We need to avoid appealing to an imaginary radical working class vote

October 30, 2012 9:10 am

The newspapers at the end of last week presented us with two apparently unrelated stories that are critical to understanding which groups of voters are likely to have the greatest influence on the outcome of the next General Election, and how the parties are going to have to craft messages and policies to appeal to them.

The Telegraph’s Peter Oborne wrote that the Australian election consultant Lynton Crosby (he of the “dog whistle” fame and mastermind of two Boris mayoral victories) was going to strategise for the Tories in 2015. Oborne’s view is that this spells the death-knell of Cameron’s hug a huskie/hug a hoodie phase that started in 2005. Certainly the harsh tone of the rhetoric at Tory conference seems to bear this out.

The Guardian meanwhile reported on YouGov’s polling for Progress which shows working class voters are more rightwing than middle class ones by self-definition, and with particular reference to issues like immigration, and that skilled working class C2s are particularly enthusiastic about welfare reform.

The YouGov findings are, to anyone themselves from a working class background or who spends much time canvassing in working class areas, a statement of the bleeding obvious. But sadly the Labour movement’s capacity for self-delusion and romanticising the class we are supposed to represent, rather than getting on with the nitty-gritty of actually representing them and their real views, is immense. So Progress have done us all an immense favour by getting a reputable pollster to give us the hard numbers that tell us that our own conversations on the doorstep and in our communities represent the reality of working class opinion, not just anecdotal accidents.

Unfortunately for Labour, the Tories have never romanticised the political views of working class voters, and have from time to time shown a ruthlessly populist ability to court a minority of them into the Tory column against their economic self-interest. Under Thatcher they used the politics of working class aspiration, council house right-to-buy, share sell-offs, nationalist rhetoric and exposing Labour’s out-of-touch shopping list of unpopular and extreme policies, to grab and hang on to a winning slice of the working class vote for four elections in a row.

Lynton Crosby isn’t coming here by mistake. He’s coming because the Tories get that they need and might be able to win some working class votes without needing Peter Kellner to spell it out to them. Crosby is a master of winning over working class “battlers” in suburban Australian marginals for the Liberals, their Tories. What makes working class swing or potential swing voters tick in the UK is remarkably similar to their Australian counterparts.

We are now in a most unusual situation where we have moved from a party system in the 1950s where there was quite a close relationship between class and political ideology to one where “proportionately more middle-class people (36%) describe themselves as leftwing than working-class (28%).”

The major trade unions have been completely correct to identify a need for Labour to re-engage with its working class base or risk both not winning back that part of it we lost between 1997 and 2010, but also some of what we still have.

They are correct that we need policies that resonate with working class voters and candidates that are representative of them.

The point at which the analysis of some of the more leftwing voices in the movement breaks down though is when they conclude, thanks to an understandable desire to project their own political hopes onto the working class, that what working class voters want, and what would increase their turnout and their propensity to vote Labour, is a very traditional hard left policy platform, a lot of very leftwing rhetoric, and candidates who are prepared to spout it.

The market for that sort of Labour Party was tested in 1983 when the country was far more industrialised, the distribution of population far more tilted to the North and cities, the workforce far more unionised, the self-identifying  working class and “left” far bigger. It was deeply unpopular then – including with working class voters who should have been part of our core vote – and would be even less popular now in a vastly changed country where the core components of Labour’s base are a lot smaller.

We need to be very careful that we don’t start appealing to an imaginary radical working class vote while the real working class vote is assiduously wooed by Lynton Crosby.

Some of the very stark responses that came through in the YouGov poll, such as that “among C2 and DE voters a ban on all immigration is supported by 67% to 26%”, are inconsistent both with our values as a party, and with the national interest. But if we don’t develop a policy offer in areas like this that really matter to working people, that shows them we are serious and we are listening, we might as well just give what should be our core vote to Lynton Crosby on a plate.

Certainly if we retreat into very dated leftist rhetoric thinking it will mobilise the working classes when in fact they regard themselves as less leftwing than their middle class counterparts, we will deserve political extinction.

