We’ll keep the red flag flying, if we can remember the words - Vladimir McTavish

The Labour Party Conference was more like last night of the Proms, says Vladimir McTavishThe Labour Party Conference was more like last night of the Proms, says Vladimir McTavish
The Labour Party Conference was more like last night of the Proms, says Vladimir McTavish
Watching the top table at the Labour Party Conference trying to sing The Red Flag is very similar to watching the Scotland rugby team singing the national anthem before a game.

There are around ten or eleven Scots belting out Flower Of Scotland, while the South Africans and Australians in the squad are nervously trying to mouth along to the lyrics, to give the impression that they know the words.

It’s the same with Labour, only the ratio is reversed. There’s usually a handful of Lefties in the conference hall heartily singing the words while the party leaders unconvincingly lip-synch in a rather embarrassing manner.

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It sums up the Labour Party’s direction of travel of under Keir Starmer that they hired an operatic soprano to sing The Red Flag at the end of this year’s conference. Less Class War, more Classic FM. Finally, an admission that they have very few socialists left. With all those union flags on display, it was like Last Night Of The Proms. Labour used to be the party of the trade unions. It now seems to be branding itself as the party of The Union.

However, we were told this week that Labour is once again the Party of the Working Class. Who, apart from Sir Keir Starmer, thinks Sir Keir Starmer is working class? Aside from photo opportunities, you’re never going to see him pushing a trolley around Lidl or riding on a 21 bus. This is not a new phenomenon. Labour has a long history of posh toffs pretending that they can mix it with the great unwashed.

Tony Blair used to pretend to be a Newcastle United supporter, and once famously claimed that he could remember sitting at the Leazes End watching Jackie Milburn play for The Toon. All very credible, unless you happen to know anything about football. “Wor Jackie” played his last game for Newcastle in 1957 at which time Anthony Charles Linton Blair would have been about three or four years old, and there was no seating at the Leazes End until St James’s Park was redeveloped in the early nineties. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Blair, by the way, could be excused for not knowing the words to The Red Flag, as I’m guessing it was never sung at morning assembly at Fettes. Nor, I would imagine, was it on the playlist of The Ugly Rumours, the rock band he fronted when he was a student at Oxford.

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Tony B’s unspeakably posh comrade Peter Mandelson once tried to blend in with the locals on a trip to a chip shop in Hartlepool. Seeing some mushy peas behind the counter, he asked if he could have some “avocado puree” with his fish supper.

Equally embarrassing is when politicians try to be cool and down-with-the-kids. I remember Gordon Brown claiming he was a fan of the Arctic Monkeys, as if he’d seen them from the mosh pit at T In The Park. To paraphrase that band’s best-known line, I bet he didn’t look good on the dance floor.

Come on, Sir Keir. Admit you’re posh but you’re on our side. We’d respect you much more. By the way, the song starts “the people’s flag is deepest red…”

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