In the words of one commentator, Keir Starmer's Labour Conference speech was a new low.
Keir Starmer's speech last Tuesday was a new low: not a single reference to 'England' or 'English', not one, in the whole speech. A speech dedicated to England-only matters: housing, the NHS, communities, etc. For @UKLabour, it's as if England simply doesn't exist.— Dave Rickard (@britologywatch) October 15, 2023
Without a shread of irony, Starmer also claimed that people like Rishi Sunak 'cannot see the country before them'.
It was left to the media to add the English context. This is how the BBC did that:
Sir Keir Starmer has promised to build "the next generation" of new towns, along with 1.5 million homes, as part of a "decade of renewal under Labour". The Labour leader said he would "bulldoze through" the planning system in England if his party wins power... Sir Keir promised to accelerate building on unused urban land to create the "next generation of new towns" near English cities, echoing those built by the first Labour government after World War Two.
But Starmer himself didn't say that, he only talked about Britain and 'the country'.
Starmer was not the only person at the Labour Conference who failed to mention England. Wes Streeting, who as Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has ambitions to be in charge of the English NHS and social care, managed to give a lengthy speech without ever mentioning the nation or the people that his healthcare policies were for. He, of course, managed to mention Britain seven times and 'our country' three times.
We should not be too surprised at this reluctance to talk about England. After all, before the conference it was announced that Labour's new membership cards will be emblazoned with the Union Flag in England but the respective flags of Scotland and Wales in Scotland and Wales.
John Denham called this a 'symbolic rejection of England' and 'a rejection of the idea that England is a nation with its own policy choices'. It certainly reveals a party that is comfortable with its Britishness, Scottishness and Welshness but not at all comfortable about Englishness.