Speaking at this year’s Progress conference, Andy Burnham MP spoke of a genuine "fear and loathing" from traditional voters lost by Labour since 1997.
Andy Burnham MP, speaking at this year’s Progress conference, spoke of a genuine “fear and loathing” from traditional voters lost by Labour since 1997.
Mr Burnham said:
“In order for Labour to regain our position in government and our communities, we need embrace where we are, and exactly who we stand for. The loss in trust of Labour was seen throughout the UK, and was not just a region specific problem.”
“When [the credit cruch] hit, views around the country changed and we struggled to come to terms with saving the banks and bankers and we mismanaged this process politically to our voters. We disconnected with many of them as we seemed on the side of the elites.”
On Welfare reform, Mr Burnham spoke of a distinct “line”, stressing the significance of which side you feel on as a working class voter:
“If you fell on the right side then you were fine and reasonably happy, but if you were just on the other side, my god you really felt it and it was something we should have addressed earlier. Some 40 per cent of low to middle income earners feel they are in a lower status job than their parents.”
Speaking on the same panel – titled “Core lessons: Can Labour reconnect with working-class communities?” – Margaret Hodge MP stressed the impact felt by local communities due to a severe lack of social housing provision. The panel agreed that immigration significantly affected the pressures, or the perceived pressures at least, placed upon social welfare facilities. Ms Hodge said:
“[Immigration] affected housing, jobs and real wages. If we do not talk about it now then we leave a vacuum for others to fill like the BNP. That said, in my opinion [the BNP] will likely implode as a result of their poor performance but the threat remains and we should stress that.”
Ellie Reeves, the youngest member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, spoke strongly about Labour’s future strategy. “We should go after our swing voters in our traditional seats, but without the lower class vote nationally we are unlikely to win,” she said.
Margaret Hodge went on to say, “None of it is about losing our identity but we got complacent with power and we need to start reengaging. We need a bottom to top approach and not a dictatorial style as in the past.” She went on to stress the need to ensure that Labour punctures through “barriers” to ensure the party lets people know that they are on the side of the working classes and those who need us most.
In closing, leadership challenger Mr Burnham spoke strongly in favour of grassroots political movement, or a renewed sense of community cohesion. He urged the party to “bring down the curtain on stage management and get drama and authenticity back to the Labour Party”.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.