinking that they will support Labour by just putting a St George’s flag on a leaflet,” said Berry.
“This won’t change the mind of voters about Labour’s patriotism,” he added.
The new leader of the Reform Party, Richard Tice, who took an impressive 10,603 votes in the 70% Leave seat back in 2019, called the flyers a “last desperate throw of the dice by Labour”.
The flag flyer is consistent with a leaked internal strategy presentation at Labour HQ back in February which called on the party to make “use of the flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly at the war memorial” as part of an attempt to win back disillusioned voters who abandoned Labour in their droves at the last general election.
The most recent polling shows the Conservatives are on course to take another brick out of the Red Wall next month when voters head to the polls in one of the most Eurosceptic seats in the country.
The Tories were predicted to take 49 per cent of the vote compared to Labour’s 42 per cent in polling published on April 6.
The uphill struggle for Labour won’t have been helped by its selection of a pro-Remain candidate already experienced in losing elections after relinquishing his Stockton South seat in 2019, just two years after winning it in the first place.