By articulating a vision of One Nation, Ed Miliband has created an ideological framework that makes it possible to appeal to voters of all classes. Now we need to select candidates who are diverse enough to embody that One Nation, and tuned in enough to ordinary voters to fight for their concerns, not the ones we might fantasise that they have. And we need to develop a policy platform that is robust enough that the gritty, cynical-about-politics British working class equivalents of the Aussie Battlers will see that it offers them a more realistic and effective tackling of the issues they are worried about and a more prosperous future than whatever blandishments Lynton Crosby is dog-whistling at them.

 

 

  • http://twitter.com/doxievee Richard Nicholl

    Depressing but true. The capacity of the British left for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me – obviously, all Labour needs to do is return to 1983 policies and victory in 2015 will be assured…

  • NT86

    “Radicalism” is simply a word which left wing middle class people use it to sound like they’re in touch with ordinary people. On a side note, it’s also used constantly by the likes of Peter Tatchell who wants to keep gay people feeling like victims, even though most of them are now well integrated into the ‘mainstream’ of society which he loathes so much.

    Doesn’t surprise me that the working class want restrictions on immigration. That alongside multiculturalism were force fed to working class communities more than anyone. It’s easy for the middle class to embrace those policies because they live miles away in leafy suburbs and don’t see the problems caused in inner cities.

    Radicalism is a just a ruse to tell the working class what’s “best for them” by certain political commentators. Let them decide their own fate.

    • aracataca

      Don’t right wing political elites also call themselves ‘radical’? For instance, the term the radical right is often thrown about by unreconstructed Thatcherites.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Yes aracataca. Gove calls what he is doing to education “radical reform”. And this is the way that this government decribes most of its controversial policies. 

    • aracataca

      Of course the arrogant and incompetent shower currently masquerading as the government of the country often refer to their own ‘radicalism’ do they not ? The term ‘radical’ is therefore not a preserve of the left.

  • Serbitar

    The problem is that the “working class” constituency you are talking about is often poorly informed about politics and policy. No time, no interest, too busy etc. In my view rather than pandering to ingrained right-wing nonsense promulgated by the likes of The Sun and similar rags, joining in with unjustified populist pillorying of minorities and such like, Labour should be trying to disabuse “working” people of urban myths and prejudices concerning immigration and welfare that the Tories spin and exploit shamelessly to their advantage. Especially after the country has been convulsed by disaster like involvement in a war or after an economic collapse. Labour should be sparing no efforts to try to pull the political debate back from the right towards the centre. 
     

    • Jeremy_Preece

      You see, it is not a matter of working class voters being ill informed. Generally most voters simply pick up their information as it has been distilled by the media. Therefore univerally across most social classes is the view that Labour cannot manage the economy as well as the Tories.

      The truth is that under Labour the national deficit was cut from over 40% of GNP in 1997 to 22% in 2007. It is also a fact that even with the bank bailouts and spending post 2008 the national debt is still less than 40%. Labour managed this without slashing the public sector.

      In terms of immigration, it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”. It is very dangerous and this type of thinking makes it very easy for extremist right wing groups to gain influnece.

      All in all I bang on a lot about the truth of Labour’s handling of the economy and the Tory hypocracy, because generally if a party does not have economic credibility then it will not be elected.

      • charles.ward

        “The truth is that under Labour the national deficit was cut from over
        40% of GNP in 1997 to 22% in 2007. It is also a fact that even with the
        bank bailouts and spending post 2008 the national debt is still less
        than 40%.”

        First you confuse the deficit and the debt, then you state that debt was 22% of GNP in 2007 when it was actually more like 35%.  Then you state that debt is still below 40% when it is actually about 60%.

        Wrong, wrong and wrong again.  But perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the media with their pesky facts.

        I would also point out that debt peaked at about 42.5% of GDP after the last recession and will reach a peak of almost 80% after this one.  Don’t worry, Labour’s record for economic incompetence is secure.

        • Dave Postles

           In 2010, debt to GDP ratio in the UK was lower than in France or Germany.

          • charles.ward

             Nice try but not according to the IMF.

          • Dave Postles

             So what?  The rules for existing within the Eurozone were deficit below 3% and debt below 60% – which both Germany and France exceeded in the aftermath of 2007-8. 

          • aracataca

            Correct Dave.

        • Brumanuensis

          “I would also point out that debt peaked at about 42.5% of GDP after the last recession and will reach a peak of almost 80% after this one”.

          What, the 1990-93 recession? Are you seriously arguing that it and the 2008-09 recession were equivalents?

