Labour must discover its patriotism to win back disaffected working class voters, Keir Starmer to say 

The Labour leader is expected to speak of his 'pride in Britain, of its values and for what it has achieved' at Labour Connected

Sir Keir's aides are hoping that the speech on Tuesday will draw a line under the leadership of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn 
Sir Keir's aides are hoping that the speech on Tuesday will draw a line under the leadership of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn  Credit: HANNAH MCKAY 

Labour must discover its patriotism and pride in Britain to win back disaffected working class voters, Sir Keir Starmer is expected to say in his first conference speech as leader this week.

The Labour leader is expected to speak of his "pride in Britain, of its values and for what it has achieved" when he addresses Labour Connected, an online event which replaces the party's conference due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Sir Keir's aides are hoping that the speech on Tuesday will draw a line under the leadership of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn whose patriotism was often questioned by critics.

The party yesterday unveiled its new slogan "A New Leadership" on the first day of its "virtual" party conference.

A source close to Sir Keir said: “This week Keir will speak explicitly of his pride in Britain, of its values and for what it has achieved. It’ll be patriotic, optimistic and rooted in people’s values.”

Sir Keir said on Saturday: “Labour is offering a new leadership. A new leadership for our party and for our country.

"We have a mountain to climb to win the next election, but even in a matter of months we have demonstrated our determination to listen, to change and to rebuild people’s trust.”

The shift toward patriotism has been attributed to the Labour leader's director of policy Claire Ainsley, a former head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank and author of the New Working Class.

In a book published in 2018 she said parties had to move towards values espoused by a new group of working-class voters who believed in "family, fairness, hard work and decency".

Sir Keir has been keen to 'wrap himself in the union jack' and distance himself from Mr Corbyn's position on Russia and national security since he took over as leader in April.

In an interview with the Telegraph's Chopper's Politics podcast the following month in May Sir Keir said Labour should not be "shy" about being "patriotic".

He said: "I'm proud that we're patriotic, I don't think we should be shy about it, I think it is something we should be very proud of and I think the fact thousands and thousands of activists give up their free time to try and improve our country is a real reflection of just how patriotic they are."

Mr Corbyn, who has backed a united Ireland, became involved in a row over whether he would kneel for the Queen when he was sworn as a member of the Privy Council shortly after becoming leader in 2015.

Critics also claimed that Mr Corbyn had not bowed fully at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, and did not know the words to the National Anthem.

Last December, less than a fortnight before election day, Mr Corbyn hit back at his critics saying: "Patriotism is about supporting each other, not attacking somebody else.

"It’s about loving your country enough to make it a place where nobody is homeless or hungry, held back or left behind."

Separately Sir Keir will this week urge Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to prioritise testing for children to help ensure schools can remain open and a generation of young people are not robbed of their education.

He called on the Government to put "children at the front of the queue" for coronavirus tests, as he warns of a "growing flood of schools closures" due to Covid-19.

He said on Saturday night: “If the Prime Minister does not get a grip of the testing crisis, children will be robbed of an education. We are seeing a growing flood of school closures.

"The testing regime is not working, nor does it appreciate the unique challenges many families are having to cope with."

Angela Rayner, Sir Keir's deputy, will make a keynote speech later on Sunday to Labour Connected - a four-day online event in place of the party's annual conference, which was cancelled because of coronavirus.