Boris Johnson – Labour to focus on Union flag to win back voters, leaked strategy plan reveals
LABOUR are to focus on the Union flag and patriotism to win back voters, a leaked plan has revealed.
The internal strategy presentation, which has been seen and heard by the Guardian, says the party must make “use of the [Union] flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly” as part of a rebranding to help win back the trust of disillusioned voters.
The document is aimed at what the party describes as “foundation seats”, a new term for the “red wall” constituencies that were responsible for Boris Johnson’s win in the 2019 General Election, and other areas the party thinks will vote for the Tories.
The report says that voters could not describe who or what Labour stands for and while leader Keir Starmer was rated by voters as the party’s biggest advantage, voters were concerned he is “sitting on the fence”.
Labour’s head of research presented the strategy, which said displays of patriotism are needed to show the party has changed. One slide says: “Belonging needs to be reinforced through all messengers,” while another is headed “communicating Labour’s respect and commitment for the country can represent a change in the party’s body language”.
Among the top recommendations is: “The use of the flag, veterans, dressing smartly at the war memorial etc give voters a sense of authentic values alignment.”
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In WhatsApp messages, sent within hours of one briefing, senior officials ordered: “Please prioritise the union jack header images, not the plain red ones.”
Most MPs and staffers have not seen the new plan yet and The Guardian reported that Labour party managers will show them an edited version because of its “sensitivity” after party officials expressed concern about the nationalistic language used. A senior Labour official told The Guardian the language came from the agency’s research on the party’s brand by agency Republic rather than their own phrasing.
Some staffers who saw the report have expressed concern over the language used in the report, likening it to that used by the right. One said: “I was just sat there replaying in my mind the storming of the Capitol [in Washington last month] and thinking: are you really so blind to what happens when you start pandering to the language and concerns of the right?”
Clive Lewis, one of Labour’s leading ethnic-minority MPs, said: “The Tory party has absorbed Ukip and now Labour appears to be absorbing the language and symbols of the Tory party.”
Lewis served as a soldier in Afghanistan but said emphasis on flags was wrong. “It’s not patriotism; it’s Fatherland-ism. There’s a better way to build social cohesion than moving down the track of the nativist right.”
The party’s head of research said voters were confused about “what we stand for, and what our purpose is, but also who we represent”.
He showed a slide which contained a quote from a voter that said: “I don’t know anything about the Labour party at the moment, they have been way too quiet” and “he [Starmer] needs to stop sitting on the fence”.
Top officials have been told that voters think this ambiguity is deliberate, proving that Starmer and his team are “not being forthright and honest … about where we want to be”.
One Birmingham voter described Labour as “two different parties under one name” and a former Labour voter from Grimsby said: “They are the voice of the students. They have left real people, taxpayers behind.”
It comes as a political expert urged Labour to stop ignoring the “obvious and real demand” for Scotland to determine its own fate if they want to get back into government at Westminster again.
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Neal Lawson, a director at the progressive think tank Compass, wrote for The Guardian on Monday discussing the various routes towards a second vote on independence.
He urged Starmer, to be “fully prepared” to negotiate the terms of a second independence referendum with Nicola Sturgeon.
As the SNP are likely to win a majority in May’s Holyrood election, Lawson said the party could go for a “Catalan-style” form of civil disobedience referendum.
He added that this is unlikely due to the SNP’s ambition to rejoin the EU after a vote for independence and for the vote to be clear and legally binding.
Another route to a referendum is via a Labour-led government in Westminster at the next General Election. The party are unlikely to win a clear majority in the House of Commons – partly due to the SNP’s continuing political popularity so Lawson says they need a “plan B”.
If Labour are looking to prevent a record fifth straight election loss, then going into some for of coalition with the SNP will likely be the only route to governance.
A new Labour report revealed this week that all UK Government departments should be required to carry out a “devolution impact assessment” on how new policies affect politics in Scotland.
Written by constitutional law expert Sean Griffin, the Remaking the British State paper was commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn and recommends a new federal UK, elected replacement for the House of Lords and significant further powers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This includes the hand-over of authority on drug laws, social security and taxation on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling.
This includes giving the Scotland Secretary powers over central government funds “such as the National Transformation Fund to invest in the Scottish economy”.
The report states: “Brexit has brought into sharp focus the existential crisis facing the British State; it is plagued by huge economic and political imbalances, an inordinate centralisation of power and wealth, vast regional inequalities across the UK, and an empty commitment to devolution.
“The old constitution is creaking under the weight of competing nationalisms, identity politics, and disconnect between ordinary people and the British political and economic elite centred on Westminster and the City of London.
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“The Labour Party has an opportunity. It should reject the Scottish nationalism of the SNP in Scotland and the status quo Unionism of the Tories in Westminster. Instead, it should seek to reimagine the UK and posit a new vision of Progressive Federalism, replacing the Union state with a new federal state based on progressive principles including subsidiarity, solidarity, the redistribution of power and wealth, and parity of esteem between our nations and regions.”