Labour has a working class problem

What do the Middleton and Heywood and Clacton by-elections tell us about the Labour vote?

What do the Heywood and Middleton and Clacton by-elections tell us about the Labour vote?

In the Heywood and Middleton by-election Labour has scraped through by a whisker.

While it’s true that the Tory vote has collapsed – from 12,528 in 2010 to 3,496 today – Labour has failed to capitalise on it. In what should be a fairly safe working class Labour seat, Miliband has won with a majority of just 617. Despite needing to show that it is ready for government, Labour has increased its vote share on 2010 by just 0.8 per cent.

More depressing perhaps is the fact that 40 per cent of voters have backed UKIP and another 12 per cent the Tories. That’s a majority for the right whichever way you look at it.

And then there is that other by-election, in Clacton, where UKIP has won its first seat in the House of Commons by winning just short of 60 per cent of the vote – in a working class Essex seat. Labour lost a huge number of votes there too, falling from 10,799 to 3,957.

Predictably the Liberal Democrats were nowhere to be seen in either constituencies, picking up just 483 votes in Clacton and 1,457 in Heywood.

So in sum, a poor night for Labour and the Tories, a disastrous one for the Lib Dems and a happy one for UKIP. But what does it tell us about the ascendance of UKIP and the relative stasis of the Labour vote?

While UKIP still take around three Conservative votes for every one Labour vote, Labour evidently has a working class problem. Ed Miliband often gets the blame for this, being a fully paid up member of the ‘Westminster elite’ and having ‘never had a proper job’, as the saying goes, but this is unfair; the problem goes much deeper and goes all the way back to New Labour.

The left will undoubtedly respond to today’s by-election results by attacking Labour for offering a dearth of ‘hope’ to working class voters. In contrast, the right of the party will either blame Miliband himself or will go after the party for ‘not listening to voter concerns’ on immigration.

Without getting into the Miliband question, both criticisms ring true to some extent, as was aptly summed up earlier this year by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin in their book Revolt on the Right. The thesis of the book was that, apart from reactionary shire Tories, UKIP was picking up so-called ‘left behind’ voters – that is, working class voters who felt like they and their families were getting a raw deal from globalisation, be it economic or cultural.

The left has some ground it can work with here – part of the fear of globalisation is around job security and wages – comfortable ground for social democrats such as Ed Miliband. The bigger issue is connecting with voters who dislike the other side of globalisation, namely immigration.

However much the left continues to extol the virtues of the working class, there is a growing divide between the views of the largely liberal and metropolitan make-up of the Labour hierarchy and the so-called Labour ‘core vote’.

Here it is worth noting the work of David Goodhart, much disparaged by the left but probably onto something. The liberal left, he says, is today dominated by people whose worldview is “universalistic, suspicious of most kinds of group or national attachment, and individualistic…they don’t “get” what most other people also get – loyalty, authority and the sacred’.

This is in contrast to working class voters, who value family, patriotism and social and economic stability.

In other words, there is a schism between the liberal left and many working class voters; a schism that’s also apparent on issues surrounding welfare – Labour’s core voters are the most enthusiastic proponents of welfare reform, quite at odds with most middle class left-wingers.

The progressive response to working class disillusionment with globalisation has thus far been to focus on economic insecurity and to propose the remedies for that – a living wage, jobs that pay properly and decent housing etc.

What it hasn’t done (with a few exceptions) is grapple with that other source of discontent – immigration.

A large number of people (around 80 per cent according to most polls) consistently want a substantial reduction in immigration. *Some* of this is undoubtedly due to plain old xenophobia, but a lot of it is evidently not – second generation immigrants also want a significant reduction in the number of migrants coming to Britain, for example.

Migrants are good for Britain, both economically and culturally. But when Nigel Farage says he feels ‘uncomfortable’ traveling on a bus or a train where nobody speaks English, despite his poor choice of adjective he is tapping into a real sense of alienation that is fairly widespread – especially in working class communities.