          • charles.ward

            One difference is that we had about 15 years of growth to prepare for this recession.  Another difference is that we went into the 90’s recession with debt 10 percentage points lower than in 2007 and falling. 

            But my main point was that you can’t compare the debt peak after a recession and the debt just before a recession (debt should be at a minimum at that point in the cycle).

          • Brumanuensis

            There’s also the minor point about the former being a relatively mild recession caused by the economy overheating due to the effects of the so-called ‘Lawson Boom’, whilst the other was the worst contraction in output since the Great Depression, caused by the near collapse of the global financial system.

            The the point about the national debt is meaningless. As Dave has noted, the Germans had a higher national debt before the recession and it didn’t stop them enacting counter-cyclical spending or lecturing other nations – like Spain, who ran a budget surplus and much lower national debt – about fiscal rectitude. Equally, the government in the mid-90s were spending a higher proportion of GDP on debt servicing than in 2010. Ken Clarke’s approach to deficit reduction, incidentally, was to wait until the recovery had begun properly and then opting for an approach of evenly-balanced tax increases and spending cuts. A model for the present government. 

          • charles.ward

            The important difference is that debt was falling before the last recession and it was rising at a high rate before this one.

            The relatively high level of the debt (compared to 1990) and the large deficit (despite having 15 years of growth to balance the books) is why our debt is rising so rapidly and will end up almost twice what Gordon Brown set as a maximum.

            I don’t see how you can defend the previous Labour government breaking it’s own fiscal rule for debt by 40% of GDP.

          • Brumanuensis

            “The important difference is that debt was falling before the last recession and it was rising at a high rate before this one”.

            No it wasn’t. The national debt was increasing, but the overall percentage had been stable since the mid-90s and the rate of increase had been levelling off since the mid-2000s. Cherry-picking 1990 doesn’t add anything to your argument.

            http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1900_2011UKp_12c1li0181366_645cs_G0t

            Also visible on p. 20 of the ONS most recent release on public borrowing: 

            http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/psf.pdf

            Nor was the budget deficit ‘large’ by international standards. Could it have been smaller? Entirely possible. But between 2-3% of GDP is not ‘large’ by comparison to other EU countries. Another nasty little complication is that the pre-recession deficit peaked in 2004/5 and then steadily fell up to the start of the Great Recession. This hardly supports the view that Labour were engaged in an uncontrollable deficit binge that was getting steadily worse up to the recession.

            http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47530000/gif/_47530170_uk_budget2010_466x345.gif

            Or for a more congenial source:

            http://www.debtbombshell.com/images/uk-budget-deficit.png

            The 40% rule was meaningless anyway. The EU’s guidelines were much better, although of course only really appropriate for times of general economic expansion.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/OENCLRB33MD5T4KHXS5QDZMYCQ philip

          Hello Charles or could I call you Karl or Carlos to make this post have a greater cosmopolitan feel?
          Tell the good people at LL what the debt to GDP ratios of France, Germany  and..mmm…how about Singapore are?
          I will sit here and quietly wait for you to reply.
          Over to you

      • MonkeyBot5000

         … it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is
        a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify
        other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”.

        It is also often the case that, when there is an abundance of temporary migrant labour, wages go down and jobs are lost. Noticing this doesn’t make us racist.

        It’s no different to the way that you can spend a short period in cramped housing on very low income when you’re a student because you know that it’s an investment in your future.

        Migrants can spend a few years here, working for what are considered low wages here and then return to their home country with a nice stack of money. For the record, that’s not my inner Tory or my working class fear speaking. It’s what those migrants have told me themselves.

        Unfortunately, there is no equivalent country that we can go to in order to do the same. I don’t begrudge them for it – I’d do the same – but I do resent the politicians who allowed this situation to arise.

      • MonkeyBot5000

         … it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is
        a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify
        other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”.

        It is also often the case that, when there is an abundance of temporary migrant labour, wages go down and jobs are lost. Noticing this doesn’t make us racist.

        It’s no different to the way that you can spend a short period in cramped housing on very low income when you’re a student because you know that it’s an investment in your future.

        Migrants can spend a few years here, working for what are considered low wages here and then return to their home country with a nice stack of money. For the record, that’s not my inner Tory or my working class fear speaking. It’s what those migrants have told me themselves.

