Labour must stop being “shy” about patriotism to win back its traditional working class voter base, according to Sir Keir Starmer.
Starmer said today that his party had been “very shy about patriotism for too many years” and that “the Labour movement actually wants the very best for the country”.
The party’s virtual 2020 conference began today, with the tagline of “A New Leadership” in a bid by Starmer to distance himself from former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Starmer’s comments about patriotism will be seen as a clear rebuke to Corbyn and the left wing of the Labour party, who are often characterised as being anti-western.
He told Times Radio: “I think in the Labour party we’ve been very shy about patriotism for too many years.
“I love my country, I think we’re a great country, I think we could be even better, and I think the Labour party, the Labour movement, actually wants the very best for the country.
“That’s why we go out knocking on doors, campaigning, trying to form the next government, because we want better for our country.”
Starmer also told the Sunday Times today that his family watched the Queen’s Speech every year on Christmas as he tries to woo the working class voters that deserted Labour last year.
Corbyn’s stance on many foreign policy issues – such as his refusal to blame Russia for the 2018 Salisbury poisoning and his links to the IRA – chided with many traditional Labour voters in the North and Midlands.
The party suffered large swings against it in these regions, with the party’s so-called “Red Wall” punctured by Boris Johnson and the Tories.
Len McLusky, leader of pro-Corbyn union Unite, warned the party against moderating its policies under its new leader.
“I’m not worried at the moment but of course we will review the situation,” he said.
“He needs to listen to the left because without the left within our movement, Keir will I’m afraid steer the ship onto the rocks.”