The question for the left – and more importantly for the Labour party – is what it does about this, beyond clinging to the idea that it is really just code for economic concerns or the fault of the tabloids for ‘brainwashing’ voters (but also beyond engaging in myth-making about things like benefit tourism).

A party that considers itself socialist has to be able connect with working class voters at the very best of times. For a party that is relying on a so-called 35 per cent strategy to get into office, it should be absolutely de rigueur.

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The results

Middleton and Heywood

Labour Liz McInnes 11,633

UKIP 11,016

Tories 3,496

Greens 870

Lib Dem 1,457

Clacton

Conservatives 8,709

Greens 688

Labour 3,957

Lib Dem 483

UKIP 21,113

188 Responses to “Labour has a working class problem”

  1. Sungei Patani

    In the email I received from Disqus notifying me of your erudite above post, it said the comment had been posted by one Leon Wolfeson.

    Could it be that because you are a sock puppet yourself you are obsessed with them?

  2. Steven underwood

    Thanks – yes, perhaps I am being too hopeful… I remember the 1987 election where there was a similar hope – David Owen and David Steel leering at us – and Steel dabbing TCP on the bite marks on his neck inflected by Owen…

  3. Lesmond Nyjacks

    Leon, making a fool of yourself is the only thing you are doing right.

  4. Gary Scott

    For too many years the Labour Party has taken their core support for granted whilst moving to the right to pick up votes from potential Tory voters. There are no radical policy differences and no points of principal that the average voter can use to differentiate. On some matters voters don’t even know where the party stands, like TTIP. The supporters left behind will find others to speak for them, UKIP are growing because of this and Labour have now become the party of opposition in Scotland despite it having always been considered a stronghold. This is not Ed Millibands fault, its been going on for years. It could take years to resolve, Labour could end up like the Liberal Party, once a party of government but then a century in the wilderness.

  5. sarntcrip

    THE ANSWER IS NOT COMPETING ON THEIR GROUND BUT SETTING THE AGENDA THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP THE CORE VOTE IS TO BE DISCERNIBLY TO TE LEFT THE OBVIOUS RESULT OF

  6. sarntcrip

    ORDINARY PEOPLE CANNOT AFFORD THE GP AND HOSPITAL BILLS WHICH ARE AN INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE OF THE POlICIES PUT FORWARD BY CAMERON AND THE DEPUTY UKIP LEADER WHO WANTS ULTRA MARKET FORCES TO RULE THE NHS WHICH MEANS FLOGGING OFF AN ALREADY VERY EFFICIENT SERVICE TO THE AMERICANS FOR A SONG LEAVING US ALL TO PAY FOR HOSpITAL AND GPS IN A RETURN TO 1930S BRITAIN WHEN LIKE THE u.s. today ordinary working people are routinely bankrupted by doctor bills and hospital bills subsequently battling to survive on inadequate welfare/ charity this will be the consequence of either right wing party in power i can’t afford that hope you can I MAKE NO APOLOGIES I’M VULNERABLE AND TERRIFIED OF UKIP AND THE TORIES BETWEEN WHOM YOU CAN’T GET A FAG PAPER I’M ENGLISH AND DISMAYED AT HOW MANY OF MY COUNTRYMEN ARE SO FRIGHTENED OF FOREIGN PEOPLE AND THEIR INFLUENCE THERE ARE GOOD AND BAD PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER EVEN IN UKIP THEIR SHORT SIGHTEDNESS IS DISTURBING

  7. Matthew Blott

    You talk a fair bit of bollocks yourself.

  8. Matthew Blott

    Great article – some of the best analysis of what is wrong with the Left today that I’ve read on a centre-Left website for some time.

  9. Fearitself73

    Oh sure. I mean the employers, many of whom are now foreign owned, multi-national corporations beholden to shareholders, really have your back.

  10. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Not as much as you, you blinkered left wing prick. I wed myself to no ideology, just a pragmatic view of everything. The left have screwed this country from day one and you are a left wing apparatchik so go and FOAD.