        Unfortunately, there is no equivalent country that we can go to in order to do the same. I don’t begrudge them for it – I’d do the same – but I do resent the politicians who allowed this situation to arise.

      • MonkeyBot5000

         … it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is
        a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify
        other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”.

        It is also often the case that, when there is an abundance of temporary migrant labour, wages go down and jobs are lost. Noticing this doesn’t make us racist.

        It’s no different to the way that you can spend a short period in cramped housing on very low income when you’re a student because you know that it’s an investment in your future.

        Migrants can spend a few years here, working for what are considered low wages here and then return to their home country with a nice stack of money. For the record, that’s not my inner Tory or my working class fear speaking. It’s what those migrants have told me themselves.

        Unfortunately, there is no equivalent country that we can go to in order to do the same. I don’t begrudge them for it – I’d do the same – but I do resent the politicians who allowed this situation to arise.

      • MonkeyBot5000

         … it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is
        a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify
        other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”.

        It is also often the case that, when there is an abundance of temporary migrant labour, wages go down and jobs are lost. Noticing this doesn’t make us racist.

        It’s no different to the way that you can spend a short period in cramped housing on very low income when you’re a student because you know that it’s an investment in your future.

        Migrants can spend a few years here, working for what are considered low wages here and then return to their home country with a nice stack of money. For the record, that’s not my inner Tory or my working class fear speaking. It’s what those migrants have told me themselves.

        Unfortunately, there is no equivalent country that we can go to in order to do the same. I don’t begrudge them for it – I’d do the same – but I do resent the politicians who allowed this situation to arise.

      • MonkeyBot5000

         … it is often the case that when wages go down and jobs are lost there is
        a tendnacy of some white working class to look around and identify
        other racial groups and say “they are taking our jobs”.

        It is also often the case that, when there is an abundance of temporary migrant labour, wages go down and jobs are lost. Noticing this doesn’t make us racist.

        It’s no different to the way that you can spend a short period in cramped housing on very low income when you’re a student because you know that it’s an investment in your future.

        Migrants can spend a few years here, working for what are considered low wages here and then return to their home country with a nice stack of money. For the record, that’s not my inner Tory or my working class fear speaking. It’s what those migrants have told me themselves.

        Unfortunately, there is no equivalent country that we can go to in order to do the same. I don’t begrudge them for it – I’d do the same – but I do resent the politicians who allowed this situation to arise.

    • Quiet_Sceptic

      So what about housing?

      The Left champions immigration but when it fails to ensure sufficient housing is build to accommodate a rising population then the end result is housing shortages, high prices, high rents, over-crowding and at worst homelessness.

      Of course the natural response is one of transferal, “it’s not a immigration issue, it’s a housing policy failure” but when we have areas of the country where for environmental reasons or for simple land availability reasons (eg. already build upon)  we cannot build more homes, it becomes unavoidably an immigration or more neutrally, a population issue.

  • Redshift1

    Whilst a lot of what you say is true Luke, it is certainly not the full story is it?

    Many working class voters might express very right-wing views on immigration BUT may simultaneously have left-wing views on the banks, on the lack of jobs, pay cuts/pay freezes, energy prices, rail ownership, etc. Not to mention sharing the overwhelming opposition of the population as a whole to the NHS reform and police cuts.

    Ultimately, this comes down to agenda setting. If we let the Tories dictate the agenda by focussing on immigration and welfare reform, then it doesn’t matter how much we pander to right-wing views on those subjects – we will lose by alienating voters on the left and still being ‘softer’ on the right. If we dictate the agenda with criticism of their economic record, unemployment, pay, energy/transport hikes, cost of living, NHS reform, police cuts, etc THEN we win. 

    The initial question is a red herring. The real question is how do we appeal to which groups of voters NOT how do we agree with every single thing that x group of voters think. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001116515833 Michael Carey

    So you advocate further exacerbating the problem? 

    ‘Some of the very stark responses that came through in the YouGov poll,
    such as that “among C2 and DE voters a ban on all immigration is
    supported by 67% to 26%”, are inconsistent both with our values as a
    party, and with the national interest. But if we don’t develop a policy
    offer in areas like this that really matter to working people, that
    shows them we are serious and we are listening, we might as well just
    give what should be our core vote to Lynton Crosby on a plate.’

