Labour PPCs speak out: it was the middle class (campaigners) wot lost it

Written by David Singleton on 23 May 2016 in Diary
Diary

Suzy Stride is among the Labour parliamentary candidates to feature in a new book by Tristram Hunt.

Labour party campaigners in the 2015 general election often came across as middle-class tourists having to put up with a Ryanair flight, according to one parliamentary candidate who failed to get elected.

The claim from Suzy Stride comes in a new book edited by the former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt. The book is comprised of essays by five failed and five successful candidates who stood in English seats at last year’s general election.

Last year, Stride was named by Channel 4 News' Cathy Newman as one of five women to watch in politics - alongside Theresa May and other sitting MPs. She had hoped to dislodge Robert Halfon in the Essex seat of Harlow, but ended up 8,000 votes behind the Tory MP.

A proud Cockney, she says Labour’s strategy was to bus in scores of middle-class activists. In a piece written with her campaign organiser Jacob Quagliozzi, she points out that the campaigners often looked and sounded very different from the voters they were targeting.

The pair write: “Without doubt the most frequent thing people said to us on the doorstep was: ‘You’re all the same.’ Increasingly, as time went on, we realised that ‘You’re all the same’ really meant: ‘You’re nothing like me’ or ‘You know nothing about my life’ – and to an extent they were right.”

They add: “Increasingly the Labour party was viewed like middle-class Ryanair passengers having to stomach a couple of hours’ flight with people they shared little in common with. It could be uncomfortable but it got you where you needed to go.”

Another unsuccessful candidate, Naushabah Khan, uses her essay to express her frustration at the photo tweeted by Emily Thornberry of a house in Rochester that was adorned with St George’s flags. Khan stood for Rochester and Strood in the 2014 by-election and the election the following year.

She writes: “In one image Labour had almost destroyed its foundations, displaying a growing detachment from our roots.”

Also in the book, Dagenham MP (and Labour policy co-coordinator) Jon Cruddas says Labour’s “metropolitan squeamishness” meant it struggled to relate to English working-class voters in the run-up the election.

And Copeland MP Jamie Reed writes: “Daily life looks and feels very different in our deindustrialised towns, struggling rural villages and smaller cities and these communities are now engulfed in a quiet crisis – not just in the north of England, but in every part of our country.”

For his part, Hunt says he often encountered “a sense that Labour did not really believe in England or the English” and the party should focus on developing a progressive sense of patriotism in order to relate to voters on the doorstep.

Writing on the Labour List website, he states: “This patriotism must come from the heart or not at all. Authenticity is the political demand of the age – the English people will see straight through any attempts at confected sincerity.

“For my part I find it difficult to understand how the landscape, history, culture, humour, and literature of this country would not inspire.”

 

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