Chuka Umunna is right: UKIP voters can’t send emails

In other words, despite the headlines there really isn't a great deal to argue with Chuka Umunna about.

Except that’s not what he actually said.

“UKIP voters feel disconnected because they can’t send emails, Chuka Umunna says”.

That was the misleading headline in the Daily Telegraph yesterday following a suggestion by the shadow business secretary that voter disconnect from the mainstream might be fueling UKIP.

The Telegraph reported this as: “UKIP voters feel disconnected from mainstream politics because they don’t know how to send emails or browse the internet, Labour’s shadow business secretary has suggested.”

In reality, not only is this a misrepresentation of what Chuka Umunna said, but it derails an important discussion on UKIP’s recent popularity: the disenfranchisement of so called ‘left behind’ voters.

Here is what Chuka Umunna actually said during his interview on the Andrew Marr Show:

“But in addition to ensuring we empower our cities, we’ve got to empower our people, Andrew. The BBC has carried out some very interesting research on this. One in five people in our economy cannot do the four basics online of sending and receiving email, browsing the internet, filling in an online form. Now there’s been a lot of talk about communities who’ve been disconnected from our global economy and those of course were a lot of those who were voting for UKIP in the local and European elections. And of that mass of people who can’t do the things that all of us take for granted, a very large number of them are from those communities. So the next Labour government, we are going to be absolutely focused on connecting people into the global economy.”

So the nub of it is that one in five people have been left behind by the digital revolution and many of those people probably voted for UKIP in the recent European and local elections.

Hardly controversial. The problem with our clickbait/soundbite culture, however, is that this sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make a good headline – regardless of whether true or not. Far easier to run with a ‘Chuka implies UKIP voters are stupid’ headline.

And yet the wider point the shadow business secretary was trying to make is a valid one: many voters do feel left behind by globalisation and are trying to ‘stop the world and get off’. Digital skills (or a lack of) play an important part in this disconnect.

As the graph from the BBC survey cited by Chuka shows, almost one in five voters lacks basic online skills:

Basic skillsj

And predictably the problem is worse among older people:

UKIP graphj

And it’s more pronounced among those from blue collar backgrounds:

Class UKIPj

So to sum up, it’s working class over-65 who are most deficient in the digital skills increasingly required to get by in our increasingly digital economy.

And who are UKIP’s voters? Well as Matthew Goodwin, co-author of Revolt on the Right notes, UKIP are:

“white faces, blue collars and grey hair: angry, old, white working-class men who left school at the earliest opportunity and lack the qualifications to get ahead in 21st-century Britain.”

In other words, despite the headlines there really isn’t a great deal to argue with Chuka Umunna about on this point.

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12 Responses to “Chuka Umunna is right: UKIP voters can’t send emails”

  1. Chilbaldi

    Chuka will be used, by now, to the Daily Mail going for his throat.

    It is of course because they are scared of him.

  2. Lucy Sky Diamonds

    UKIP are this popular DUE to the internet.

  3. Castilian

    It’s never a good idea to sneer at the white working class if you want their votes. But Labour has form in this area – remember Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy?

    Let’s face it, Labour is not the party of the working class anymore – it’s the party of the middle-class public sector.

  4. Grumpy

    The sleek, well funded faux-lefties who dominate the twitterati have been in denial about UKIP and who supports them for some time. First they are the BNP in blazers, then they are disgruntled Tories, then they are racists and homophobes who have no home in other parties, then they are fruitcakes and loonies, then they are knuckedraggers from Essex. Now they are “left behind”. With each new dismissal those supporting UKIP–or more accurately, sticking two fingers up to the established parties are sneered at and denigrated –a case of “You are old, you are stupid, there is no place for you in Labour’s modern society, you don’t deserve to be allowed to speak—now please vote for us instead”.
    Clever strategy.

  5. Rallan

    Chuka says old people are stupid, and working class old people are even more stupid, and that’s why they often vote UKIP. It’s a good thing Labour has clever people like Chuka!

  6. Xaider

    A platform which no one has to conform to being forced, reading or watching biased media.

  7. Dave Roberts

    Why are they scared? He’s a lightweight who is where he is because of his ethnicity and not talent. He has a big mouth and is playing the race card like Sadiq Khan.

  8. Dave Roberts

    Well said Grumpy, and it will rebound on Labour.

  9. Ella Humpheries

    UKIPpers cant send emails? That’s why Labour are giving away free owls! Btw – I’m typing this on an Olivetti typewriter and the ribbon is jammed..(1972 model) just like the Labourites forked tongues.

  10. JoeDM

    LeftFootForward seem to be in the same camp as the LibLabCon establishment.

  11. neilcraig

    And yet at least equally good polling shows that global warming scepticism goes up with the rate of education, income and most of all, understanding of science.

    Since UKIP is the only party for anybody who doubts we are experiencing catastrophic warming, by definition it is the party of the intellectual elite (not at all the same thing as the ruling elite).

    Anybody else find it amusing that Chuka claims to have received “abusive” emails from the very people he abused as not up to sending emails. People like Tim Worstall who put his Parliamentary email address online. I presume Tim is one of these inadequates Chucky hates.

  12. Zool

    Analyse of web traffic blows Chuka’s claim out the water. Cyber-Kippers as they are known are 5 times more likely to use electrical communication services when compared to supporters of the other party’s. Far from being uneducated & IT illiterate they are the most technically advanced. Interestingly they also get their news not from the LIBLABCON controlled press but from independent news sources (web).

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