Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
This retreat from class has been driven by misperceived electoral advantage. Few people in the party have dissected or even discussed this process.Yet it represents a direct reversal of the party’s historic role as the political representative of the working class. It is also a significant factor in New Labour’s electoral demise.
There is a fundamental problem for New Labour’s preoccupation with a mythical middle England. Contrary to received opinion, there is no empirical evidence for the withering away of the working class. Manual workers still account for a close to 40 per cent of total employment. When you add in clerical and secretarial work the non-managerial, employed labour force stands at some 15 million – approaching two in three jobs. A small proportion of the growth areas in the economy have been accounted for by a rises in computer managers, software engineers and programmers. But the real growth has been in the service sector, which has witnessed a massive expansion in cleaning and support workers, and increased work among the caring occupations – for example, care assistants, welfare and community workers and nursery nurses.
Many of these traditional, often low paid jobs are carried out by women. It’s no coincidence that there has been a loss of female support for New Labour.
A decade ago, approximately 15 million people identified themselves with Labour in opinion polls and 14 million of those voted for New Labour in 1997. By 2005 fewer than ten million Labour identifiers voted for the party and another five million natural Labour supporters, people who said they were Labour, either stayed at home or voted for largely non-Tory political alternatives.The broad electoral coalition that swept Labour to power in 1997 has gradually shrunk and, by 2007, all but collapsed.
In the 2005 general election, those sectors of the electorate who had shown the greatest propensity to vote New Labour just eight years before were the ones most likely to abstain.
The only social grouping that stayed loyal to New Labour was the static professional, administrative and executive class. Every other social group recorded significant swings away from New Labour, including the manual working class in Labour heartland areas.
New Labour, as defined by the electoral coalition on which it is founded, is unlikely to win power again. An urgent change of direction is needed, based on a thorough understanding of Britain as it is now, to build a new basis and firmer foundation for broader electoral support. Central to this is a new policy agenda to deal with working people’s material concerns, based on an understanding of class and people’s insecurity in the workplace.
We can achieve this without sacrificing the support of crucial middle class votes.They are also concerned about their own job security and pensions, and worried about how their children will be able to afford to buy a house and pay off student debt.To those who have argued that the key to the next election is maintaining the support of the aspirational middle class, I would say that although it is true that their support is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for victory. If we maintain their support but fail to motivate the rest of our core vote, then we will lose.
The objective now is to build a new Labour project grounded in the realities of the modern world and not some stylised construction of modernity – the new knowledge economy – that seeks to entrench class and income inequality. If we do this we can win again.
Jon Cruddas is candidate for deputy leadership of the Labour Party. For more information on his campaign, visit www.joncruddas.org.uk
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism