Labour is now the true party of English patriotism

Keir Starmer, Leader of Labour Party
Keir Starmer, Leader of Labour Party

There are many moments in my life where I’ve felt great pride and gratitude to be English: being the first person in my working-class family to go to university; belting out Three Lions in the crowd at Wembley in 1996; finally reaching the peak of Scafell Pike, with my severely ill mother, to gaze down on the breathtaking beauty of the Lakes below and defending people facing the death penalty in other countries who look at our dedication to the rule of law with admiration.

And now, as Labour leader, the privilege of meeting people in towns, villages and cities right across our country, who all seem to share the same stoic wit and quiet decency. It’s a daily reminder of what the Labour Party is and who it serves. Because whether it’s establishing Nato and the NHS as monuments to our collective sacrifice in the 1940s, or the renewal of our public realm at the start of this century, Labour is at its best when it has celebrated, defended and served the values of our country and its people.

For me, this is what real patriotism is about. It isn’t just about respecting our shared symbols and sentiments. It’s also about serving the country we love. My entire career– from being this country’s chief prosecutor to leader of the Opposition – has been dedicated to public service. That’s why, after all the changes I have made, this is now a Labour Party that will always put country above party.

The question is – is this Conservative Party really capable of serving anything other than itself? I don’t think so. 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 and England football team – I’m afraid you have lost any right to call yourself a patriotic party.

And since the Tories have been in power, pride in our flag – indeed, pride in our national identity – has become more contentious. Shouting “woke” doesn’t just undermine the proud British tradition 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.

I’m proud to be English precisely because it’s a place where we can disagree – whether that’s a debate in the House of Commons or in the local pub – and still celebrate a common identity, a shared history and a future together. That’s what makes Britain the strong democracy that’s the envy of the world.

And 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. We will celebrate St George’s Day with enthusiasm, an enthusiasm shared by each patron saints’ day on our isles.

And we’re committed to putting our patriotic values into practice. More and better homes for hard-working people. Access to art, sport, and music for every child. Devolving power to local communities, supporting aspiration and championing the British hope that if you work hard, anyone can do well in life. That is why I have no time for those who flinch at displaying our flag. Because 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.

Ultimately, it’s about respect. Respect for those who have sacrificed so much for us to have the freedoms and rights we enjoy today. Respect for those who keep our country going – from NHS staff to carers, delivery drivers and those who keep Britain safe. And respect for each other, as fellow British citizens. I want a country that rewards that service, with higher growth, safer streets, cheaper bills, opportunities for our children and an NHS back on its feet. A country with a proud national identity, confident on the world stage and sure of its future. And where we share the responsibility to write the next chapter of British history we pass on to our children.

If a Labour government becomes part of that story later this year, then, whoever you vote for, know that we will serve you. And that we will always put the country first.