Progressive Patriotism

A few days ago Rebecca Long-Bailey, prospective Labour leader, built on an idea first mooted, I think, by Billy Bragg, and suggested that ‘Progessive Patriotism’ was a good idea…

I’m surprised to find myself agreeing.

Progressives have to embrace patriotism, even though to many of us, it is a fairly unwelcome concept, being perilously close to believing that your country is better than others based simply on your own accident of birth.

Yet, if you are pitching for the power to govern a country you do not want people sensing or suggesting you actually dislike that country.

Patriotism has to be subsumed into a collective endeavour, mutual trust and pride in outcome. It can be about changing institutions in order to be proud of them, about tolerance and shared values, about caring and looking after the people you hope to be elected to govern. It could even be about public ownership. Above all it has to be about the future and not an endorsement of every ‘success’ in British history.

The left has to define its patriotism, for if it doesn’t, as Jeremy Corbyn has regularly found, it is wide open to the charge of supporting the other side, whichever that may be. With the left regularly nervous of ‘patriotism’ the right will most willingly fill the void with pretty much anything to win – recently and most probably with jingoistic nationalism.

So I consider Progressive Patriotism rather a good move to stake out territory that is usually the effortless and easy to justify remit and default setting for Farage, the ‘Daily Mail’ and Conservatives in general.

At the very least these people will have to admit to two forms of patriotism or they might even have to admit that their patriotism is actually xenophobia.


  1. Philip John -

    This sounds like a good positive case for a progressive form of patriotism, and it’s appealing even as someone who despises patriotism. The trouble I think that the concept will suffer from is that it’s attempting to redefine something that many people already have a strong personal definition of. Trying to encourage a sense of unity and pride is great – patriotism feels to me like the wrong vehicle.

    1. Peter May -

      I sort of agree – but I think it’s good marketing to be ‘in favour’ of patriotism. Otherwise our dire right wing press claims you are not…

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