Labour ‘culturally adrift’ – Lammy

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Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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A senior Labour backbencher has warned that the party is “culturally adrift” from its own core supporters in the wake of the snobbery row.

London mayoral hopeful and former universities minister David Lammy said politicians from “liberal, professional backgrounds” found it hard to identify with ordinary working people.

The intervention, in an article for the Mail on Sunday, comes as Ed Miliband struggles to draw a line under the furore that forced Emily Thornberry’s resignation last week.

The shadow attorney general had tweeted a picture of a house covered with three St George flags, and a white van parked outside. The image, taken while she was campaigning for the by-election in Rochester and Strood, was widely interpreted as sneering at the family who lived there.

Labour came third in the contest and victor Ukip is threatening to make inroads into the party’s traditional heartlands elsewhere.

But in the Mail on Sunday article, former universities minister Mr Lammy stressed that Mrs Thornberry’s tweet was merely a symptom.

“The Labour Party feels culturally adrift, not just from large parts of Britain, but from its own traditional working class base,” he wrote.

“Large parts of the country feel that Labour not only disagrees with them, they think we disapprove of them too.

“A sense of mutual disdain between the mainstream parties and working class England is driving voters away from politics, or towards so-called ‘anti-politics’ parties such as Ukip.”

Mr Lammy – who grew up on a council estate close to Tottenham’s infamous Broadwater Farm – argues that Labour’s “discomfort hinges on immigration”.

“By and large, modern Labour politicians come from liberal, professional backgrounds,” he wrote.

“They have benefited from globalisation – they mix in social circles with people who work in multinational firms, enjoy foreign travel and find diversity enriching.

“Much of Labour’s traditional electoral base does not feel this way … Immigration becomes swept up in this story.

“In some areas it adds pressures to housing, or on school places. And people worry about losing a sense of community if new arrivals do not speak the language, or observe the same customs. In short, people feel that globalisation is benefiting others, but not them.

“This is what Ukip is tapping into – and Labour has to have an answer.”

The Tottenham MP added: “Labour lost in Rochester and Strood not because of one tweet, but because of a growing perception that the party has lost touch with a large group of its own voters.

“That started long before Thursday. It explains why the polls show Ukip taking votes not just from the Tories but Labour too.

“People who have decent and moderate instincts are voting for a party that does not. For the sake of our country, not just our party, it is time to start putting that right.”

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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