What is Labour’s working class problem?

28th April, 2014 4:08 pm

The Times front page this morning runs (£) with a quote from Labour peer Maurice Glasman saying the party has become too “middle class” – and blames this culture for UKIP’s current popularity. While some might try to frame this as an attack on Labour, that’s not a line that especially convinces. Glasman himself even points out that it’s an issue Miliband “is trying to address”.


Nor is he out on a limb here: ask around, and it’s a common opinion within party circles. Labour has lost working class votes in the past fifteen years, and winning them back has a part to play in any successful electoral strategy. At some point, lots of working class people felt Labour weren’t representing them, or simply weren’t enthused enough to go to the polling station. How do we resolve that?

Lord Glasman suggests that the loss of working class support is due to a “liberal and progressive […] sensibility”. I’m not exactly sure what that means (he doesn’t seem to extrapolate) but I reckon I could have a decent guess and, personally, I’m not buying it. There we are then: a Labour peer has a view on how to win more votes. So do we all. Not a big deal.

What is more interesting is his assertion that it is difficult to “address these economic, political and cultural concerns when the party is becoming, in many ways, very middle class”. His point, then, appears to be about representation.

And that’s where there is trouble.

It is generally accepted, especially on the left, that achieving a more representative make-up of society in Parliament is an effective way of fairly representing the views of the country. That’s why, across the whole spectrum of Labour’s much talked about “broad church”, you are likely to hear calls for more working class MPs. This is no bad thing, and it is good to have a consensus on the issue.

The problem lies in that people are still willing to talk a bigger game than they are prepared to play. When it comes down to it, those in positions of influence actually want MPs who share their values more than they want working class MPs. When there’s a working class candidate from the ‘wrong’ bit of the party going for selection, those who are so vocal in on the topic can often change their tune. Calls for working class MPs become subtly diluted to “working class values”, or similar inconspicuous cop-outs. It ends up as a proxy battleground for already existing internal party debates.

Having disagreements about how best to attract working class voters is not a problem. But disguising them as arguments for better representation when they are not is damaging. We need more working class people in Parliament so that working class views can be heard – and that issue can’t be used as a trojan horse to deliver the candidates you want if it doesn’t help to achieve that first and foremost.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • gunnerbear

    I can’t see the Editiors letting this one through but anyway…..

    As a ‘working class’ Northerner, concerned with a job in industry, I’d argue quite happily both the Red and the Blue Mobs are clueless as to what I want.

    Otherwise…for a few examples…

    …HMG wouldn’t be pouring good money after bad by piling the cost of ‘green regulations’ on to manufacturing businesses whilst the BRIC economies gaze on in wonder…

    …HMG would have the energy firms by the throat (or equally delicate positions) by threatening to recreate the CEGB to end the behaviour of the goughing energy companies… .

    ..HMG would be giving two fingers to the Human Rights Brigade to ensure that foreign rapists and drivers who kill could be deported with ease…at rifle point if necessary….

    …HMG can do quickly is introduce new laws to effectively drive the price of energy down whilst signalling the growth of new coal fired and nuclear powered power plants – HMG must politely tell the EU and the BRIC economies, that until the BRIC economies institute the same incredibly high standards that the UK is forced to operate to, then we shall simply ignore them or impose a massive tarrif on goods produced in factories that do no meet our current H&S and environmental standards…

    ….like many others, I recognise that business (big and small) want skilled employees at the lowest possible cost therefore immigration of all kinds must be stopped dead. Then we’ll see precisely how many ‘un-skilled, lazy types’ there really are on the Dole and what wages business will have to pay.

    Of course, HMG must also withdraw the subsidy of working tax credits….why…because…quite frankly…pure selfishness….why should my taxes be used allow the artifically lowering of a persons wages thus boosting a business owners profits as the business owner knows they can depress wages as the taxpayers will subsidise the ‘gap’?

    Of course the current crop at the top of HMG won’t do anything as radical as to my mind they simply do not connect with the vast, vast majority of people in this country. And for that matter, neither do the Red Mob either.

    The vast majority at the top of each of the parties could quite happily switch sides in mid-speech with barely a pause in their arguments. That’s been proven in the run-up to the credit crunch. You couldn’t get a piece of paper between the various tribes.

