The New Working Class Hero

Tony Blair reinvented the working class hero to be the kid from the council estate who went to university. But should the modern day working class hero be defined as the kid who finds life easy?
The group of mates I grew up with were forever at the back of the class, proving who was the biggest lad or best laugh. We didn’t do too well in school and all left at age 16. The lads who stayed and did their A-levels were called the “squares”.
However, once we were in our mid 20s, the squares were driving nice cars and buying their own homes, we were stuck in unskilled jobs with little future. Looking around for an escape from drudgery and realising we were failures in life, a whole bunch of my mates did the Knowledge and became London Taxi Drivers. It was the first time they’d taken education seriously.
Labour’s “Client State” was identified by the Conservative Home website in their blameworthy analysis following the election of 2010.
They concluded that Cameron had wasted huge recourses for no return in Labour seats with a (1) large ethnic population, (2) a large public-sector worker population, or (3) many people on benefits. (4) Scotland was also written off.
It was a useful study for us. Previously, when Gordon Brown conceived his core–vote election strategy, no one was quite sure what the “core-vote” was, whether such a thing existed anymore, or what size it was.
The Conservative Home discussion mostly concerned itself with pouring blame on the Cameron camp, but for us, their analysis was a useful insight. They clearly explained to us the sections of the population that they now believed to be unwinnable by the Conservative Party.
Following the election, the Labour leadership contest debated the sections of the population that were traditionally Labour, but had been lost in recent years. This was primarily the prosperous working class: The self-employed plumbers and contractors, etc. These are the people who used to support us, but now consider us to be the party of the poor and of the immigrants, who have nothing to offer them.
I was encouraged by this conversation. I see these people as being my own. I see them as the people who have left the slums of previous generations, but have left Labour behind as well. I see them as resentful that Labour didn’t want come with them. I don’t see them as snobs. They’re certainly not Tories.
I never thought it would be difficult to go after this vote, but I suppose you do have to know them to go after them. It’s really just a case of bringing them back home.
I thought that during the leadership debate, the party had agreed to go after them. However, I was wrong. I was to be disappointed.
I’m not sure if Ed Miliband knows who these people are. Maybe they’re the people you look up in the Yellow Pages? Maybe they’re the people you make a cup of tea for when they do a job on your house?
Maybe the unions are connected to these people? Maybe they can help? I’m sure Ed Miliband thinks they’re perfectly nice people. But I’m not sure if he really knows who they are?
How about Ken Livingstone? He’s a Lambeth lad, so surely he must know. But maybe his Lambeth youth is now so long ago that he doesn’t. Are these the people he took on in the 80s? Are these the people who read The Sun newspaper and complain about immigration?
Aren’t these the people who voted for Margaret Thatcher when she gave them a chance to buy their council houses? They’re not exactly a bunch of Tories, but it is still difficult to imagine Ken going after them.
I wrote a proposal for the London Mayor Campaign, thinking that people wanted ideas to win over this vote. I argued that we should win over the taxi drivers, as they are the people who speak to Londoners about politics, as they drive them from Zone 1 to Zone 5. If a London Mayoral candidate was able to appeal directly to this profession, then he’d have the campaign equivalent of the active Labour membership speaking to and persuading people to vote for him in the next election.
I said that the way to appeal to them is to reorganise the traffic lights at night, so that cab journeys don’t waste time sat at empty junction after empty junction. Lots of American and European cities have their traffic lights turn to flashing amber at night, or flashing red for Give Way.
The taxis would be able to transport three times as many fares for a third of the fuel. This would not only be of benefit to lowering the carbon footprint, but the taxis would see a great leap in their earnings and would come out in far greater numbers in order to get people home from the theatres and clubs. Unlicensed touts would become a thing of the past.
I spoke to a couple of people close to the London campaign, but I got no enthusiasm in response. It’s as if the core vote is now the ongoing strategy.
Ed Miliband will continue to try to figure out his squeezed middle theory. Ken will campaign in the outer boroughs, but seems unlikely to be planning anything bold. The arguments in the leadership campaign seem to have been just rhetoric.
Writing in The Times today, Philip Collins, a former speech writer to Tony Blair argues that it is a “nasty stalemate” with the Tories controlling the south, while Labour controls the north, and neither party is looking to change the rules. He says that the only politician likely to benefit from this war of attrition is the “Westminster schoolboy who represents Sheffield Hallam”.
He’s referring to Nick Clegg.
God, I am so depressed.

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