    Instead, we could cut to the root and recognise that the underlying problems people think would be solved by a ban on immigration, such as the lack of jobs and housing, can only be solved by a left-wing programme. If we decide to give even more ground away and pretend to give credence to the idea that a ban on immigration should be met halfway to solve these issues, for short term gain, what happens later when it quite simply does not produce a glut of cheap houses and well-paid jobs as promised?

    The fact is that whatever golden age you’d like to cherrypick of working class left-wing consciousness, it wasn’t produced accidentally, but fought for by the labour movement. If we try to be clever and ‘humour’ reactionary irrationalities to get us into power it will only lead us further into the swamp.

  • redbidski

    Question is what proportion of the working class actually turn out to vote?  If it is as low as I suspect, then good luck to the BNP with that and let’s get on with representing the socialist middle-working class majority.  Why is ‘working-class’ only applied to those in unskilled jobs?
    Surely all of us who are employed are entitled to a voice and it’s time we buried the dated distinctions of the 1950’s.

  • Pingback: The left are more realistic about the working class vote than some think | Left Futures

  • Brumanuensis

    This is a silly piece and the poll’s findings do not show that working-class voters are more conservative than middle-class voters. It arguably shows they’re more populist and less liberal, which is not the same as ‘left vs right’. For example, as even the Guardian – and bear in mind that Patrick Wintour, who spends half his time thinking up articles to bash Ed Miliband, wrote this – middle class voters are much more supportive of lowering benefits to the unemployed than working class voters. Even when you break it down into the ABCDE grades, more ABs support cutting benefits than C2s (53 vs 52%), hardly a sign of massive differences of belief.

    Equally the findings on tax are virtually identical, again hardly suggestive of a massive divide. The main finding that comes out from the poll is that CDEs are much more likely than ABs to say they ‘don’t know’ on a question, which probably reflects a lack of awareness of political issues and is at least an honest response. But it’s not one that proves that working class people are significantly more right-wing than middle-class people. In fact, the research tends to the opposite conclusion. This is just Progress playing silly buggers, frankly.

    Hopi Sen’s piece on class was much more interesting, for my money: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2012/10/29/a-touch-of-class/

  • aracataca

    I agree with much of what you say Luke, although I suspect Lynton Crosby’s reputation as an evil genius is over-rated.  He masterminded Michael Howard’s failed campaign in 2005, using those ‘handwritten’ posters (‘are you thinking what we’re thinking?’) about  immigration and crime which seemed to attract a lot of satirical graffiti.   Plus, Boris Johnson only narrowly won in London.  He was aided by a relentless anti-Ken campaign by the freebie London papers, plus the ludicrous ideas that Ken was both anti gay and anti-semitic seemed to gain traction, which may have influenced gay and/or Jewish voters in marginal areas.  

    However, I think you’re right that Labour has to be aware that many working class voters don’t share their more ‘enlightened’ views.  Mrs Duffy is perhaps a good example of that, although it has to be remembered that at the actual election she still voted Labour and Rochdale itself stayed Labour.  

    Most working class voters have enough savvy to see when policies enacted by government aren’t in their interests, but it is something which we need to be sensitive to and not assume that voters are going to automatically agree with. Like Serbitar says, we need to be proactive about informing the electorate about the truth, although in a Tory dominated media that’s not easy.  

    However, the internet is a useful way of communicating with the electorate – interestingly, probably with ‘silver surfers’ as well as younger voters.  The retired vote is one we should definitely be chasing, and there’s a lot about this government that they will recognise as being against their interests.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Many years ago, in 1990, and long before I was part of any policitcal party, I got a new job and had to relocate down in the South of England, and leave Nottingham where we had lived for two years.
    We bought an excoucil house on an estate that we were told had “a poor reptuation”. It was very interesting. A number of people had bought their own council hosues and had proceeded to “do them up”. Some were stone clad, all had a profusion of gnomes and other decorative garden features, and one had even had a swimming pool added.
    The estate agent selling us our house told us that “this area has gone up, and a lot of people now vote conservative”.  I was unimpressed by this of course, but in 1992 in the run up to the election these over souped up excouncil houses sported Vote Conservative window stickers. They were saying, “look at us – we are on the way up”.

