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Labour won't beat the right at flag-waving. It needs its own progressive patriotism

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The love that a certain type of immigrant feels for their adopted country can seem contradictory. Dealing with the immigration machinery of the British state has driven people like me to the edge of mental and financial ruin. My type of immigrant learns more about how Britain’s bureaucracy works than most of its citizens ever will. We become intimately acquainted with systems that are designed to sift people into different tiers according to value, and then dispatch those who don’t make the grade as cheaply and as quickly as possible.

Whether you are in need of benefits, official papers or just a hearing from someone who controls your fate, you quickly learn that you will survive in this country in spite of the people who are supposed to help you, not because of them.

But while you’re enduring this crash course in bureaucracy, a different feeling can often develop. If you’re lucky, the process of settling in the UK and fighting to belong here is eased by another cast of characters, which includes charities, judges and civil servants, who behave in such upright and generous ways that you feel bound to this country forever. It is still possible to love this country, despite being fully aware of all the ways it is broken – and despite it nearly breaking you several times.

This is the patriotism issue that Labour is now failing to crack. When the party’s job in opposition is to point out all the ways in which Britain is currently failing, can it present a positive vision for the country it wants to run? Finding a sense of national endeavour that binds voters together is an important exercise. At a time when Labour is struggling to clearly outline what it stands for, its very identity depends upon this. And the Tories have the benefit........

© The Guardian

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