This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!
Sunday, 23 November 2008
We must listen to Hazel
Writing in yesterday’s Guardian, Hazel Blears the Communities Secretary, said that the rise of the BNP had been made possible because the political parties have abandoned sections of the white, working class.
She is absolutely right.
Since 1997, the grand coalition of middle class and working class voters that elected the Labour Party has broken down. We have lost about one million voters.
In her article, she urges the Party to take the fight directly to the BNP. We need to devise a long-term strategy to win back support, she says. Estates that have been ignored, voters who are taken for granted, services that are failing in some of the poorest communities and a political class which looks like it’s from a different planet, lead to voters who are primed and ready to listen to the BNP’s message of pure poison.
As one of the few genuine Labour MPs who comes from a working class background and who represents a working class community, Hazel Blears is the best person to lead this fight.
She ran a great Deputy Leadership campaign, which was admirable for the fact the she stuck doggedly and correctly to a new Labour message, when ‘Blairism’ - lets be frank - wasn’t that popular. She is a great campaigner with sound political judgement and in one hustings famously said, “I don’t need a sociologist to tell me about the views of the white working class” and meant it. Her brother still drives a bus in Manchester.
I would argue that the way for the Party to win back the working class – white or from any community – is to remember what motivates working class people in the first place and that’s ‘aspiration’. Working class people are aspirational to own their own homes, to send their kids to great schools and then university and to have the tools at their disposal to feel empowered. And yes this does mean more academy schools, greater choice in public services and more devolution of power to local communities.
Blears understands this. She instinctively gets it. We need to listen.
I would also add two other areas.
First, until the Government takes the legitimate and genuine concerns of working class communities seriously when it comes to immigration, we will continue to cede ground to the BNP. Communities are worried about the effect immigration has on housing and local services. I am still not convinced that the Government has found a Labour way of making a case for immigration that would eliminate the need for voters to turn to the BNP.
Second, whatever happened to the Respect agenda? We used to own that. Working class communities suffer disproportionately from anti-social behaviour. It is people like my grandparents on their estate who fear yobs and hooligans and worry about petty street-level crime. I can’t remember a single government minister who has spoken out about it over the last eighteen months. By not doing so, we have totally ceded ground to the Tories and more worryingly to the BNP on this issue.
It is time Labour sorted this out. This weekend, Hazel Blears kick-started that debate.
We must listen to her.