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The lessons of Heywood & Middleton

UKIP bandwagonThe by-election result in Heywood & Middleton in the Manchester conurbation is deeply worrying for Labour. It is true that people take liberties in by-elections that they would be unlikely to take in general elections, but it is designed to show their real underlying feelings which it would be unwise to discount or explain away. It is also true that Labour’s proportionate share of the vote rose by 1%, but that was largely because the Tory vote fell dramatically and the LibDem vote plummeted, and it doesn’t explain why the UKIP vote rose by 35%. The real reason for this disturbing result is the disillusionment felt by so many working class people in Labour’s northern strongholds that they have been neglected and that their interests have not been properly represented by the Westminster establishment (shades of the No vote in the Scottish referendum). This was expressed poignantly on the doorstep as ‘the Tories are going to continue with cuts till 2020, and you’ve said you will do the same, so why should we vote for you?’

As we enter the eighth year of continuing austerity this is the first vote in a northern constituency that expresses the resistance bubbling up against a regime of endless cutbacks – average wages already fallen 9% in real terms and still falling, low-paid insecure jobs (even if you can get one) whether self-employment on pittance incomes or zer hours contracts, with benefit cuts forcing people to leave home or use food-banks, and with no sign of any change for the foreseeable future. What people are crying out for, and want desperately to hear from Labour, is the alternative to austerity that would give them hope and inspire them to come out to vote. That is a policy of public investment to kick-start the economy on a sustainable course (when the present so-called recovery is already fading before 90% of the population have even felt it), a policy of job creation in house-building, infrastructure and green economy, a policy of rising incomes which will increase government tax revenues which will pay down the deficit much faster (when it’s still £100bn and actually rising this year).

Of course immigrants are blamed for all this disillusionment by Farage, the con-man ex-investment banker posing as a man of the people behind two pints in a pub). But immigrants are not the root of the problem – austerity is. All the studies undertaken of the immigrant contribution to the British economy shows that they provide a net benefit, there are a higher proportion of them in work than in the white host community, and a smaller proportion of them are on benefits than in the white community. There are undoubtedly problems of providing public services, particularly housing and education, in some areas, but that of course is exacerbated by Tory government cuts of 40% to local authority budgets.

3 Comments

  1. Chris Lovett says:

    I don’t understand why you refer to the “white” host community? Are all the immigrants non-white? Of course not.

  2. terry sullivan says:

    no austerity at all and you know

    just politicians thinking they have a right to be elected

    will straw euan bliar prescotts son goulds daughter–and yet you complain when electors say enough.

    UKIP is on the rise and all other parties will suffer

  3. Robert says:

    Farage, the con-man ex-investment banker posing as a man of the people behind two pints in a pub).

    Just like a lot in labour that’s the problem your all the same careerist who do not see the problem is you and your kind , to many geeks and not enough working class types.

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