    You see, at the time the Tories had really got through to this group. They had offereed them the chance to buy shres in public ulities, the chance to own their own homes, and generally a feeling that they could join a dream of being upwardly socailly mobile and gaining status they were somehow part of the new establishment. Voting Tory was a status symbol. Therefore the attitude was that voting Labour was therefore for loosers.

    I write this, because we need to understand where one group of working class Tory voters is coming from. It was not until New Labour that the Labour party somehow made asperation acceptable.

    I have just renewed my Labour membership yesterday, and this marks the end of my first two years inside the party.

    I have to say that overall I have the impression that inside the Labour Party there is a bubble, and the party itself is out of touch with the way that it is percieved in the real world. When you knock on doors or talk to people out in the street you hear public opinion about politics in general and the Labour Party in particular. It is not complementary. Talking to others inside the party and they will tell you about various obscure documents or the findings of sub-committees etc. And therein lies the disconenct. We need to be able to explain what we are about clearly, and in an uncomplicated way.

    I agree with much of what Luke has written here. Some on these pages bang on about old and new Labour. Some tell you that New lost the last election, and by inferece old and tradidtional must therefore be better. As Luke points out here, the traditional very left position lost in 1983 and it took two more elections to recover from this. New Labour won three times!

    It is very true that we have now arrived in a different era. I hope that One Nation can do the business. Many of the signs of One Nation are very encouraging, but it is very early days. We have had a winter of two years of silence. Now we have a working title and the first broad brush strokes of policy direction we need to see more meat on the bones and the party look like the next government in waiting. There is a very long way to go, but we need to keep it real.

  • PaulHalsall

    Labour actually needs to represent those who are not working, through sickness, unemployment, youth, or age.

    The fact (I grant) that many working class people spout Daily Mail (etc) inspired political positions, is not really surprising.  It is called “false consciousness”, and is deliberately induced by much of the conservative media.In practice, many people who are *on welfare support* also, for example, spout anti-welfare views.  

    That does not mean that “higher information” political activists should give up: education is part of what we need to do.

    As for 1983, Labour was facing a split left-wing vote because of the SDP, and Thatcher had succeeded (in her terms) in the Falklands war.  Thatcherism never gained more than 43% of the vote.

  • http://twitter.com/CarlRaincoat Carl Packman

    I would just like to add that I have posted a rebuttal to this article here:

    http://www.leftfutures.org/2012/10/the-left-are-more-realistic-about-the-working-class-vote-than-some-think/

    What worries me about this piece is that it reduces Labour to defeatism, namely that we cannot beat the prejudices of some voters, therefore we have to join them. Just because on the doorstop we don’t hear people singing the Internationale does not mean we have to abandon some of the principles for equality and equity that have held us together as a party for so long. 

    The Peter Kellner piece that Luke quotes goes on to conclude that: 

    “To observe all this is not to argue for Labour to adopt a reactionary agenda. Any attempt to abandon principle and embrace the prejudices of C2 and DE voters would be counterproductive”. 

    I worry that some appeal to the easy option of just siding with a voting group that Labour fears challenging. This is no solution at all. But furthermore, I’d suggest that the desire by Labour to represent strong, radical ideas, is not born of delusion (as Akehurst suggests), but principle.

  • Daniel Speight

    The danger in what Luke hints should be our approach to working class voters is that it is one without principle or principles. The history of Labour from its formation was to expose its principles to the working class in order to win it over to Labour’s aim. If Labour is going to pander to the most reactionary views then it may as well support the return of capital punishment.

    That’s not say Labour can’t look at problems like the effect EU immigration has on employment, or even whether there should be an in-out EU referendum, but what Labour shouldn’t end up as is a poor copy of the Tories or SDP as it was under Blair and Brown. Maybe it’s worth talking with Mrs. Duffy.

  • AlanGiles

    “Some of the very stark responses that came through in the YouGov poll, such as that “among C2 and DE voters a ban on all immigration is supported by 67% to 26%”, are inconsistent both with our values as a party, and with the national interest. But if we don’t develop a policy offer in areas like this that really matter to working people, that shows them we are serious”

    So – are you saying we should get down in the gutter with the “Sun” and “Daily Star” – and – frankly – the BNP just to be populist.

    I have little doubt if you courted the views of such people they would want a return to capital punishment (probably public executions), the return of the birch or the whip and all the other red meat that such rags throw to them.

