Senior Northern Labour MPs: 'Labour must urgently reconnect with the working class if it is to succeed at May's elections'


Credits: Bywire News (Alamy/Reuters)
Credits: Bywire News (Alamy/Reuters)
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This article was collectively written by Jon Trickett, the Labour MP for Hemsworth, Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, and Laura Smith, the former Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich and a current Labour Councillor for Crewe South.

In recent years, the polling industry has suffered more than a few embarrassing misses when it comes to politics. However, usual caveats included, the last few polls offer a stark warning to the Labour Party - a warning that the leadership needs to urgently address if our party is to make progress in May's crucial elections.

The latest YouGov poll, released on Friday, now shows Labour 14-points behind the Tories - a bigger margin than the 2019 General Election. And, what's more, the poll also confirms a big Tory lead amongst working class voters - an issue that we have consistently warned about.

However, here at No Holding Back, we are incurable optimists. Whilst the latest polls are unquestionably bad, we can use them to improve our offer to the public - and the data offers a clear roadmap for the leadership to stem the tide ahead of a huge set of elections in May.

The fact is that, in order to succeed, Labour needs a convincing story for the national recovery. And, perhaps most importantly, our party urgently needs to demonstrate to working class voters that they are serious about representing interests that matter to them.

The stench of Tory corruption is once again permeating the land, and despite the relative apathy of the mainstream media - the truth is beginning to cut through. The sight of a former prime minister lobbying the current chancellor to hand over public money to a now-failed company he was working alongside has rightly provoked huge anger from the public - and it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Successive Tory governments may have been engaged in an industrial transfer of wealth from ordinary working people to their wealthy “mates”.

The issue of alleged Tory corruption and cronyism cuts to the core of our problem as a nation, and it offers a clear narrative for Labour to win back voters who have switched from Labour to the Tories over the past two decades.

To be clear, whilst the past year has seen Boris Johnson's government preside over a truly calamitous handling of a global pandemic - leading to the deaths of more than 150,000 Brits - they have, simultaneously used the situation as a morbid opportunity to siphon off public money into the pockets of their friends and donors.

Whilst our heroic NHS workers were going through hell to keep the country moving, the Tories were only looking out for their wealthy chums. Whilst shop workers were risking their health to ensure the country was fed and clothed, Boris Johnson was handing out public money to donors like sweets.

Whilst furloughed workers were struggling to balance the books; whilst small business owners were terrified of losing their livelihoods; and whilst a huge number of families were grieving for lost loved ones, those at the top were once again telling us that we were "all in it together" whilst doing precisely the opposite.

And the numbers don't lie. In the last year, under the cover of the pandemic, the Tories have overseen an unimaginably huge transfer of wealth away from workers and into the pockets of those at the top - with Britain’s billionaires raking in an additional £44,100,000,000 in wealth, whilst ordinary people have been left to pick up the tab.

In addition, the government's so called "levelling up" agenda is a sham which fails to do anything to tackle the entrenched inequalities that have developed over decades in held-back communities. Whilst we desperately need investment in infrastructure, it must also be backed up by investment in our people. From Schooling to Council Tax, it is blatantly obvious that Boris Johnson's agenda is simply a continuation of the previous decade of neoliberalism where wealth has been transferred away from our communities and into the Tory shires.

The Tory party has betrayed working people for generation after generation. But their current gamble is that by draping themselves in the Union Jack and stoking a culture war, they will be able to distract enough people from the real problems in order to cling on to power. Some progressive voices seem intent on simply ducking the debate - but we believe it is one that we must tackle head on.

As our Scottish comrade and retiring MSP Neil Findlay has said for a decade: "you can’t feed your bairns with a flag" - and his words are more prescient now than ever. Flying a flag atop a hospital won’t cut the massive NHS waiting lists; it won't end our country's jobs crisis or give staff the pay they deserve, and it certainly won’t reverse a decade of austerity that has left British children without the education and support they deserve and seen inspirational teachers leaving the profession in record numbers.

There is a vision of Britain which the majority of people can get behind - but our party needs the collective courage of our convictions to create it. Labour must boldly outline a vision of Britain where all its citizens can thrive, where public services can sustainably deliver what the country needs, and where the powerful cannot simply rob the country's riches to line the pockets of themselves and their chums. 

Labour’s leadership have correctly seized on Tory sleaze. But to complete the picture and to win back our lost voters, we must tie Tory sleaze to the decades of neglect that Boris Johnson's Tories have shown towards the working people of this country.

If we are to succeed as a party in May, this core message - which can be illustrated in a number of different ways - must be put front and centre.

Because without working people on our side, what does 'Labour' even mean?

 

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