Shadow business secretary dismisses UKIP claim over middle class votes

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna was in the North East ahead of the European elections

The launch of Labour's North East European Campaign, from left, Jayne Shotton, Paul Brannen, Chuka Umunna and Jude Kirton-Darling
The launch of Labour's North East European Campaign, from left, Jayne Shotton, Paul Brannen, Chuka Umunna and Jude Kirton-Darling

UKIP claims the party can make gains in the North East because Labour is targeting the middle class vote have been branded “absurd”.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Nigel Farage’s party has a strategy to “divide and rule” in the North East when he visited Tyneside yesterday ahead of this month’s European elections.

It comes after Mr Farage visited Gateshead last month and declared Labour had deserted the working class.

Several polls, including ComRes and ITV News, are predicting the right-wing party will come out on top in the European elections. Mr Umunna, who directed all of his comments toward Ukip when he visited Jarrow Brewery in South Tyneside, said: “It is absurd to claim we are going after the middle class vote.

“Some would argue that many people on the minimum wage or zero-hours contracts do not fall into the middle-class category and yet those are among some of our most important policies.

“I don’t think it helps to divide and rule different parts of society and set up people, as Ukip does, against each other.”

Mr Umunna said membership of the EU, something which Ukip opposes, was key to ensuring the North East’s export industry, which hinges on the success of Nissan’s Sunderland base, continues to grow.

The shadow business secretary also batted away accusations that Labour was taking the devotion of North East voters as a given.

He said: “We are fighting for every single vote and don’t take anybody’s support for granted.”

Mr Umunna also reacted to Mr Farage’s claim Labour campaigners in the North East “hate” Ukip after the party achieved second spot in the by-election for South Shields. He said: “I don’t hate Ukip, I just fundamentally disagree with them about what is the way forward.

“I don’t think it is right for us to put down our bat and leave the field with regards to membership of the EU.

“I think we should stay in the field and bat for Britain.”

The European elections will take place on May 22.

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