    …and finally HMG would tell the rest of the World to go away (or words to that effect) with regards to ‘green worries’ by re-opening the mines to provide cheap, plentiful power whilst pushing on with shale gas developments. Familes want and need cheap power, cheap power to keep the family gadgets on at low cost…you know gadgets, from Dad’s hairdryer to Mum’s laptop, families need cheap power but for some reason HMG seems in thrall to the ‘Greens’.

    Give me a HMG of what ever colour led by whom-ever capable of delivering that whilst telling the Greens to ‘jog on’ (for want of a better expression) and HMG would get my vote.

    • jaydeepee

      pre-lapsarian Luddite.

      • gunnerbear

        Which bit is Luddite? Do you want criminals to have endless appeals? Do you want mass immigration that lowers wages? Do you want very expensive power? Do you want UK business to be crippled by ‘green levies’ and ‘green regulations’?

  • NT86

    The definition of working class is a lot more complex than just a single entity. It varies from region and occupation. That definition was blurred in the Thatcher and Blair years when a share of the working class, along with the lower middle class, were identified as the aspirational group of society.

    What has changed over the decades is that working class identity is not so monolithically associated with trade union membership. Not to mention that a good number of working class people (and possibly lower middle class) are more hostile to the welfare state and mass immigration than the ‘middle-middle’ and upper classes. This is the quintessential Essex man or woman, where there’s lower levels of union activity and higher levels of self-employment or private sector employment.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      I wonder if anyone has done a poll to identify how many people would describe themselves as “working class”. I suspect very few as it is such a pejorative term. It implies poverty, poor-educational standards, lack of autonomy and opression. No one wants to see themselves in that light. When I knock on doors as a Labour Party campaigner I don’t want to be saying “You’re one of the opressed ! Vote Labour”. I think Labour needs to try and leave behind class-distiction based politics as it sounds antiquated to younger people. Instead we should campaign on an a fair-society or fair-deal basis. It’s an appeal to socialism but not based on worn out rhetoric that many find either meaningless or offensive.

      • i_bid

        Erm, as the BSA studies has shown 6/10 identify as working class – barely changed from their first poll thirty years ago. I honestly can’t tell if your comment is satire of how middle class Labour now is?

        • PoundInYourPocket

          I thought BSA was a motorbike but I’ve found the report.
          Thanks for the reference: I’ll read it.

          Sorry – but no it wasn’t satire, just a slight rant about Mr Glassman.

        • PoundInYourPocket

          Thanks for the info. Suprised at the figure you quote , I thought most people now eschewed the idea of class-identity ? But I’ll read the report – it’s just a mere 245 pages.

      • gunnerbear

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you have to get your arse out of bed to work for a living…..you’re middle class. The tools might be different and varied, the work bench different and the workplaces different as well and huge spreads in rates of pay…..

        ….but that doesn’t ever change the fact that you’re working for a living.

        • AT42

          I always thought that definition applied to the working class – as in those who have to work?

          As I said above ‘workers by hand and by brain’ (although of course all workers have to use their brains – the hand isn’t much use without one).

          Why should we fall in with the ruling class definition of intelligence?

          • gunnerbear


            Yep, I’ve edited so rightly middle is now working class. Cheers!

      • RogerMcC

        I am not sure ‘working class’ was ever the term of opprobrium you imagine it to have been.

        And now that role in ruling class demonology is taken by ‘chav’ or ‘underclass’ – terms which in so far as they describe anything real at all are applied to what Marxists once called (and feared) as the lumpenproletariat ‘the social scum cast off by a rotting society’.

        • PoundInYourPocket

          This is why I’d prefer it if we removed these lables from political discussion, as they are too vague and emotional. One man’s working class pride is anothers shame. Better to base policy on income levels which can be defined. Being entangled in 19th century language over class-identity gets nowhere.

  • gunnerbear

    “Labour has lost working class votes in the past fifteen years, and winning them back has a part to play in any successful electoral strategy. At some point, lots of working class people felt Labour weren’t representing them…..”

    Might it be because at the top of the ‘political tree’ the educational and social backgrounds of our political classes are pretty much interchangeable in terms of Uni and then some sort of political job.

    Plus for that matter the backgrounds of most of the elite of the Civil Service and newspapers is also pretty narrow too.

