Labour MPs form group urging party to embrace Englishness

A group of Labour MPs has formed a new group within the party aimed at pressuring the leadership to not shy away from English identity.

An England flag on a building. Picture: Elliot Brown/Wikimedia Commons
An England flag on a building. Picture: Elliot Brown/Wikimedia Commons

The ‘English Labour Network’ was set up by prominent Labour politicians who say the party has more to do bridge a gap between the party and voters who identify as English.

Former ministers John Denham, Jon Cruddas, and Liam Byrne are among those behind the move, which they say is a major barrier preventing the party for winning Englabnd.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Read More

Read More
Net migration falls by a quarter as EU citizens leave UK

They claim that the party has been reluctant in embracing a sense of English identity due to a fear of appearing racist.

Mr Denham wrote in a Labour blog announcing the group’s formation that “Engaging with Englishness doesn’t mean concessions to racism or xenophobia, and we’ll help show how.”

The other politicians also note that there was no English-specific Remain campaign in the EU referendum, and that English devolution had been piecemeal in comparison to that of Scotland or Wales.

They signalled they would be amenable to ideas on strengthening Labour’s approach to a notion of English patriotism, with early suggestions being posited including a Secretary of State for England.

Mr Denham added: “If Labour had polled as well among these ‘English’ voters as we did in the wider population, Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister already.”

Labour attempts to stave off a UKIP threat in working-class areas are nothing new, with all recent leaders of the party trying to reclaim a sense of patriotism.

In 2014, Emily Thornberry, now one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most effective and prominent supporters, was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet by Ed Miliband over a tweet perceived as anti-English.

Ms Thornberry tweeted ‘Image from Rochester’ with a picture of a house with a white van parked outside and several England flags hanging from it while campaigning during a by-election.

Even before the launch of this group, a number of more centrist Labour politicians have raised concerns over Englishness, including ex-MP Tristram Hunt.