After a week away I am back and, I must say, it was a strange return to politics. I visited Cumbria for a much needed getaway and whilst there I decided to visit Workington. A typical former industrial working class town in the north of England which, aside from a brief spell in the late 1970s, has been a Labour seat forever. In 2019, Dominic Cummings identified the “Workington Man” as the voter they needed to win over in order to claim victory at the general election. It’s not hard to see why since 1997 the Conservative vote share has increased like clockwork other than in 2015 when UKIP had a strong presence in the constituency. It’s a town that seems trapped in the 1980s; its buildings tired and old, the community quiet and empty. It was market day and it was empty with only what you can imagine to be local inhabitants coming to use the high street. The high street itself was itself struggling to look any more modern with local shops buckling under the weight of 40 years of ignorance and the more recent economic crisis. No wonder Labour, a party which has overturned the metropolitan voters since 1992 has seen its vote share go from above 50% to 39% in the time between then and now. It was a humbling experience and one which truly reminded me of the deep, cultural shift Labour has to make before it can seriously consider winning back these areas; the ones it was built to represent.
It was to my surprise therefore that when I returned, conversation amongst members in the party was not one which undertook to understand and listen to these voters. The conversation was about a comment Boris Johnson has made regarding fox-hunting and a “semi-sexual” experience.
Why on earth, after the most humbling election defeat in a generation, is the Labour Party moaning about comments Johnson made years ago? Where is the significance in this? Do those who engage in such moaning actually think this is effective opposition? Do they think it’s what voters in communities such as Workington care about? Walking around the seat, I would think that this isn’t important to them and that they have far greater priorities. In fact, I would imagine it is quite a turn off.
Here, these communities are: struggling, ignored, angry, frustrated and crumbling. The best the Labour Party has to offer is ‘we don’t like this about Johnson’, ‘we don’t like this about Cummings’, or ‘here we’ll moan about this comment from 2005 which has no bearing on the here and now’. It’s truly pathetic and illustrates just how far Labour have fallen from where they should be.
Communities like Workington don’t deserve what is happening to them. These are the places that generated the wealth, status and luxuries we all enjoy today. Their history is our history and their future should also be our future. The Labour Party was built to represent and listen to these areas and currently we don’t deserve to represent them if this is the best we can muster. Labour must offer an alternative vision of our country. It has to talk about crime and policing, community and patriotism, public services and good jobs. People in these communities care about the bread and butter issues. It’s worth noting worse articles came out during the 2019 election and yet these communities still voted for him. Labour must do better than this and in the week when Opinium have indicated that the gap between the two traditional major parties has grown, it makes it even more essential that we get a grip, stop moaning about irrelevant issues and start to offer a compelling alternative.
Daniel is a political activist and Senior Associate Editor of Liberal Base. His interests are in populism, democratic crisis, western party politics and automation. He tweets @danny_hod and blogs at dannyhodson.com