  11. the underclass

    The majority of working class natural Labour voters are worried about the size of immigration rather than wanting a ban on immigration.
    These concerns have been ignored or labelled as racist by Labour.
    These concerns came about with the EU free movement of labour which saw many migrant workers coming to the UK.
    Labour could have addressed these issues and pulled the rug from under UKIP but they choose not to because of a zealous support for the EU and an idiotic belief that any discussion on immigration is racist.
    The working class are the people who experience the effects of over sized immigration. Anyone middleclass and on the left to think they have a greater knowledge of the situation displays what they really think about the working class.
    Feel free to contact me because you don’t have a clue about the working class anymore.

  12. RaveDave001

    What good is a fudged referendum? thats all that will be offered, Cameron will go to Merkel on bended knees pleading for to be given something that he can take back to the UK electorate as a reason for staying in the EU.

    What you Tory boys have to understand is that alot of us UKIP voters aren’t Tories have never been Tories and will never be Tories. Miliband or Cameron as PM to us are just two sides of the same coin.

  13. MountainousIpswich

    Absolute Bollocks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Decade_(Japan)

    And I’m really not sure why you think I am left leaning, let alone Communist.

    Go away you stupid person.

  14. Matthew Blott

    You know nothing about me troll. Now fuck off.

  15. The_Average_Joe_UK

    That must have taken a lot of thought. You obviously have the intellect to be a lefty.

  16. Matthew Blott

    You were just being abusive that’s all. I was pointing that out. Do you want a fight?

  17. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Really?

    Yeh come on fight … fight ….fight…. fight. … my key board versus yours…. CHILD, come on lets have a fight ….

    Labour always screw the economy. But 97-2010 was worse you set us on a trajectory that will take years to fix. As labourites dont do economics they wont accept any of this. In 2007, UK public debt was 44.1% of GDP. When he left in 2010, it was 148.1%.

    There is always more unemployment after a labour government

    Mid staffs

    Failure in Wales

    The Rotherham Sex scandal

    Explosion in expensive and wasteful Quango’s

    politicisation of the third sector

    The devastating impact of Labour’s raid on pensions: The tax grab has cost workers £118bn since 1997. (Office for Budget Responsibility).

    Up to 50 thousand ‘excess’ deaths were recorded at hospitals during the last Labour Goverment. (Research by Sir Brian Jarman of Imperial College).

    Council Tax doubled under Labour – 105% increase in England, 146% Wales. (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy: 26/03/09).

    In 2012/13 Labour councils employed nearly 23,000 people on zero-hour contracts.

    When Labour came to power in 1997, spending on NHS managers was less than £190m. By 2010 this had increased by 450% to over £1bn per year.

    Labour wasted £11bn of taxpayers money on a failed IT project which was eventually scrapped by the NHS in 2013.

    Labour lumbered the NHS with vast PFI repayments – £50 billion worth of loans which are costing £300 billion in repayments.

    It was the Labour Party who awarded the DWP Medical Services Contract to ATOS on the 15th March 2005.

    Labour started the privatisation of the NHS. They brought in the 2006 NHS Act that introduced competition into the NHS.

    Labour introduced competition into the NHS: Competition Act 1998, Enterprise Act 2002 & Public Sector Procurement Regulations 2006.

    Youth unemployment rose by more than 40% during Labour’s 13 years in office.

    British manufacturing grew by 28% between 1980 and 1997. Then, under Labour, it shrank by 6%: falling from 20% of GDP to just 11%.

    Labour left a deficit of £156 billion, PFI liability of £301 billion, EU Rebate loss £9.3 billion, Sold the Gold loss £6 billion.

    The last Labour government spent so much money on Labour cronies that it had a 5% structural deficit at the height of the boom.

    Only 6,330 council houses were completed from 1998 to 2010 under Labour, compared with 17,710 in 1990 alone – Lady Thatcher’s final year as PM.

    Tony Blair gave away a chunk of the UK’s EU rebate estimated now to have cost the UK £9.3 billion between 2007-2013. He got NOTHING in return

    In 2010 Gordon Brown branded Rochdale voter Gillian Duffy “a bigoted woman” for daring to voice her concern about uncontrolled immigration.