  • Theoderic Braun

    Glasman is a self-aggrandising pulpiteer of the very worst kind.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      He’s a particularly odd individual. Fortunately I understand little of his writing as for me it falls into the “words-without-meanng” category. With his offensive and patronising “Blue Labour” guff he seemed to think that in order to appeal to the lower-orders the Fabians would have to add a bit of nationalistic racism to their agenda. I think that harks back to the early Labour days when, in common with their members, many Uniion funded Labour MPs had very right-wing views. Glassman seems to think that the “working-class” are essentially ignorant bigots. I suspect he hasn’t met many of them.

      • Theoderic Braun

        That’s about it.

    • Doug Smith

      You’ve got your knickers in knot over Glasman.

      Ok, you disagree with Glasman but there’s no need to insult him. He’s a very careful thinker and makes thoughtful contributions.

      And that’s a thousand times better than the ‘one nation’/’better together’/’hardworking families’ sloganised nonsense we get from Labour’s front bench.

      • Theoderic Braun

        What I disagree with is even more parochial state control over the poorest individuals in society coupled with [email protected] like this.


        Glasman’s ideas seem to embody every bad aspect of Tory ideology coupled with even more state control exercised over poor individuals and potentially very much more poverty inflicted on them than is the case now. Absolutely awful stuff and nonsense which makes the current bunch of Conservative hotheads look enlightened and benign.

      • PoundInYourPocket

        Apologies for the rant, I agree that we need to listen to people like Glassman and give their views consideration. But as soon as you prefix the word “Labour” with the word “Blue” , it is bound to cause knickers to twist. Confusing your “red” brand with that of your “blue” opponent ? Political suicide. The suggestion that Labour should be more “Tory” in it’s views in order to regain “working-class” support was bizarre. I did try and read some of his writings but gave up after several pages on “Aristotlean Goods”.

      • RogerMcC

        I actually agree with quite a lot of what Glasman has said but the last thing he can be described as is a ‘careful thinker’…..

  • dave244

    Labour is no more working class than Boris Johnson now it’s full of m.p’s that come from a middle class back grounds they are just the same as the other party’s in fact a large majority of the British public can’t see any difference between Cameron or Clegg or Miliband.
    They are professional politicians they have no idea what life is like outside of the Westminster village they are viewed as all the same out of touch, self centered, shallow and opportunistic.
    Is it any wonder that U.K.I.P are doing so well the Tories are running round like headless chickens because of the voters they are losing to Ukip but Lib-Dems and Labour are also losing voters not as many but never the less they are going and the the more they get the more will go the biggest reason is not the E.U and immigration (yes people have a concern about the E.U and immigration) no despite what the press and politicians seem to think the real reason is trust in Westminster the press and politicians don’t seem to want to acknowledge how out of touch people think politicians are or the fact people feel so disillusioned with parties politics.
    It use to be that becoming an M.P was a way of doing a public service for a time and then you would go back to your other job but now we have professional politicians ( and what makes it worst is the fact that you have sons following fathers in to Westminster ) they start to think that they better than the little people and that the law does not apply to them and the problem only going get worst and we will end up with a very extreme party in Government because they will tell people what they want hear and people will think what the hell all the others lie anyway so let’s give them a go

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    You’ve missed out the membership, ultimately it’s the members who select the MPs and from whom our MPs and Councillors are drawn. So if we’re not getting working class MPs selected or even nominating themselves then first we need to look to our membership base.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      All well and good unless Eaun Blair gets dumped on you from on high.

  • EricBC

    Lord Glasman suggests that the loss of working class support is due to a “liberal and progressive […] sensibility”. I’m not exactly sure what that means (he doesn’t seem to extrapolate) but I reckon I could have a decent guess and, personally, I’m not buying it.

    Tell us your guess. Go on.

  • swatnan

    Probably too much reliance on the ‘working class’. How can a Party that claims to be ‘One Nation’ be so limited to one class? Its got to be more inclusive, and govern for all.

  • Daniel Speight

    Oh dear, Glasman’s hand-wringing does point to the lack of intellectual thinkers in Britain in general and in Labour in particular. You would think with all these PPE degrees about we would have so home grown talent, but it’s France that gives us Thomas Piketty and America gives us the likes of Jeffrey Sachs. Of course we have always had a reputation for being anti-intellectual and I guess it is still there.

