Labour cannot win whilst the liberal elite is at the helm | Calvin Rodgerson
In 2019, I was elected to represent Newtown and Morton North; one of the most deprived areas of Carlisle- in the 2021 by-election for the seat it fell to the Conservatives. Why did this once Labour area turn its back on the party? The story did not begin in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, it began long before that. Decades before the ‘woke’ were able to flourish in online echo chambers, they were preceded by the liberal elite, who flourished in the echo chambers of their private school corridors. However, whilst the ‘woke army’ is a problem for the Labour Party, the liberal elite will be its death.
Speaking to voters in my ward in 2019 it became very clear that, whilst some were leaving us in their droves, many had already abandoned the Labour Party during the New Labour years. Whilst they accepted that Blair’s Labour Party had introduced key legislation, they also cited the large increase in migration as a problem. “We’re lucky here,” one voter told me, “when Labour opened the borders, nobody wanted to come up to Carlisle”. This voter was not the only one who felt that Labour was the party of high immigration – I would wager that over half of the people I spoke to addressed this issue. For many working-class people, high levels of immigration are a very serious concern; not because they’re ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’, as the liberal elite would label them, but because their livelihoods depend on decent, stable employment. It’s indisputable that high immigration dilutes the labour market, driving down wages and reducing employment opportunities and that this was exacerbated by our membership of the European Union. When New Labour hoped that working-class Labour voters would not make the connection between European policy and immigration, it was they who turned their back on the voters by being condescending and so the voters eventually turned their backs, too.
Whilst the Labour Party of 2019 was a completely different party to the Labour Party of 1997, its continued expectation that working-class voters would tribally vote for us has led to many of the same issues. When people weren’t declaring their upset with New Labour, they were declaring their disapproval of the new roster of Labour policies. “The country is crumbling and Labour are wasting their time by bringing in a manifesto for the arts,” one young lady told me, “Labour are more bothered about what is politically correct than what they can do for me”, stated another. The Labour Party under Corbyn went from being a party of government to a protest movement – and for the country’s working-class this showed that, once again, the liberal elite did not care about them or the things that were important to them. Whether it was race, sexual orientation, or religion, the Labour Party had increasingly moved away from policies that mattered to working-class voters, towards identity politics that satisfied it’s new, university-educated activist core.
Of course, we cannot and must not forget about the Labour discourse over Brexit. At a time when Labour had the opportunity to push for real left-wing populism, we instead sided with the liberal elite throughout Europe and many of our MP’s and councillors demanded an undemocratic second referendum. When the Labour Party conference had the opportunity to vote on a second referendum; we quite rightly rejected it, but the damage had been done. Our Party no longer had a position on Brexit; and for those that voted to reject the elite this was not good enough. The Labour Party ignored northern voters, and we ignored the working-class that made up our party’s base. And for this, not only did Corbyn deserve to be rejected, but so did our Shadow Brexit Secretary.
With Keir Starmer’s accession to the leadership came an acceleration of cancel culture. This wasn’t directly his fault but it happened because, by now, many in Labour can’t accept differing views on key social issues. When someone shows genuine concern for self-identification, they’re labelled a TERF, when someone shows genuine concerns for the high levels of immigration, they’re labelled a racist. Whilst, of course, there isn’t much Starmer can do about this, he has not been vocal enough against this, and for many Starmer taking the knee was the last straw. “You only take your knee for your wife and the Queen”, was something that was echoed from door to door- of course, most had heard this from Dominic Raab and felt it resonated with them. In one instance, it appeared, the liberal elite were back.
Under New Labour many voters turned their backs on us, but they still could not bring themselves to vote Conservative. When Labour became a party for ‘social justice warriors’, the ‘woke army’ and ‘cancel culture’, this changed. Whilst many stated they were just ‘lending’ their vote, the results of the 2021 local elections in England showed that many working-class voters felt more in tune with the Conservative Party than the Labour Party once again. If the Labour Party wants to turn the tide on the realignment of British politics, it must start with cleaning out our own offices, and getting rid of the liberal elite who loathe the North for voting to leave the European Union. Only then can we once more be the party of the working-class, and only then can we gain power again.