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Starmer faces Labour unease over use of Union flag in election campaign

Labour’s use of the Union flag is “definitely detrimental” in areas with large ethnic minority populations, an MP has warned amid unease about the party’s campaign material.

Under Sir Keir Starmer the flag has played a prominent role in Labour campaign material and appearances by the leader as he stresses the party’s patriotic values.

But a Guardian report said the Labour leader was facing discontent from some of the party’s elected representatives over freepost election leaflets “plastered with Union Jacks”.

Keir Starmer visit to West Midlands
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of the party’s local election campaign in the West Midlands this week (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Concerns were reportedly raised at recent meetings of the party’s black, Asian and minority ethnic group at Westminster and also by London members of the parliamentary Labour Party.

One MP said: “We are all really proud of our country but this can be a complex issue for some communities and we have to navigate that more carefully.

“For a lot of communities we are talking about colours that are associated with the National Front or another far-right group.”

The MP said using the flag might be “great” to target the “hero voters” the party needs to switch from the Tories, but there should be “segmented branding” with different material used in other areas.

Another MP told the Guardian: “I can see how it would work in some places but it’s definitely detrimental in university towns, and in heavily Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) seats.”

A councillor on the South Coast told the newspaper: “I’ve seen boxes of the leaflets being piled up because activists don’t want to give them out.”

The Guardian said a video sent out to activists and organisers said the flag “dominates” the party’s election branding, along with “Labour red”.

Abdi Duale, a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee said: “Britain’s strength is in its diversity and our communities are hugely proud of our nation and its flag.

“Labour is running a proudly progressive and patriotic campaign that celebrates all our communities and that includes using our flag.”

A Labour spokesman said: “Keir’s changed Labour Party is positive, progressive and patriotic. The Union flag is something we are proud to carry.”

But Labour’s opponents seized on the Guardian’s story.

Conservative Party deputy chairman Jack Lopresti said: “Sir Keir Starmer claims to have changed the Labour Party but no matter how much he wraps himself in the flag, he can’t even stop his candidates from doing Britain down.

“The Conservatives are the party of Great Britain and will never be ashamed of our flag.”

Reform UK’s deputy leader Ben Habib said “this tells you everything you need to know about the hijacking and breaking of our wonderful country” and Labour “should be ashamed of itself”.