    Still back to Glasman. Yes the PLP needs more working class members badly and yes, some of these will be from the right of the party. We need a few Ernie Bevins although hopefully balanced by a similar number of Nye Bevans. For the leadership to make a real effort to achieve this would be like turkeys voting for Christmas so don’t expect anything soon.

    Conor I think Glasman’s “liberal and progressive […] sensibility” is pretty obvious. The PLP in particular has attached itself to those ideas popular among the metropolitan elite and in the Hampstead and Islington middle-class dinner parties. They turned their backs on the old working class world from whence the party came. Just look at the lack of action on repressive trade union laws during New Labour’s 13 years of government, or its laissez faire attitude to immigration from Europe and its effects on workers wages.

    All in all Glasman is correct to point out the weaknesses of the middle-class PLP, but he also inadvertently points out our weakness in intellectual supporters.

  • FMcGonigal

    “..achieving a more representative make-up of society in Parliament is an effective way of fairly representing the views of the country.”

    Agreed, but realistically you will only get this with proportional representation.

  • It’s not about who runs Labour, or whether the MPs came from this background or that. It really is about the fact that Labour has been taken over not by the left or the right, but by the middle class.

    The deal used to be that Labour gave economic goodies to the working class and social ones to the middle class. Labour forgot that under Kinnock when it began treating the council estates with derision.

    We have now had many years under Blair where the only thing the party thought about was grabbing a few more middle class votes. It’s time the party put forward the economic policies that working class people are interested in. Labour cut undercut UKIP tomorrow with the promise of a referendum, on the basis that East European scab labour needs to be kept out.

    • Mouch

      “…….East European scab labour needs to be kept out”

      Oh dear brother Ken, what ever happened to international socialism and the solidarity of the working class?

      Your sentiment has more than a whiff of national socialism. Do you want to stand by your statement?

      • They had full employment until the catastrophe of 1989, when they chose capitalism. What would you call them?

        • PoundInYourPocket

          Are we still in the 70’s ?

          • I wish we were. Back then when a lump of filth told you to do something you just gestured with your thumb over your shoulder and told him to take it up with the union, secure in the knowledge that nothing would ever happen. You were also secure that next year you would get more money than you got this year, and probably get it for working fewer hours. For instance when I started as a projectionist in 1971 you worked 40 hours a week, with three weeks holiday. By the end of the decade it was 35 hours, and four weeks holiday after one year of bastard work. The Labour governments gave us New Year’s Day as a holiday, and the Scots got Boxing Day. Then we all got May Day.

            I realise that for these wallies around here that is not much, but ordinary people want bread and butter issues resolved, and Labour’s failure is a failure to address those issues.

          • RogerMcC

            And you really think that the disappearance of that world is down to immigration?

            How many Poles flooded into this country in the 80s when the worst damage was done by Thatcherism?

            (Answer none as the Stalinist regimes you seem to admire didn’t much encourage their citizens to leave).

            Was it East European or Pakistani or West Indian policemen who were wielding the truncheons and riot shields beating down the miners?

            You really have no idea who the real enemy are.

          • You are not answering the question; all you are doing is avoiding it with puerile rants. People are not stupid and pretty soon they are going to notice your sub-SWP waffling. Now then, care to have a go at the question that is raised by the writer of this piece, which I at least tried to answer?

          • RogerMcC

            Well actually I agreed with every word you said right up to ‘on the basis that East European scab labour needs to be kept out’ and ‘They don’t join unions and undercut the wages. Management filth love them’.

            Here’s the news: pretty much nobody outside of a dwindling public sector joins unions any more.

            And we had mass immigration in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s but unions went from strength to strength and wages rose and rose.

            The 1980s saw relatively less immigration but a complete collapse of the working class movement and of UK manufacturing industry created by deliberate government policies.

            And that was the turning point – when EU immigration became an issue in the 1990s it was into a society and economy where unions and the working class were already broken beyond repair and wages were falling relative to profits.

            Stop immigration now and the vanished mines and mills and shipyards and factories won’t magically re-appear and neither will the working class communities and unions that were founded upon them.

            Real jobs will continue to disappear, wages will continue to fall because that is what a globalised capitalist system demands.

            And as I am not a student Trot I see no obvious solution – quite possibly we are as a civilisation utterly doomed because only an organised working class can save us and the working class has been utterly broken and demoralised.

