Sunday, August 09, 2020

Needed - A Red Wall.

Apologies : At the moment I am experiencing technical problems and I am unable to add photos nor links to click into, nor can I present material in separate paragraphs so I have added rows of dots at what should be the gaps between such paragraphs. ...............,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,........... In Chapter 2 of Steve Rayson's important book “The Fall of the Red Wall” (see https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fall-Red-Wall-Labour-represents-ebook/dp/B08C37JNKF)he points out that it is estimated that “about one million Labour voters backed the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election. The majority of these were in traditional Labour seats where an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 transferred their votes directly to the Conservatives”. He goes on to point out that (1) ” the single biggest category of people switching directly from Labour to Conservatives were retired people” no less than 38.8% of them, (2) “ 94% of the people who switched from Labour to Conservative identified as White British”, (3) “79.5 % of Labour to Conservative switchers identified with the Leave side of the EU referendum”,(4) 35 traditional Labour seats such as Bolsover were won by the Conservatives at the last election, (5) yet “Labour had been losing socially conservative, anti-immigration votes for some time...forty percent of this group of voters were lost before Brexit or the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader...between 2005 and 2015 Labour votes declined by 14% in Bolsover...the two regions where Labour support fell the most were the North East and East Midlands”, (6) “There has been a lot of discussion about the dramatic falls in the Labour vote in 2019 and these were undoubtedly significant. However, if we look back over a longer period, we can see that equally significant was the fall in Labour’s vote and the increase in the Conservative vote share over the previous eighteen years. .................................................................... Steve Rayson's book builds upon these important themes and is well worth studying by those with interests in the material I list above. Below I offer a few thoughts of my own............................................................................. Even as late as 1997 Labour was still able to draw significantly from its past working class support, even though the structure of the working class had by then been subject to dramatic changes with the decline of traditional industries such as coal, steel and cotton which hit their communal cohesion. For still in Labour's substanial electoral victory of 1997 these people came out mainly to vote Labour and often in a dramatic way. Travelling around North East Derbyshire where I was the Labour candidate I came across the longest queue of voters I have ever seen – and I have been involved in electoral activity way back since I first obtained the vote in 1957. It was at a solid working class section of Clay Cross early in the morning and was mainly made up of women, often with young children in prams and pushchairs. They could not wait to get rid of a Conservative Government which had come out of the Thatcherite tradition..................................... But Blair's large victory at that election rested also on the fact that he made his appeal to many middle class values. For instance,Dronfield where I live having by then become a rather middle class commuter territory yet it voted roughly 50 % Labour, 25% Liberal and only 25% Tory, But the turnout at the subsequent General Election then fell dramatically mainly due to disillusionment with Blairite practices by a still deprived working class................................. From 1997 Labour (apart from bits and pieces) had no substantial programmes to tackle the wide-ranging problems of job insecurity, no avenues for the provision of accessible decent homes for the needy nor a program for improved access to life-long learning and the opportunities it provides................................ Without generally linking in with working class people and seeking to improve the quality of their lives, Labour allowed others to exploit harmful alternatives....... So rather than directing working class people's attention to the need to reform the European Union via democratic and social improvements, we left the door open for the advocates of Brexit. Then when no credible viewpoint was put forward by Labour on how to tackle working class deprivation many (especially older) white working class people came to believe that it was immigrants and temporary summer workers from the EU who had stolen their job opportunities from them.  A view that is now at its strongest in working class areas where there are actually few from immigrants backgrounds. These make-up many of the Labour seats we lost at the last General Election, often for the first time since before 1945................................. Labour requires programmes which meet the needs of working class people from whatever their ethnic, regional or industrial backgrounds. Then there are universal interests which should be used to draw us all together  - such as the tackling of climate change, overcoming Covid 19 and helping to tackle wide scale international disasters........................................................................... Structuring a Labour Party which will act in ways to seek to tackle such problems is our biggest and most immediate task. At one time we had a Parliamentary Labour Party with a substantial number of people who emerged from Trade Unions and when initially selected as candidates already lived in or near the Constituencies they came to represent. And many Branch and Constituency meetings were full of working class activists. That is a bit different from today's pattern. Yet we need to build out from where we currently stand. But we need to appreciate the depth of the task which confronts us. A united parliamentary party directing its attention to tackling peoples basic national and international needs is essential. It would help if this is firmly on Starmer's agenda.

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