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Big issue in local elections is not UKIP, but abandonment of white working class

ballot boxWhy is it that UKIP has stormed to 160 seats in the rest of the country, but not in London? It’s because London is by far the most prosperous part of the country and members of the white working class are much more likely to be able to find a job at reasonable pay than elsewhere across Britain. Though they have certainly not been excluded from the bruising experience of austerity cuts over the last 5-6 years, the hurt and the pain has generally been much less keenly felt in London than elsewhere. That explains why UKIP failed to make inroads in London and Labour did notably well there.

It also explains why UKIP, having won a third of its votes from the Tories particularly in the south, was then able to build on this by depriving Labour of some of its expected gains in the north. The lesson of the local elections, which has been widely accepted, is that UKIP’s success derives from universal repudiation of the three main political parties, and of course there is truth in that. But the real lesson is that the white working class feel bitter, resentful and angry at what they perceive as being abandoned by Labour and thus disenfranchised.

There are two other views currently going the rounds in the Labour Party to explain yesterday’s results which are profoundly misguided and wrong.

One is that Labour did not do as well as it had hoped and expected because it had failed to hammer UKIP hard enough. This is a serious error of judgement when it was perfectly clear by the last fortnight of the campaign that attacking Farage head-on merely played into UKIP’s hands since Farage was popularly lionised precisely because he was the anti-establishment candidate who rejected traditional politics – quite apart from the fact that he was also the Teflon candidate beyond reach in terms of policies or ideology.

The second view which is also a serious mistake is the argument that the general election will depend on Labour’s capacity to win votes from the Tories in the south. These local elections should put paid to this nonsense for good. Labour did comparatively well in London and the south, but failed dramatically to sweep the north because of white working class disownment.

The general election will depend on how far Labour has learnt the lesson of these local elections that the 2-3 million white working class electors whom the party has lost to UKIP have to won back by systematic and plausible assurances that a Labour government will forego further austerity and me-tooism competition with the Tories over continuing cuts till 2020, and instead will use public investment to lay the foundations for sustainable economic growth and widespread job creation.

Ed Balls (and the Blairites) have made clear they believe that the priority is to show that Labour can take tough decisions. Nobody who has been on the doorstep can believe this fantasy. What they really want is a commitment from Labour that it will save them from endless cuts and austerity by the promotion of sustainable growth (which this ‘recovery’ certainly is not) and real job creation.

11 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    It’s not just about London prosperity – it’s about an ethnically inclusive city that doesn’t tolerate racial scapegoating. Dissatisfaction with the political elite is not a good enough explanation as to why people voted for a racist party led by somewhere whose own personal background – private education, city stockbroker – is little different from most of the political class he claimed to be running against.

  2. P Spence says:

    I agree. We need massive state sponsored job creation programmes, repeal anti TU laws. and build council houses with secure tenancy. We aren’t going to get it however while the business class control our political process.

  3. PoundInYourPocket says:

    UKIP are very difficult to counter as they have multiple campaigns that differ in each region. The common theme is rabble rousing that highlights perceived council waste / mismanagement / injustice / migrants etc. These are not necessarily based on traditional Left-Right allegiance hence the phenomena of “working-class” people voting for ex-Tory UKIP candidates with a “right-wing” agenda.
    They are not voting for “right-wing” economic policy, they’ve been stirred to vote by UKIP rabble rousers on other local issues. Tragedy will strike when these incompetents gain control of a council (which could happen in 20130 and have peoples lives in their hands. I suspect the reason for their lack of presence in London is simply that they chose not to target it.

  4. ShirleyKnott says:

    About a third of the electorate voted. How many of the non-voters were white-working-class? What %age of that vote bothered to? For that i blame our useless FPTP system, which serves to worsen the disenfranchisement and disconnect between politicians and the electorate – the latter focus solely on swing seats. Do they even *want* the w-w-c to vote? The proffered policies hardly motivate us. Immediate concern for ourselves and our families in this economy are “blah-blahed” away, and we’re called names for being unable to articulate our very real issues in the “appropriate” way. The policies of this, and previous governments have enabled an economy that quite frankly *does* discard a significant number of *all* the British working classes, whatever colour we happen to be, and whatever colours we may have represented throughout our families.
    But, the navel gazing that will follow this election will probably ignore this, and we will not see the end of the Blairite persuasion, nor will we see the more radical responses to the awful neo-liberalism that we need.
    I don’t know anyone who wants racism, but I do know that this country cannot continue to suck in the motivated migrants from the EU without some backlash. We don’t just need job creation here in the UK, but the promotion of policies that do the same EU wide. No “trans-pacific partnership” will do that! Fight that for starters please!

  5. Joey Barton on Question Time? Is that their idea of a working-class voice?

    This week’s edition featured the ultra-posh presenter of some programme about ultra-posh property purchases. She was one of two card-carrying members of the Conservative Party.