            But if it is going to rise again from the ashes it won’t be by repeating lies about foreigners and engaging in puerile fantasies about reviving nation states that committed industrial suicide decades ago.

          • O-Kay, we have a sort of answer, at last. You answer is to tell people that only an “organised working class can save us,” which will happen some time over the rainbow I suppose. In the meantime you will collaborate with the Tories, the CBI and your local management to encourage scab labour into the country. I reckon you are going to have problems with that one on the doorstep, but good luck.

            You do realise that you have also answered the question as to why working class people fail to vote Labour, don’t you? Probably not because you are convinced that you hold the truth, and you don’t realise that types like you are actually the problem.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            And we had mass immigration in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s but unions went from strength to strength and wages rose and rose

            After the working population had been reduced by WWII and there was huge amounts of rebuilding work to be done. I don’t think you can make direct comparisons between the periods.

          • RogerMcC

            But WW2 ended in 1945 and commonwealth immigration became significant only in the 1950s when the economy had stabilised.

            My point was not to compare what are two utterly different worlds but to ask how someone can obsessively argue that immigration is the only issue facing the working class today.

            And the difference is that we don’t have full employment – and wouldn’t have full employment in the 1960s sense even if all immigration was halted by a wave of Nigel Farage’s magic wand – because the world has changed probably irrevocably.

            Plus the party that is most obsessed with immigration and the EU is the party that is most fanatically dedicated to the destruction of unions, the NHS, state education and all the other things that still to some degree protect working class people.

          • toptophat

            I know exactly who my enemies are…I’m just not sure who my friends are any more.

          • toptophat

            Those police (who used their batons on friends of mine incidentally)…were they middle class?

          • toptophat

            This! Damn right, I remember the seventies, 2% unemployment and if the gaffers tried to push you around you could flick em the vees and get another job within a week or two without crawling on your knees like a lackey the way our fathers and grandfathers had to, the way kids now seem all too happy doing.
            Standing proud and demanding our rights…not much of that going on now. Jobs housing and education is what ordinary people care about not political utopianism

          • RogerMcC

            But what if jobs and houses and schools are now utopian demands that the system simply can’t allow?

          • toptophat

            Is that the latest policy statement from Labour?

          • Bingo! Not only that, but it wasn’t down to employer goodness, either. It was down to a confident, big swinging dick trade union movement and a Labour Party that really believed that the future was going to be rosier than the past.

            How did it fail? Sure, Thatcher encouraged some people to get a class above themselves, but the main reason was that Labour stopped believing in its own ideology. That came about because the party ceased to have ordinary people in its ranks and acquired members of the polyocracy; teachers, social workers, local government wallahs and other assorted rabble. When I joined Labour in 1981, I think I was the only man of my generation in Oldham West CLP who lived in a council house, had left school at 15 and was unemployed. Sure, the 1945 generation who still ran the party were all like me, but they were handing over power to the wallahs, as people like me were the exception, not the rule.

            Sure, we turned Oldham into a one party state and every house seemed to have a Labour poster, even in 1983, but the buggers refused to get involved and that left the wallahs with a clear run and allowed them to change the party and make it theirs.

          • Mouch

            The net consequence of all that union power was that it laid the foundations for our subsequent failure economically.

            We were the sick man of Europe – remember? We couldn’t give BL cars away, you had to wait 3 months for BT to rent you a phone, 3 day week, rampant inflation. I could go on.

            That power also sowed the seeds for Thatcher’s victory in 79.
            Even traditional Labour voters were sick of it.

          • toptophat

            So nothing to do with lack of investment, bad management, croney capitalism, any of that – it’s all because the workers were lazy Trots eh ?
            Is there an echo in here?

          • Hang on this is silly. Inflation was never a problem as the unions made sure that our pay rises more than covered it. Sure, the middle classes got screwed, but who gives a stuff about them? The three day week was great because we still got paid for the full week even though we got extra days off – the pubs did a roaring trade! There was nothing wrong with Leyland cars as I had an Austin 1300 in those days and it chugged around quite happily.

            Sure, scummy Tories and their suburban supporters moaned about all that “sick man” nonsense, but from our point of view life was great.