    Labour are now complaining about gambling. But they were the ones who wanted to build Super Casinos in some of the poorest areas in Britain and carpeted our high streets with betting shops.

    Labour closed more mines in 5 years than Thatcher did in 11 years.. 211 mines closed under Wilson 1965-70.. 154 under Thatcher 1979-90.

    Under Labour zero hour contracts increased by 74% between 2004 – 2009.

    Since Labour liberalised the law in 2000 to allow postal voting on demand, the number of postal voting fraud in Labour areas has soared.

    Labour signed the Lisbon Treaty which gave away powers to the EU and reduced UK sovereignty and the power of our Westminster Parliament.

    Labour were responsible for the rise in payday lenders. Now they are campaigning against them.

    Labour presided over the slowest growth in 50 years and produced the fastest decline in British manufacturing since manufacturing began.

    Labour destroyed our border controls then with the help of the BBC denounced anybody who voiced concerns about mass immigration as racists.

    Labour councils are the biggest users of zero contracts.

    The last Labour government doubled the rate of income tax on the lowest paid.

    Labour claims to be the party of the working man, but they have absolutely destroyed the working class through mass immigration.

    Labour MPs to remember: Denis MacShane (jailed), David Chaytor (jailed), Eric Illsley (jailed), Elliot Morley (jailed), Jim Devine (jailed).

    Blair invaded Iraq and Brown invaded the Treasury, both actions crippled us.

    Labour opposes democracy in Britain by denying the British people a referendum on EU membership.

    Labour Party Manifesto Pledge 2001: ‘We will not introduce top-up fees’.

    One of the reasons for high energy prices is EU driven ‘Green Taxes’ brought in by the last Labour government.

    It was Labour under Blair who handed control of British food regulation to the EU, (Regulation EC no 178/2002).

    The Labour Party paid only £14,000 in tax last year on total income of £33.3 million. (The Spectator, 30/07/2014).

    If Ed Miliband can easily stab his own brother in the back, imagine what he will do to us if he ever becomes Prime Minister.

    Come on then your turn……… Lets see what you’ve got Blotty

    BTW, what you called me…. is useful….. unlike a Labour politician.

  18. MountainousIpswich

    Cameron was more elected than Gordon Brown ever was.

  19. blarg1987

    Have the trouble is lack of trust in our industries. When employers tell staff that times are tough and they have to make salary sacrifices, and have wage freezes / cuts, but then tell shareholders that they have made more profits this year and can pay out larger share dividends, something stinks.

    Industry has to try harder to earn employees trust that means being honest and not telling them one thing and shareholders something else.

    Germany has the right example of having a Union Rep on the board as they see the inside accounts etc and tell the shop floor exactly how it is, not what the board want them to hear.

  20. A.Melongangster

    The replies to this comment are absolutely hilarious. I know it’s difficult to keep up frothing indignation against perceived slights when you perceive them everywhere, but I do hope you give it a bash. Watching you amuses me.

    PS: I’m not a Labour party member. I’m not even a Labour party supporter.

  21. A.Melongangster

    “Brutally”? Oh dear. Sounds a bit repressive, that.
    The truth doesn’t become untrue just because some morons throw straws into a box and call it democracy.

  22. A.Melongangster

    I have no idea if you’re scared, but given how stupid you appear you must be absolutely terrified.

  23. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Thanks for stepping into the debate. That really was brilliant.

  24. Guest

    And you’re back to chanting myths, and counting the financial crisis, before which the Tories had been calling for less regulation.

    Some examples –

    ….No surprise, as ever, you hate the Courts Service, Meat Hygiene Service, etc. – Quangos!

    …That you decry the third sector talking about higher poverty, which your Coalition has caused.

    …That you complain that Labour remain within the ideological bounds of Atlee and Thatcher, who decried Referendums as undemocratic.

    …That you excuse and indeed revel in the economic effects on the poor, as you blame immigrants for the effects of the coalition’s entirely domestic disastrous economic policies.

    …That you object to the Labour party’s internal democracy, which is no concern of yours, as you’re not a member.

