Wave the flag and dress smartly at the Centotaph: Labour ‘patriotic’ rebranding plan urges Keir Starmer to pose with British symbol and army veterans amid fears voters believe he ‘sits on the fence’ on critical issues
Keir Starmer should pose with the union flag and military personnel to reconnect Labour with traditional voters, according to a leaked ‘rebranding’ plan.
The strategy, presented to officials by the party’s head of research last month, stresses the need for a more patriotic image in the wake of the disastrous Jeremy Corbyn era.
It suggested Sir Keir makes ‘use of the flag, veterans’ to convince disaffected former voters that Labour reflects their values.
There was also a reference to ‘dressing smartly at the war memorial’ – an apparent swipe at Mr Corbyn notoriously wearing a scruffy-looking anorak to the Cenotaph wreath-laying in 2018.
In a warning sign for Sir Keir, although he is seen as a positive asset for the party focus groups showed voters have noticed his habit of ‘sitting on the fence’.
The Labour leadership seem to have taken the advice to heart already, with Sir Keir seen against the backdrop of the union flag for speeches and party political broadcasts over recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir looks to be trying to shake off his reputation for facing both ways on issues like Brexit, including by demanding blanket Covid ‘quarantine hotel’ rules for UK arrivals, and making a bold call for teachers to be prioritised for vaccinations over half-term.
The Labour leadership seem to have taken the rebranding advice to heart already, with Sir Keir Starmer seen against the backdrop of the union flag for speeches and party political broadcasts over recent weeks
Labour insisted the presentation was based on in-depth research by the Republic agency dating from September, and was not written by party officials.
However, sources praised the report as a ‘really interesting and strong piece of work’.
A Labour spokesman said: ‘This is a report by an external organisation from September 2020 dealing with pre-existing perceptions of the party.
‘It was not written by Labour officials. Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have been very clear that Labour has a mountain to climb to win in 2024 but is on the right path.’
According to the Guardian, party officials were told during the presentation last month that voters were confused about ‘what we stand for, and what our purpose is, but also who we represent’.
Comments from focus groups included that Sir Keir ‘needs to stop sitting on the fence’.
His tendency not to take a firm stance has fuelled a perception that Labour is ‘not being forthright and honest … about where we want to be’.
One Birmingham voter slapped that it was ‘two different parties under one name’, while in another damning sign of the Corbyn legacy a Grimsby resident said: ‘They are the voice of the students. They have left real people, taxpayers behind.’
The report was based on focus groups from Watford to Grimsby conducted in September along with nationwide polling.
One slide said ‘communicating Labour’s respect and commitment for the country can represent a change in the party’s body language’.
Another recommendation was: ‘The use of the flag, veterans, dressing smartly at the war memorial etc give voters a sense of authentic values alignment.’
Mr Corbyn’s record of having campaign for unilateral disarmament and against all major British military interventions since the Second World War was seen as toxic for Labour during his time in charge.
It culminated in Boris Johnson winning an historic majority by demolishing the party’s traditional ‘Red Wall’ heartlands.
This week Sir Keir fronted a party political broadcast beside a union flag, as he promised to ‘rebuild our country’.
The party is also believed to be using flag-branded header images in emails more often.
However, the approach has sparked alarm from some on the Labour Left.
Norwich MP Clive Lewis, himself a former soldier, told the Guardian: ‘The Tory party has absorbed Ukip and now Labour appears to be absorbing the language and symbols of the Tory party.’
He added: ‘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.’