          • toptophat

            That inflation… largely due to house prices more than doubling, due to de-regulation of the mortgage market, massive tax cuts, credit card driven consumer boom, oil prices increasing massively (10x ?) – (why does that all sound so familiar…)
            And built 300 – 350 000 houses every year throughout the seventies – how many did labour build 97-2010?
            (I’m willing to bet there are more British cars of the seventies still on the road compared to French or Italian rot-boxes of the same era)

          • Mouch

            And did you ever consider all those people sitting at home in candle light watching the cost of living (crisis) run away ahead of their incomes – all to satisfy a small self-serving group that included people like you?

            You just come over as sad, angry, bitter and irresponsible.

            Good luck with those values.

          • You mean the middle class type who didn’t have the bottle to join a union and stand up for themselves?

            Naah, never thought about ’em.

          • AT42

            This ‘middle class’ type was always in a union … I was a teacher and we actually won a dispute over staffing cuts in the 80’s.

            I suppose it depends on who you think of as ‘middle class’ as far as I am concerned anyone who has to work because they have either no property or insufficient property to sustain them is working class.

            Teachers, nurses, workers in admin…

            The reason why many don’t join a union today is because the TU movement was defeated by Thatcher and jobs were in increasingly short supply.

            We were defeated in the 80’s, Blair did little or nothing to reverse this when in power (Thatcher’s anti TU legislation was still in place in 2010).

            And remember lots of working class people go to work in suits these days or do you think call centre workers are middle class?

            Remember the old clause 4? Something about ‘workers by hand and by brain’ ?

            Oh and with suitable legislation the undoubted problem of immigrant labour undercutting wages could be solved.

        • RogerMcC

          I don’t call ‘them’ anything than Jan or Maria or whatever.

          Your typical young East European worker in the UK now was either not born in 1989 or still a small child.

          And in those few sectors of the economy where unions still exist at all East European immigrant workers are probably no more or less likely to join one than anywhere else.

          Anyway I am sure there are other websites where your peculiar mix of Stalinism and racism would be more welcome.

          • OK, in other words, you support the New Labour strategy of open door immigration and weak unions to keep the wages down.

            Just remind me again why working class people who are directly threatened by this policy should vote Labour in the future?

            That is just what this thread is about: why people are disengaging from Labour, and along pops you to demonstrate exactly why that is the case.

          • RogerMcC

            A great many of us working people are of Irish descent and were once the targets of the same ruling class propaganda machine as our dads and grandads and great-grandads only came here to take ‘your’ jobs.

            Not a few are descended from earlier waves of East European immigrants- I grew up amongst some of the many thousands of Poles who fought for us all through the war and settled here after it.

            In this country even the most bigoted racist descends from some immigrant from somewhere and sometime.

            And the disappearance of real working class jobs is driven not by immigration but by globalisation and technological change that benefits only the multinational ruling class.

            Because these are not and have never been ‘our’ jobs but are theirs and our new corporate pharaohs genuinely could not give a damn as to who does whatever it is that contributes to their profits – and see race and religion and nationality only as an indispensable toolset for dividing their slaves and setting them at each others throats.

            And you Strasserites (or whatever the hell you actually think you are) exist only to spread their lies.

          • Did you enjoy that little rant? When you get calm and after you have cleaned the mess off the monitor, maybe you can answer this question:

            How exactly are you going to persuade people who have now had over thirty years of McJobs, interspersed with long periods on the social, that Labour is the party for them, when on the basis of your own words, it obviously isn’t?

          • RogerMcC

            Maybe we could start by asking why there are no decent jobs any more and everything – free education, free heathcare, pensions, employment rights – working people once took for granted is under threat?

            And your ranting about foreign scabs taking our jobs may well be what people want to hear but it is not the truth – and there is an unimaginably massive and powerful global capitalist propaganda machine spewing out those lies every day.

            So they don’t even need your little thimble-full of hate.

          • OK, so you think the answer is to go knocking on door and tell people that it is all the fault of “the powerful global capitalist machine?” Explaining the problem is not providing a solution to it. Besides, the problem is working class people not voting Labour so you are changing the theme, or trying to.

            Want another go?

          • RogerMcC

            See below – and what if there is no solution?

            The hardest thing about being an adult is having to admit that some things are so broken and so sick that they can’t be repaired or made well again.

            And other than arguing that an EU referendum can ‘keep scab European labour out’ as if that is the only problem we have what is your solution?

          • Stop pandering the the middle class for a start, and make it plain that they are going to be taxed to pay for the damage that their votes have caused over the years. I reckon the estates would go for that one.

