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Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 10:52 GMT
Blair appoints 'patriotism envoy'
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair wants ministers to be more patriotic
A minister has been appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair to get the message across to the public that Labour values are in line with traditional British beliefs.

Education Minister Michael Wills is to co-ordinate efforts to ensure the government is seen as standing up for the country.

Dubbed the "patriotism envoy" by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Wills admitted in an interview with the paper that in the past Labour had allowed itself to be portrayed as unpatriotic.

Michael Wills
Michael Wills: Labour represents "Best of British"
He said that was wrong and the party represents "what is best about being British".

"All governments must have a clear sense of national identity," he said.

"Patriotism is a love of what is precious about the country and there are values and characteristics of the people who live here that are borne out of centuries of history.

"We would pick out openness, a sense of fair play and decency and the work ethic as quintessentially British qualities."

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Wills had been asked to co-ordinate efforts to ensure the government is successful in getting its message out.

'Spin'

Shadow cabinet office Minister, Andrew Lansley MP said the move was "absolutely typical" of Labour.

He accused Labour of damaging the British constitution, undermining Britain's sovereignty and diminishing things which people have been proud to see as part of their British heritage.

And he dismissed Mr Wills as a spin doctor trying to deflect the reality of Labour's real impact on Britain by trying to talk up patriotism.

"If `patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel' it is little wonder that Mr Blair is now taking refuge in patriotism," he said.

Mr Wills' appointment comes after reports that Mr Blair sent a letter to Cabinet colleagues telling them to be more patriotic.

According to The Telegraph, Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Education Secretary David Blunkett will both make speeches on the patriotism theme in the coming months.

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See also:

14 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Blair's 'patriotic' European vision
28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Blair defines 'British values'
28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Blair waves the pre-election union flag
09 Mar 00 | Scotland
Blair denies union will break
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