Chasing the flag-wavers may backfire on Labour | Letters

Readers respond to Polly Toynbee’s call for Labour to articulate its patriotic values

Another depressing article about Labour trying to play catch-up (Starmer’s greatest challenge is to defeat the Tories on patriotism, 22 September). First, Labour has to become an enthusiast for Brexit, now it must demonstrate its patriotic credentials.

While there is no harm in reminding voters that Labour is a party of patriots, this is a policy area on which it will also be outplayed by the Tories. Unless Labour is prepared to make an issue of the Russian money flooding into the party, there is little to be gained by focusing on a policy area in which the Tories will always have the advantage.

As a Labour supporter, I want a party that has an identity separate from that of the Tories, not one of a nicer and better managed Toryism. The party has abandoned people such as myself, the urban-dwelling remain voter. It should wake up to the damage done to its vote by this nostalgic attachment to the north and the espousal of its supposed socially conservative working-class values, as this risks alienating a large section of the party’s support.
Derrick Joad

• Another day, another well-argued indictment of the government’s shambolic performance, mistakes and evasions (The Guardian view on the Covid crisis: Boris Johnson let it happen, 21 September). But it seems this is yet to make a serious impact on voting intentions. Many voters remain committed to the Tories and, astonishingly, are forgiving of Boris Johnson’s shortcomings and shiftiness. In such a situation, Polly Toynbee’s call for Labour to “appropriate patriotism as its own” seems a rather timid instruction.

It could easily backfire and lock the parties into a race to the bottom – not just who can sing Land of Hope and Glory loudest, or without reference to a song sheet, but also who will lock our borders most effectively against incomers. An effective opposition must highlight broken promises and demand improvements on the handling of the economy and public health, not form a choir and organise a sing-song.
Les Bright

• Polly Toynbee’s claim that “love of country is universal” is untrue. I do not love England but I do love Europe. Patriotism, war nostalgia, a fixation on empire and “making Britain great again” are the very things that have held us back. Labour’s mission is to modernise the country. Time to ditch the baggage. I and many of my friends are not going to vote for any party that doesn’t put the EU centre stage. Keir Starmer is incapable of bringing the divided camps together. He has to choose and it seems he has.
Stephen Dorril
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• Harold Wilson said Labour is a crusade or it is nothing. Labour’s problems stem as much from its failure to sell its achievements over the years as from any actual failure. It’s dispiriting to hear Polly Toynbee record again that people still don’t trust it on the economy. The truth is that in modern-day peacetime, Labour’s record with the national finances averages out as no worse than the Tories’ over the period.

Before the 2007 crash, both the budget deficit and the big capital debt were normal by the standards of developed Europe. Before that crash, the two worst recessions since the 1930s were caused by Margaret Thatcher and her chancellors. Labour can still be a crusade. The trouble was that under Tony Blair it never got beyond the Channel ports.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent


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