    Immigration as a cause of unemployment is a rather nasty con trick. The truth is we have not had and will not have full employment again in this country. This has less to do with the nationality or colour of those in work, as the many jobs lost to computerisation – a situation which has got worse since the PC first started making inroads into the workplace in the mid 80s. Just one example.

    Here we have it again – keep right says Mr Lukehurst and those in his camp, meanwhile the party officially says nothing, because they burn while Crudas fiddles (the policy review of 3 years duration, I hasten to add, in case our resident trouble-maker tries to put a different intepretation on my words).

    Where, exactly, do Labour stand?. Are they so desperate for votes they want to join the hang ‘em. flog ‘em brigade?. Time Ed Miliband et al made up their minds.

    Meanwhile the words of Jerome Kern seem best to sum up Labour:
    ‘She didn’t say “Yes”, she didn’t say “No”. She didn’t say “stay”, she didn’t say “go”. She wanted to climb, but dreaded to fall, she bided her time and clung to the wall.’

    Time to make up your minds, gentlemen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cliffjamester Cliff James

    Dearest Luke, the point is not to slavishly follow popular prejudices – as expressed by the likes of the Sun and the Daily Mail and unquestioningly accepted by many – but to challenge those views, expose them, inspire and lead with – oh, what’s that word… PRINCIPLE. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    But there has always been a working class right wing vote

    The main difference is that this has become smaller in the north – at one time Liverpool was a Tory city and the Lancashire cotton towns Tory other than in a good year for us – but larger in the south, where some working class voters hold clearly Tory views, to the extent that they are unlikely to ever vote for us.

    The core Labour vote has always included the working class vote and also the middle class liberal-left vote. Nothing has changed in that respect

    • robertcp

      What has changed is that the middle class liberal-left is now a larger proportion of the Labour vote than it was in the past.  A “tough” New Labour approach to crime and immigration might actually lose votes.   

  • robertcp

    I agree with most of this article but I do wonder whether middle and working class labels mean very much in 2010.  I am a graduate from a clerical and working class (C1 and C2 probably) Conservative background.  Not surprisingly, I tend to have more liberal views than many of my relatives, while also being more left-wing on issues such as the economy and the welfare state.

    I tend to think that Labour will never be “tough” enough on crime and immigration for many of my relatives, while many working class people have always voted Labour despite illiberal views on these issues.  Ed Miliband has shown that a moving in a more liberal and social democratic direction has made Labour more popular.  A return to 1983, however, would be a disaster with manual workers and left-liberal voters like me. 

  • http://twitter.com/NewhamSue Newham Sue

    If there was a ‘love ‘ button I would have hit that with a sledgehammer, but not for Luke’s article, for Cliff James’ short but sweet rejoinder. I also think Alan Giles is spot on in his pin-pointing of the problem’s of Labour’s light-touch opposition – too often waiting on public opinion to reveal itself before pronouncing on a crisis – and pussyfooting round words like nationalisation in a way that fetishises a process that is about ease of strategy and accountability into something infinitely more scary to the voter.

    Others have already dealt with the roots of voters’ misinformation when it comes to immigration and welfare but I also think any future Labour manifesto that deals in ideological terms is likely to fail and for that reason alone. What people want are solid hard policies that represent improvements in their everyday lives. Let’s recognise the aspirations of all sectors of the community but understand these can extend to into longing for a vastly improved national rail network (the fact it would be achieved through nationalisation is neither here nor there), good health care for their families (hopefully people will have seen private health for what it is by now and be delighted to get back under the NHS banner), decent jobs, a fairer economy and more homes folk can afford to rent or own. Here are planks for a manifesto that will appeal to our One Nation.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      Yes Sue, and I would just add that the whole lot then needs to be presented with passion and clarity.

      Keep it real, keep it hard hitting and say it in a way that is accessible to the public. If people from all walks of life can see that a Labour government would make changes that would benefit them, they would be inclined to vote Labour.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JP42QNYATVR2UKDJIUXUEV6RNY Michael

    Lynton Crosbie? Now he was the one who masterminded Michael Howard’s 2005 campaign. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’  Actually, I’m thinking what a tremendous success that campaign was, even with the issue of Iraq in the background.

  • aracataca

    ‘Certainly if we retreat into very dated leftist rhetoric thinking it will mobilise the working classes when in fact they regard themselves as less leftwing than their middle class counterparts, we will deserve political extinction’.
    You detect this kind of retreat do you Luke? 