    …That you whine about Parliamentary Sovereignty, a key part of British constitutional law.

    Just for a sample.

  25. Leon Wolfeson

    You are being rude and aggressive.

    Fight with facts, not threats.

  26. Guest

    Yea, you haven’t looked up the term.
    What a surprise.

  27. Guest

    “Go away”. Why? And wikipedia, right.

    Left leaning? Communist? I was talking about your monoculturalism, and the cultures which exist which are that. You’re trying to run and hide from discussion of them.

    So.

  28. Guest

    Ah, class war rhetoric.

    And most of the poor want only the rich able to cross borders, and they want massively reduced wages thanks to losing trade? Right.

    You called for Labour to “address” issues by smashing the economy to appease people who don’t significantly cross over, per polling data, with their voting base. To move significantly right again, which bleeds them votes.

    What makes someone racist or not is if they *are* or not, not denials.

    (You haven’t said anything racist, I note, but it is undeniable that there is a strong and significant correlation…it’s not chance that basically the entire far right is voting for the UKIP. And I when there are fellow travellers like that…)

  29. Guest

    Dave, you’re projecting.

  30. Paul Hughes

    I live in a shire but I’m not left behind. I’m just sick of the spin, of the effete powerlessness of politicians who have given control over much of our policy to the EU and who refuse to claim it back.

    I long for Brexit because I think that we should decide upon our own destiny. I don’t hate Europe. I speak fluent French. I don’t hate the rest of the world. I’m studying Hindi. I just feel as if our political class has shown too much contempt for its electorate for far too long.

    I’m not unusual. There are many more like me. It may not suit your narrative but we will vote for change nonetheless.

    Disillusionment with the way things are done is not a case of a protest. We’re not all (or mostly) left behind or reactionary. We’re just fed up with talk of “listening” whilst nothing ever changes.

    Best wishes

    Paul

  31. treborc1

    I’ disabled and I won my ATOS medical yet was called back to have another I won that one as well , then I got called back in again the reason was not that ATOS thought I was a cheat but because the deal they did with labour paid them to send people to appeal.

    Labour Tory, Tory labour I cannot tell the difference I wish I could i9of ever this country now needs a real labour party this is it, but your define for me what is a real labour party

  32. Guest

    YOU SCREAM AT THE TOP OF YOUR VOICE THAT NO OTHER VIEWS ARE ACCEPTABLE AND THAT “PITY” IS THE ONLY ANSWER FOR NOT THINKING APPROVED PARTY THOUGHTS.

    More totalitarian crap, from you, as usual LB.

  33. Guest

    You don’t think, you’ve said this before LB.

  34. Guest

    Quite, a considerable element of far right voters in there.

  35. Leon Wolfeson

    Be fair – Labour have never supported meaningful voting reform.

  36. Keith M

    The problem is that there is a disconnect. In all parties there is an unwillingness to listen to what people are saying. The Tories lost that connect when they elected the ghastly Thatcher and have progressively moved right since then, the Lib Dems got taken over by the Orange Bookers and lost some of their progressive liberalism, whilst the Labour Party was hijacked by the Blairites who turned it into a quasi Tory party, as for UKIP – little Englanders yearning for something that never was.

  37. Rangjan

    I don’t know why you are arguing with me because you obviously agree with me on the fundamentals. Where you disagree with me is that I am saying this ‘migrants are causing low wages’ needs to be better unpacked (dismantled) and you are saying that people should just stop believing this propaganda. I’ve got news for you: they aren’t just going to stop believing the propaganda because you tell them it is wrong. You have to listen to them, understand their fears and then address those in your explanation. In the process you had better pay more attention than you paid to me, because you clearly missed my point.

  38. Rangjan

    It is too convenient to blame Pakistani communities(and political correctness) for something that happened (and was covered up) in all communities around Britain. You would also have to explain why political correctness was such a restraining force here, but didn’t stop the police and councils from doing other wrongs.

    No, it seems that the perception of a few individuals is being trotted out as a convenient excuse for misconduct.

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