    A third panellist was a former Conservative MP and Minister, while a fourth panellist did a more than passable impersonation of a present or future Conservative MP and Minister.

    But what of Jack Monroe? Confusing matters by going about with a bloke’s name calls to mind Princess Michael of Kent. Her recipes are fair enough, but her accents is prolier-than-thou rather than prole, and she can never keep it up.

    At the time of my birth, my late father was entitled to be styled “The Venerable”, yet I have never sounded remotely as plummy as she did. She has been on Any Questions twice in about three months, and now she has also been on Question Time.

    Next week, the pleb’s seat is to be filled, not by a well-born celebrity chef, but by a man with quite recent convictions, including prison terms served, for several crimes of physical violence, and who even without those would be notable only as a footballer.

    From one extreme to the other.

    None of the many working-class Members of Parliament who do in fact still exist, but who are among those 19 out of 20 MPs who are never on television.

    Take Steve Rotheram, a bricklayer and a Hillsborough witness who went on to become Lord Mayor of Liverpool and then, in 2010, one of that city’s parliamentary representatives. His fellow Labour MPs have already put him on their party’s National Executive Committee. Yet he never receives airtime even when the subject is Hillsborough.

    2010 also brought in Ian Lavery. That’s right. An ex-miner who was first elected in 2010. You might have thought that that would attract some attention. But dream on. Even a thuggish footballer is preferred.

    As he is over people who have been in Parliament for many, many years: Dennis Skinner (a parliamentarian since as long ago as 1970 and a very longstanding NEC member, but whom the media uniformly think is a joke), Ronnie Campbell, Jim Dobbin, Jim Hood, Mike Wood, George Mudie, Roger Godsiff, Joe Benton, David Hamilton, Dai Havard, George Howarth, and others besides.

    Agree or disagree with the analysis being presented in the last couple of days by Graham Stringer, John Mann, Simon Danczuk or Austin Mitchell, but at least any of them has been allowed on. That never normally happens. Time and space must instead be found for Joey Barton.

    A secret ballot of Labour MPs put Graham Stringer, a scientifically trained climate change sceptic, onto the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee. But not onto the Question Time panel. With the next edition coming from Heathrow Airport, we await with baited breath Joey Barton’s illumination of that or any other matter.

    But even that is not quite the point. He has been elected to absolutely nothing. The above have been elected to the very House of Commons.

  6. James Martin says:

    I wouldn’t rush to generalise. For example UKIP got hammered in much of Lancashire with the Labour Party getting a better than expected amount of success on many councils.

    What is a danger though is that like the BNP councillors before them newly UKIP councillors in areas where they hold a balance of power will be very bad news for council workers and their unions. It is also likely that just like other far-right populist parties in Europe, their success in some parts of the county will both pull the other parties to the right on a number of issues, and make life even more uncomfortable and dangerous for many immigrants and asylum seekers.

  7. Dave Roberts says:

    UKIP support is a protest vote. It gives voice to those who feel marginalised and patronised by the system and once the issues are addressed it will wilt as other similar movements have.

    The election has been a disaster for Miliband and te party is unelectable with him as leader. A year down the line with the economy still recovering and a clear choice between he and Cameron the electorate won’t really have a choice.

    Labour is divorced from its roots and we now have a whole series of Labour dynasties running the party. If Lutfur Raman and is Islamist backers are readmitted as some posters below are advocating Labour will be seen as the party of appeasers of Islamic extremism and will be out of power for a generation.

  8. Pauline Sharp says:

    My god, labour have to win back core voters, I voted lib dem last time because I was so fed up with labours love of big business and they seemed to just let anybody on low wages just rot in hell. With Ed Milliband I am seeing a glimpse of the labour party that I voted for for many years. No more New labour for me . Do not go down the UKIP road though or you will lose my vote again. Concentrate on the exploitation of workers labour big time. So important.

  9. Robert says:

    Well Pauline what do you think now, labour will not undo any of the Tories cuts and may in fact go further. All we have now is the Progress group pulling the strings and poor old Miliband eating a bacon sandwich and looking like he was getting ready to throw up, to prove to us what he’s not a Jewish religious lad, or that he like bacon.

    I mean policies would be a great idea just plain old fashioned policies not caps or what ever else he thinks but telling us how labour will get this country back to work hyping the Tories will simple mean the Tories are right so let them get on with it.

  10. John Reid says:

    Thatcher started catholic, went Protestant,Tony Blair started Protestant, ended Catholic,does it really matter about Jews and a bacon sandwich.

  11. Robert says:

    Come on now John look at the photo of Ed for god sake he did not like the sandwich so why eat it.

    He was set up and he fell for it, what he should have done is stated sod off no I’m not eating it.

    be a man be your self.

    As for Blair he went where ever his bank account went.

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