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Working class MPs: the path to victory

BY STEVE HART, political director, Unite

Parliament doesn’t represent our society and is in danger of becoming out of touch. Following the last General Election just 4% of MPs had experience of manual work, while 55% come from backgrounds in PR, politics or the media. For a country with such a proud working class political tradition – that delivered figures like Nye Bevan – this just isn’t good enough.

We need a political system that stands up for working people, rather than being run in the interests of the City and a ruling elite. In order to achieve this, we need to get far greater numbers of women and men in Parliament who know what it is like to get their hands dirty at work or worry about how they will pay the rent.

This means getting ordinary working people back into Parliament to represent the interests of hard pressed families, rather than the current cabal of lawyers, spin doctors and career politicians.

That is why Unite is committed to ending the discrimination against potential MPs from working class backgrounds. We are doing this by identifying potential parliamentary candidates from within the trade union movement, who are genuinely representative of their communities. By giving them intensive training and support we will provide a real platform that gets working people back in to parliament. It’s also good to see that Labour, from the Leader down, is committed to making this happen.

This article first appeared in Wednesday’s edition of Campaign Briefing, CLPD’s daily newsletter at conference.


  1. david walsh says:

    Oh, well, with luck we will be back to the great days of Bob Mellish, George Brown, Ray Gunter, Richard Marsh (my first activity was number taking for him in 1966) Jim Wellbeloved and Frank Tomney. All impeccably working class, but hardly people Left Futures would want to take tea with…..

  2. Gerry says:

    Excellent stuff, Steve..Labour desperately needs more working class men and women from all backgrounds to be selected as councillors, MPs and MEPs.

    There are too many Labour politicians (step forward, Ed) who are indistinguishable from Lib Dems or Conservatives (or Greens or the SNP or Plaid Cymru) in that they have never had a job outside politics or the media or practising law, and hardly any Labour MPs have had manual jobs or office/secretarial jobs…this disconnect has meant that politics at national and local level seems simply to be the public arm of yet another middle class “profession”.

    One major step forward would be for working class women to be prioritised within the context of all-women shortlists, and for working class men and women to be positively prioritised for , as you say, intensive training and support, but with targets and timetables so that progress could be measured and reviewed.

  3. Robert says:

    Then stopping bloody funding labour, I was reading today with that idiot from Demos that disabled people should be given food vouchers to stop them wasting money on wine women and fags.

    Miliband has to tell us about his parents to make himself look human, the bloke is so bloody boring.

    And yes I’m disabled, had an accident in work, ended up Paraplegic, I do not smoke I do not drink and cannot have sex, what would they give me gas chamber.

  4. Mike says:

    Labour could do with many more MPs prepared to fight for wokring people. But this is a political-programmatic issue. It is about having a set of policies that can mobilise and politicise people to confront neoliberalism – and having MPs that will support, encourage and lead.

    But the notion that this will flow from having more MPs from particular socio-economic and occupational backgrounds is, to be blunt, fatuous.

    What matters is the politics they bring to the job.

    I would rather have 100 Tony Benns in Parliament than 100 John Prescotts.

  5. Gerry says:

    Mike – the composition of the Labour Party (remember that name?) does really matter..this party MUST reflect the nation it seeks to govern, and that means working class men and women, who are, in 2012 approx 40-45% of the electorate by any count. So please – no binary oppositional statements: we need all progressive left, centre-left or centre working class men and women in the party, and in parliament.

    And David – for every old labour working class dinosaur you mention, I could also mention some truly awful middle class Labour politicans, quite a few of whom were/are on the “left”..again, stop being divisive and lets agree: a party of the left or centre-left which has hardly any working class members or elected politicians is no progressive or left party at all!

  6. I think in fairness to Steve Hart, Unite’s strategy makes union backed candidates from a broader social background part of their political strategy, but certainly not the end of it: At the Unite meeting at Labour Conference, Jon Trickett & Len McCluskey made the case for Unite & Labour developing MP’s from down to earth backgrounds, but linked this very much to having policies that adress the needs of working class voters: The Unite strategy is fairly broad, including recruitng union members to Labour , developing MP’s (who as McCluskey are backed because they ‘reflect the values of the union movement’ – rather than just being from a particular social class) , and supporting the CLASS think tank to develop policy – I did a write up of this meeting for the Morning Star (and a rival Progress one), which may be of interest (I think it will appear if you click on my name)

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