            I shall be voting No2EU next month – a waste, I know, but never mind – but Labour needs to promise a referendum on the EU with a view to getting out so that a policy of import substitution can be introduced. This was all bog standard Labour stuff when I was growing up, by the way.

            It will not happen, but if you want the working class back onside, polices like that are going to be needed.

          • toptophat

            ‘This was all bog standard Labour stuff when I was growing up, by the way’

            26/4/75 – ‘A one-day conference held by the Labour Party to debate Britain’s membership of Europe has voted by almost 2-1 to leave the European Economic Community’

          • Yup, and in those days we all knew that the EU was the voice of European capitalism, and we wanted out because we wanted to see it destroyed.

        • Mouch

          I’d call them people exercising the freedom to choose where they live and work.

          And some people might call you a fascist for wanting to stop them. What would you like to do with them? Lock them up, put up border barricades or arrest them in the dead of night?

          If you like totalitarianism that much, go and live in China or North Korea.

          • Fine, so you want to side with the employer, who has an obvious vested interest in keeping the wages down. The difference is that I don’t and Labour shouldn’t.

            Given that the whole point of the story that we are supposed to be commenting on is the fact that working class people do not vote Labour, I reckon that your freedom to scab line actually explains the reason very well indeed.

  • Duncan Hall

    I don’t agree with you or Maurice. While I agree that we need to have more working-class MPs, it is not the fundamental issue. Once somebody is earning an MPs salary they are effectively middle-class (it partly matters what job they did before becoming an MP; it really matters not a jot what jobs their parents did). It is, of course, really about the policies. But here Glasman descends into terrible condescension: his unspoken assertion is that liberal/progressive policies are the stuff of the middle class, whereas the working class is “small c” conservative. Neither suggestion is really true. In fact, very few people are ideological consistent. Unless you are political; unless you have emerged yourself in a political movement and engaged in some political education (something which our party needs to get back into, by the way) then you might well be “left wing” on some economic issues and “right wing” on some social issues. You might well be very progressive on some social issues but be a right-wing nut job in other ways. The job of a political party is not to find a critical mass of people with inconsistent political views and give them what they apparently want; it is to build a movement. To explain; to persuade.

    • MikeHomfray

      Strongly agree. I think the issue is much more about the way selection operates

  • Dave_Costa

    All of this reflects the party’s tendency to beat itself up rather than analyse long-term changes. One is the predictable effect of meritocratic policies which have over time taken many people out of the working class – wouldn’t Bevan and Bevin have gone to university had they lived today? As a movement we benefited hugely from the talents of brilliant working class people denied the higher education their talents deserved – we should be proud to have expanded access to higher education but there are costs for the movement. Secondly decisions are made by the people who turn up and New Labour’s turn towards the concerns of the middle class was more effect than cause of the declining propensity of the working class to vote. Perhaps we should all have fought harder to reverse that trend in Britain (defying the trend in much of the Western world) but as each election came up, winning the votes of those most likely to vote seemed like the immediate priority if we were to stop the real damage the Tories inflicted on working class communities. Last but not least, until the fifties joining things was a working class habit, from the sixties this declined while the middle classes got into joining pressure groups, charities etc, in the last two decades rates of formal affiliation to all sorts of groups has declined amongst all classes – in parallel the party got more middle class and then it got smaller. I want us to do more to recruit working class members and encourage more working class candidates – but seeking to do this without analysing the underlying social trends will inevitably lead to failure or substitutionism .

  • RogerMcC

    Any piece that is prompted by a quote from Maurice Glasman might better ask what is Labour’s intellectual problem?

    Are there really so few intellectuals willing to support Labour that anyone with a PhD (of which it appears around 20,000 are awarded every year by UK universities) now gets given a peerage and treated as an eminence rouge?

  • Ray Jones

    They party need to get really and understand where it core vote is if you look at the people on the minimum wage and the unemployed which is about 9 million people we have ignored these people for years and the result is that they don’t vote because they are don’t see a party that represents them. I have spent the last 12 month in my CLP talking to people on the estates and sheltered housing we are slowly winning We must reconnect with ordinary people and elected ordinary people not robot politicians who have never done a proper job The route to Westminster seem to be a degree in politics the a job in a minsters office then MP far to many have used this route


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends