“ Electoral successes show there is a path forward that embraces Labour’s socialist traditions as well as engages the working class base that is fit to tackle the economic & social challenges of today – it must be embraced before it is too late.”Ian Lavery MP
First of all a huge congratulations to all the successful Labour candidates in last week’s elections, and a massive thank you to all the party activists who come rain or shine turned out to support their party despite any internal wranglings – without you the party is nothing.
As the dust settles on the last week’s elections, immediately eyes turn towards the upcoming by-election in Batley and Spen.
Following a disastrous result in Hartlepool, the party must urgently learn the lessons from their mistakes to avoid further humiliation and electoral defeat.
Those mistakes being the calamitous decision to parachute in a non-local handpicked candidate with no input from the party at constituency level, as well as having no convincing message or vision to sell voters desperate for change.
The Labour Party was founded to give a political voice to working people – an alternative after centuries of being spoken for by ‘progressive’ elites claiming to have their best interest at heart.
But for decades our link with the working class has been eroding, and we are returning to an era where the working class are once again being spoken for by middle class liberal politicians out of touch with their values and priorities.
Working class voters feel that Labour no longer provide them a radical alternative that offers meaningful change that can empower them and their communities.
This dates back to at least the 90’s where a strategy was pursued based on the mantra that working class voters “had nowhere else to go”, leading to an enthusiastic embrace of Thatcherite individualism that has ultimately disillusioned the traditional working class base.
The Brexit vote was the final nail in the coffin for many. Huge numbers of the working class voted to leave the European Union seeking the radical change and a break from the neoliberal tide the Labour Party once offered them. The parties perceived betrayal of their democratic vote at the 2019 election brutally accelerated a political realignment that has been decades in the making and is falling broadly along leave and remain lines, as the Tories increase support in rural reave voting regions and Labour stack their votes in heavily remain voting cities.
The result was the fall of a number of seats in traditional Labour heartlands in the North now known as “Red Wall” seats. Some maintained the fantasy that Brexit was simply a blip that is now over and done with. But the result in Hartlepool shows that Brexit cemented the fissures between the Labour Party and the working class that as it stands show no sign of closing anytime soon.
But it is possible to stem the tide if we learn from our mistakes. The first must be to never again impose a long list of one and impose a candidate onto local parties favoured by the leadership in Westminster.
There is a host of working people, particularly key workers, who have kept our communities afloat over this past year, who would be invaluable additions to the commons and would truly represent the people of Batley and Spen.
An entire pool exists of hugely talented and committed individuals who deserve an opportunity to represent their area on the green benches, not as a reward but as an acknowledgment.
With this in mind, the Labour Party must ensure the selection for the upcoming by-election is made up wholly of local, working class Labour members in Batley and Spen who are truly representative of the voters they wish to attract. Only by actively involving them and giving them a meaningful voice will the party begin to heal it’s lost emotional bond with working class people.
It is crucial that this happens, but this is only a first step. The Labour Party must not only reflect on the losses in the recent elections, but also on the successes in order to develop a convincing vision of the future of our country that appeals to the values and priorities of our disillusioned traditional voter base.
Andy Burham stormed to victory on the back of bold actions taking Manchester’s bus service into public hands and standing up to the Tories on their discriminatory furlough scheme.
Councils in Preston and Salford among others maintained huge majorities on the back of radical community wealth building projects that have improved their regions economy, and are also deeply rooted in their communities and built from the grassroots upwards.
These victories among others prove a way forward for Labour that is true to their roots and values while tackling our current political and economic landscape head on, as well as transcending the culture wars between young and old, and rural towns and city dwellers that seek only to divide us for the Tories to rule.
Ambitious socialist projects built from the grassroots upwards that focus on empowering communities and creating jobs and local wealth have proven popular in opinion polls and in reality.
Electoral successes across the country show that there is a path forward that embraces the Labour Party’s socialist traditions as well as engages the working class base that is fit to tackle the economic and social challenges of today – it must be embraced before it is too late.