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The political elite in action: who represents Yorkshire in Labour’s shadow cabinet?

shadcabIf you want more reason for dealing with the political elite’s career structure in the Labour party, just look at who represents Yorkshire in Labour’s shadow cabinet. Labour has 32 MPs from Yorkshire (the Tories having gained 10 seats in 2010), just 12% of the 258 won by Labour in 2010, but it has 37% of the MPs in the Shadow Cabinet (10 out of 27). This makes Yorkshire the best represented region of Britain at Labour’s top table.

Yorkshire’s finest includes the only member of the shadow cabinet that earned a living as a manual worker, former plumber Jon Trickett. But of the 10, half went to Oxford and all but 2 to a Russell group university (the 24 which see themselves as the UK’s best). Only two were born (though three grew up) in Yorkshire and no more than two live in Yorkshire now. Seven out of ten were SpAds (or the equivalent in the European parliament), and 2 others had worked full time in politics.

It’s good to have high fliers representing Yorkshire, but how many of them, apart from Jon Trickett, could be said to have had “ordinary jobs”? The answer to that is a bit subjective. My sample of respondents suggests some would say none. Others no more than two or three. Judge for yourselves.

Ed MilibandEd Miliband — was born and currently lives in London, read PPE at Oxford, got an MSc Economics from LSE, and was a SpAd between University and Parliament except for a sabbatical at Harvard.

Ed BallsEd Balls — was born in Norwich and currently lives in London, read PPE at Oxford and Economics at Harvard, worked at the FT for 4 years and as a SpAd for three between University and Parliament.

Hilary BennHilary Benn, — born and currently lives in London, read Russian and East European Studies at Sussex University, trade union research officer for almost 20 years and two years a a SpAd before becoming an MP.

Yvette CooperYvette Cooper — born in Inverness and currently lives in London, read PPE at Oxford and Economics at Harvard, got an MSc Economics from LSE, worked 5 years as a SpAd and 2 years for the Independent between University and Parliament.

Mary CreaghMary Creagh — born in Coventry and currently lives in London, read Modern Languages at Oxford, got an MSc in European studies at LSE, worked for 4 years in Brussels and 7 years teaching entrepreneurship at Cranfield School of Management before becoming an MP.

Michael DugherMichael Dugher — born in South Yorkshire and currently lives in London, read Politics at Nottingham,  worked as a SpAd, lobbyist and trade union researcher between University and Parliament.

Caroline FlintCaroline Flint — born and currently lives in London, read American Literature and History combined with Film Studies at the University of East Anglia, spent 2 years in student politics, 8 years in local government and 3 years as a trade union researcher between University and Parliament

Rachel ReevesRachel Reeves — born and currently lives in London, read PPE at Oxford, got an MSc Economics from LSE, worked for the Bank of England, the UK Embassy in Washington and HBOS for 10 years as an economist between University and Parliament.

Jon TrickettJon Trickett — born in Leeds and has always lived in West Yorkshire, worked for 12 years as a builder and plumber before going to university to Politics at Hull and got MA in Political Sociology from Leeds. He was leader of Leeds City council for 7 years before entering Parliament.

Rosie WintertonRosie Winterton — born in Nottingham but grew up in Doncaster, educated at private schools, read History at Hull, and then worked for 17 years as a SpAd and lobbyist between University and Parliament.


  1. John Reid says:

    Take Scotland , did Jim Murphy, or Doug alexander represent. Them, John Prescott wanted regional assemblies, and it’s mainly northern labour ?MPS who are against HS2, mary Greagh ought to be more interested in the North representing it for jobs,
    People like John Mann , Valerie Vaz,liam Byrne,Gareth Thomas,ought to push the shadow cabinet more, same as getting the Shadow defence sec, to fight for the North.

  2. Robert says:

    But even Trickett can sell out the working class he sold out when fighting the 90 day detention he then told us sorry people but I haver to go and help Gordon he needs a bag carrier .

    The fact is I do not mind people who have worked at any job representing me so long as they are real labour not this Progress group of elites we have, the fact is Miliband must be about the most useless leader I’ve seen in the labour party.

    The problem is not that they are upper working class but that most are right wingers and now the left is about gone the fact is Thatcher looks more socialist then the labour party.

  3. James Martin says:

    You know, until I read through that list (thanks Jon) I’d never really thought about this one aspect – a number of Labour MPs have previously worked for trade unions, and indeed have normally used that to their advantage where the unions have been affiliates of the Party and where they get patronage and sponsorship.

    But when you look at what job they did in the unions its very telling. They were not shop-floor or office reps. They were not branch secretaries, nor even regional officials with serious casework, ET and collective bargaining duties. No, they were research officers. No dealing with the issues and problems of union members, no dealing with problem bosses and employers, or fighting for workers in disciplinaries. Nope, blinkin’ research officers with no contact at all with those they are supposedly there to help, but with no real idea of what the life of the members of the unions is actually like.

    So even the trade union aspect of most of these modern Labour MPs is an illusion, and a meaningless abstraction. Things are even worse than I thought!

  4. swatantra says:

    The photos and life experiences of those given just illustrates how Labour has dismally failed to bring along working class MPs. Even Durgher read Politics! How many read Electrical Engineering? or Mining? None.
    The only solution is for the TUs to put up their own MPs and I don’t mean TU Officials but people who’ve actually had a real job.

  5. Mick Hall says:

    So what can I read from this, Yorkshire is so prosperous there is no working class people left in the country.

    No, thought not, but before we put all the blame on these MPs, it was Yorkshire LP members who selected them as candidates, it was Yorkshire LP members who were so spineless they allowed themselves to be manipulated by the New Labour cliques.

    LP Politics has always had over ambitious middle class people, but in the past the local parties selected the wheat from the chaff, not LP central office.

    I have to say women only shortlists played a role in selecting some of these MP’s as it made it easier for new labour to manipulate candidate lists.

    Of course it is not only in Yorkshire were working class people have been insulted and shit on by the Labour tops, it has happened in every county in the land. Is it any wonder some workers are turning to UKip. They are wrong and will live to rue the day, but I understand it.

    The only way Miliband will win most of them back is by begging their forgiveness and saying bluntly we were wrong and in the future it will be local people who have preference on candidates list.

    Fat chance of that though.

  6. David Pavett says:

    The lack of people in the Shadow Cabinet from mainstream walks of life is symptomatic of Labour’s politics. The Party no longer has roots in the lives of ordinary people. This has now gone so far and the control of this group of full-time political operators over the Party organisation and policies is now so complete that we have to ask if there is any real possibility of the deep reform that would be required to adopt socialist policies. I can’t see it. I think that those who still believe that it is possible need explain how they think such a transformation could be brought about.

    Simply requiring a high ratio of working class representatives will not by itself solve the problem. Many of Labour’s most reactionary leaders have had impeccable working class credentials. And when it comes to the unions we should remember their back-room manoeuvres with the Party leaders at the July NPF which stamped on oppostion to austerity economics.

    The Labour Party is unable to organise any sort of meaningful debate – one in which participants are properly informed about contending viewpoints and in which a genuine effort is made to evaluate them. It is institutionally sclerotic. I am longing for a break out on the left which will give us a new formation on the lines of Die Linke or Syriza. Left Unity is too obviously a by-product of left-wing factionalism to be the answer.

    Our FPTP electoral system acts as a barrier to such a break out on the left but it hasn’t prevented one on the right as we see with UKIP. Electoral reform would therefore be a step forward but should not be regarded as an insuperable obstacle.

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