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Some of the more perceptive comments are about the nature of working class aspiration that Luke – wrongly, in my view – lumps together with “…council house right-to-buy, share sell-offs, nationalist rhetoric and exposing Labour’s out-of-touch shopping list of unpopular and extreme policies”.  To me, working class aspiration is an enduring aspect of human nature, with the other factors cited in much greater measure merely reflecting the issues of the time.

    The cohort of working class aspirational families is, I suspect, very large as an electoral bloc, and gets replenished annually as the years change.  I think Labour needs to have something to say to them – it may well be in terms of explaining how policies will help them in their aspiration, or not hold them back while improving the lives of those desperately in need of short term assistance (or even enduring assistance – very few would begrudge long term assistance for those with disabilities or chronic conditions).  If the aspiring working class learn to love Labour, they will likely still vote for Labour in the future when they have some success in their lives.

    The problem to me is that such an attempt is never convincingly made.  Too often the policies put forward ignore the aspiring working class, leaving them to be addressed only by the tories.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Eeek. What you seem to be suggesting is that housing benefit be progressively reduced for the long-term unemployed/underemployed in order to force them to move somewhere else in the country where they may (or may not) be more likely to secure full-time work. Eeek. That might be a very hard sell in a democracy where self-determination is a tacit right. Trying to force mass movements of the workforce by rendering them homeless probably, even now, wouldn’t go down very well with the population especially during long period with massive shortages of paid job vacancies. Eeek. 

      I would really love to see David Cameron, or anybody else for that matter, try to sell a pup of a policy to the British people where if a citizen become unemployed and fails to find work within a certain length of time, no matter how hard they tried and aspired to get back into employment, their benefit entitlements begin to be progressively reduced to force them out of house and home to aspire somewhere else, where they may (or may not) stand a better chance of securing some sort of gainful employment. I really don’t think that creating armies dispossessed nomads forced to perpetually tramp around the country looking for scraps of work is a recipe for social cohesion. Eeek. To me it seems a horribly cruel and inhumane idea which would split up families and devastate the lives of individuals and communities in a way hardly different to the Highland Clearances. 

      It’s hard to imagine any government having the gall to say: “Well, you’ve been on benefits too long for our liking and so we won’t permit you to live here any more and continue to receive necessary and sufficient support from the State. Move somewhere else now, we can’t say where, but move on anyway or face destitution.”

      We monkeys may throw our sh*t at people and occasionally p*ss in their eye but we never throw our own to predators and claim that we’re being compassionate while we do so and are taking “tough choices” in order to help them or to reduce the “deficit”.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Eeek. What you seem to be suggesting is that housing benefit be progressively reduced for the long-term unemployed/underemployed in order to force them to move somewhere else in the country where they may (or may not) be more likely to secure full-time work. Eeek. That might be a very hard sell in a democracy where self-determination is a tacit right. Trying to force mass movements of the workforce by rendering them homeless probably, even now, wouldn’t go down very well with the population especially during long period with massive shortages of paid job vacancies. Eeek. 

      I would really love to see David Cameron, or anybody else for that matter, try to sell a pup of a policy to the British people where if a citizen become unemployed and fails to find work within a certain length of time, no matter how hard they tried and aspired to get back into employment, their benefit entitlements begin to be progressively reduced to force them out of house and home to aspire somewhere else, where they may (or may not) stand a better chance of securing some sort of gainful employment. I really don’t think that creating armies dispossessed nomads forced to perpetually tramp around the country looking for scraps of work is a recipe for social cohesion. Eeek. To me it seems a horribly cruel and inhumane idea which would split up families and devastate the lives of individuals and communities in a way hardly different to the Highland Clearances. 

      It’s hard to imagine any government having the gall to say: “Well, you’ve been on benefits too long for our liking and so we won’t permit you to live here any more and continue to receive necessary and sufficient support from the State. Move somewhere else now, we can’t say where, but move on anyway or face destitution.”

      We monkeys may throw our sh*t at people and occasionally p*ss in their eye but we never throw our own to predators and claim that we’re being compassionate while we do so and are taking “tough choices” in order to help them or to reduce the “deficit”.

  • JoeDM

    Isn’t this exactly what Blair’s ‘modernisation’ of the Labour party was all about !

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