Labour Needs a Working Class Section

A working-class section?

By Gwydion M. Williams

The new “dream ticket” is being talked about, to balance north and south, left and right, even perhaps male and female. On this basis, perhaps the deputy’s job should go to Dianne Abbott. As a black female Londoner, she’d fill three quotas at once. (Considered just as a person, she might actually do a good job- better than some of the names being put up, certainly.)

But what’s remarkable is that no one is talking about class or social origin. Smith and Gould are both very obviously middle class. Indeed, John Prescott is the one and only serious candidate who isn’t middle class. Labour used to be a mix of ‘workers by hand and brain. But since the 1960s, it has become increasingly dominated by middle-class public sector workers, especially teachers and lecturers. This one group accounted for no less than 113 of Labour’s candidates. (The Independent, 27th March.) This contrasts with a mere 25 who were political officers or trade union officials, and a mere 22 lawyers. No figures were given for industrial workers, or even for ordinary office workers – these are presumably so few as not to be worth recording.

Is it any wonder that skilled manual workers switched over to the Tories under Thatcher, and mostly failed to switch back at the last election.

[Sadly, this has not yet been fixed.  Even the recent move left under Corbyn has ignored the inequalities of work and class background.]

This article appeared in Newsnotes for May 1992