BY EFFIE DEANS
Sir Keir Starmer wants voters to believe that Labour has rediscovered its patriotism and that it loves Britain as much as everyone else. He wants us to believe that Labour is different now than it was when it was led by Jeremy Corbyn.
It is clear that Starmer is a much better leader than Corbyn. He is a more moderate leader and a better leader of the opposition. But has Labour really changed?
Every single Labour MP including Starmer wanted Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. How can Starmer really dissociate himself from the worst aspects of Labour under Corbyn when he wanted Corbyn’s policies to govern Britain and he wanted every member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet to be the Cabinet of Britain. If Starmer thinks now that Labour was unpatriotic, why did he want an unpatriotic party to rule Britain? If he thinks that Labour had a problem with anti-Semitism why did he want an anti-Semitic party to form our Government?
Labour’s leadership may have changed, but there are just as many extremist MPs waiting for their chance as there were last December. This is the problem with Labour moderation. Neil Kinnock tried to be moderate. Tony Blair tried to be a social democrat. But the Hard Left remains. They sit for decades as MPs and wait for their chance.
What does patriotism mean? Patriotism is the normal feeling that most people in most countries have about their country. It is love of Britain and wanting what is best for Britain. This is not nationalism. That is a completely different ideology.
There are two forms of nationalism in modern Europe. One is Pan-Europeanism, or the ideal of subsuming the nations of Europe into a new European State. This is the equivalent of German or Italian nationalism in the 19th century. The second form of nationalism is the aim to separate from an existing nation state to create a new one. Wishing to maintain the territorial integrity of the UK is obviously not nationalism, because it is a wish neither to join with others nor to split apart, but rather to continue to be what we are.
How does Starmer do on patriotism? He and virtually every Labour MP did all they could to prevent the wish of the British electorate expressed in the 2016 referendum and subsequent General Election being implemented. Not only did he do this. He consistently sided with foreign powers, the EU and Ireland, to thwart Britain leaving the EU. He may also have shared notes and conspired with them.
But what is the aim of the EU. It is Pan-Europeanism. Its aim is for the nation states of Europe to become something similar to the regions of Germany or the states in the USA.
The British public said they didn’t want this to happen. They didn’t want to see Britain subsumed in Europe. But Starmer knew better. He would ignore what the voters wanted and make sure that Britain was indeed subsumed. Does he call this patriotism?
The condition for the possibility of patriotism about Britain is that Britain continues to exist. You cannot love something that has ceased to be. Patriotism is also about wishing to defend Britain against all enemies whether foreign or domestic. It is this that British patriots have been doing through all the years since we became a nation state.
Defence in the end is about defending the territorial integrity of the nation state. If you don’t do that you might as well not have an army.
But not merely would Starmer like to see Britain subsumed into Europe, he is unwilling to defend Britain against secession.
If Scotland separated from the United Kingdom. There would no longer be anything for Starmer to be patriotic about. The Kingdom of Great Britain would cease to be, so there would no longer be anything to unite with Northern Ireland.
Starmer thinks that if the SNP wins a majority in next year’s Scottish Parliament Election then there should be another Scottish Independence Referendum. It’s obvious from this too that if Starmer needed to form a coalition in order to rule, he would agree to whatever demands Nicola Sturgeon had on a referendum.
So Starmer’s patriotism amounts to allowing the SNP a second chance to destroy Britain only six years after a referendum everyone at the time agreed was decisive, i.e. it decided the issue.
Why is Starmer taking this view. He is doing it for party political reasons. He wants to attract those former Scottish Labour voters who now support the SNP. So Starmer is willing to risk the future of our country in order that Labour has a better chance of winning a few votes next year and he calls this patriotism.
Labour supporters are as likely to be as patriotic as anybody else, but they are ill-served by a Labour Party with MPs who continually blame Britain for everything that ever went wrong in history, who think that Britain is so second rate that we couldn’t possibly manage to live outside the EU and who support anyone and everyone who attacks the values of ordinary Labour voters.
Starmer is ashamed of the instinctive feeling of patriotism that most Labour voters feel and which led them to continually defend our country in the past, but he needs their votes. Starmer lacks that feeling. There is barely a Labour MP who has it.
Starmer’s patriotism would not even put up a fight against the SNP, a party which is the greatest threat to the UK in three hundred years because he would be equally willing to see us subsumed in the EU. It is for this reason that he cannot even understand the patriotism of ordinary Brits who actually love our country. You wouldn’t want to share a trench with Starmer he’d surrender at the first opportunity.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.