The shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy used her first major speech in the role to criticise former prime minister Tony Blair. Rejecting the “uncritical embrace of economic globalisation in the 1980s”, she argued that New Labour became convinced the model was “not a choice, but a fate”.
“It ushered in an era of flexible labour markets and deregulation ‘to untie the hands of business’ as the then prime minister [Blair] described it in his Chicago speech,” Nandy told the Chatham House think tank.
Referencing a later Blair speech, she added, “In a sink or swim world, those who were not ‘swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change’ found themselves on the wrong side of history.” Given the rest of Nandy’s speech, one might think that she believes New Labour sold out the working class.
The shadow foreign secretary also made pointed references to flags, following a leftwing outcry over a recent strategy document that encouraged Labour to use more national symbols. As well as scorning “ministers who wrap themselves in flags and berate the BBC for failing to sufficiently do the same” Nandy argued that “for all the faux flag waving there is no patriotic vision [within the government] for those [left behind] people or places.”
For Labour’s leader Keir Starmer, who is trying to re-establish Labour as a patriotic party, the speech may be of mixed use. Although Nandy cited national security as Labour’s “top priority” and said the party would focus on international relationships, the fixation on domestic issues suggests she would be happier with a more local brief.