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No, ethnic minorities are not put off by the Union flag

Labourites are woefully out of touch with ethnic-minority Brits.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Politics UK

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The UK Labour Party remains on course to win the next General Election – thanks, it must be said, to the implosion of the Tories rather than anything Labour itself has done. But while it may be buoyant in the polls, Labour’s barely suppressed anti-patriotic tendencies will still be giving some voters pause for thought.

This was brought home by a recent report in the Guardian. It claimed that Labour MPs are still unhappy about leader Keir Starmer’s use of the Union flag in electoral campaigning material. One MP complained to the Guardian that leaflets are ‘plastered with Union Jacks’. Others claim that displaying the British flag, and using the red, white and blue colour scheme, risks alienating ethnic-minority voters who supposedly associate all this flag-waving with the far right. The more ridiculous Labour activists are reportedly reluctant to hand out Labour’s election material, lest they be mistaken for the National Front or something.

Whatever else you might think of Keir Starmer’s sudden, often awkward embrace of the national flag, it is absurd to suggest it is a sop to ethno-nationalism – or risks being interpreted as such. Labour’s never-ending flag row is a reminder that, while Starmer may have stuck the Union flag on the Labour letterhead in recent years, his party remains as hostile to symbols of Britishness as it was during Jeremy Corbyn’s reign.

No doubt Labourites think that their discomfort with national symbolism is a way of supporting Britain’s ethnic minorities. But it’s not. Many minorities are just as proud of Britain, if not more so, than white Brits. What’s more, patriotism has the potential to unify the nation, to transcend racial and ethnic differences.

There is a wealth of evidence that shows ethnic minorities value their British identity and their place in the UK. Many studies have shown that ethnic minorities tend to have a stronger sense of their British identity than white Brits. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Many ethnic minorities can trace their origins back to relatively underdeveloped countries, characterised by political instability and social unrest. Some fled persecution and violence in their homelands. Others, such as Ugandan Asians, were expelled by genuinely ethno-nationalist dictatorships. Many of these groups have become British success stories, embracing life in the UK and happily integrating into our national community.

Indeed, part of the reason my own Bangladeshi-origin parents decided to set up their stall in Britain was because of the stable nature of British democratic society and the great educational opportunities on offer for their children. They soon developed a genuine affection for Britain – a country that provided them with an opportunity to start afresh and prosper.

Given all this, it’s absurd to believe that Britain’s minorities would be upset by the sight of a Union flag on a Labour election leaflet. It would be far better for Labour to acknowledge that Britain is a good place to live – that there are plenty of reasons why the vast majority of citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, feel proud of the UK.

It may come as news to many Labourites, who see ‘systemic racism’ everywhere, but Britain is a generally fair and tolerant society. It is home to some of the most robust anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of race, ethnicity and religion in the world. And it provides minorities with the religious freedoms and economic opportunities they need to thrive. It is no surprise that a recent study found that more than four out of five British Muslims believe that the UK is a better, more tolerant place for Muslims than France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Britain’s minorities are far prouder of their nation than the liberal-left thinks. Labour is at risk of being held hostage by doom-and-gloom identitarians who run down the UK at every opportunity – the type of people who see the Union flag as an expression of racism and bigotry.

For most Brits, meanwhile, the flag is far from offensive. It is a symbol of the nation we are proud to call home.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK

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