“Labour is back,” Keir Starmer told Labour activists and assembled TV cameras in Batley and Spen. “Labour is coming home.”
For those not fully versed in football-politics symbolism, the phrase might have seemed a bit gnomic. But the Labour leader was, in a sense, paying tribute to a tribute.
At the Labour conference in autumn 1996, months before the party’s election win, Tony Blair famously said: “Seventeen years of hurt/Never stopped us dreaming/Labour’s coming home.”
This in turn was a variant of a refrain from Three Lions, the 1996 hit for comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, with band the Lightning Seeds. “Football’s coming home” has been a popular terrace chant ever since.
With England playing Ukraine in the quarter-finals of the Covid-delayed Euro 2020, Starmer, who was in the Wembley crowd for the national team’s 1996 defeat to Germany, was trying to bring some of the feelgood factor his way.