A North MP has warned Labour’s metropolitan elite that its focus on marginal southern seats will only further alienate traditional voters.
Labour’s Dave Anderson has said the party has to think again about how it reflects the views of voters in safe seats across the North. The Blaydon MP said the rise of Ukip in last month’s local and regional elections risked pushing Labour to the right at a time when many voters are looking for the party that once represented them.
In an attack on Labour’s increasing number of professional politicians, Mr Anderson said: “Our political party has gone off on the hunt for middle England; for Mondeo Man, Worcester Woman and Galaxy Man.”
Writing on the Labour List website, the former miner added: “Focus groups have replaced doorstep campaigning. SpAds represent us in Westminster instead of the men and women with whom we grew up.
“And they all say that they understand our pain and our suffering as they continue to fight for the marginal seats in other parts of the nation. A manifesto becomes little more than a shopping list without any real understanding of the impact on the daily lives of men and women who are lost in a world that they have had no say in shaping.”
Mr Anderson’s comments come after research by Manchester-based academics which suggested Labour faced a Ukip threat in the North because the party us increasingly seen as being represented by an upper middles class professional.
“I understand that it counts for little that I almost doubled my majority in Parliament in 2010 when we lost 100 seats and that we probably won’t win next time around if all we do is focus on the plight of former heavy industrial regions like mine. But we must listen to the alarm bells that are now ringing out,” Mr Anderson says.
The MP added: “Anyone who has been on the doorsteps across this nation will tell you of the warm glow you get when told ‘I always vote for your party, because my mam and dad did.’ What are we going to do when people say ‘I’m not voting for any of you cos my mam and dad didn’t.’?
“And if we continue as a party to scrap over the little bits in the middle and neglect our core people, and, critically, their core values, we will reinforce the view that we are all the same.”
Labour’s leadership is being urged to look again at what it is offering traditional voters by Mr Anderson. As well as a call for free school meals for all children, a Liberal Democrat policy, Mr Mr Anderson adds his name to the growing number of North East MPs who think high speed rail could be a threat to the regional economy rather than an opportunity.
He said: “Let’s look again at HS2; is it really value for money? And what real difference will it make and what can we do with the billions that would be released? And ,crucially, do we really think it will be a conduit bringing work and prosperity out of London and not just a very expensive rat run that will suck things southwards?”