12 May 2008
Why Labour will lose Crewe
Labour looks set to lose the Crewe by-election on the 22nd May. That governments lose seats in by-elections isn't news, but this loss may very well be due to Labour's misreading of working class attitudes towards the upper class.
As you can see from this report, Labour is trying to present the Tory candidate as a son of privilege, a toff, in other words. The problem is that working class people tend not to object all that much to the toffs - it's the middle-class that they despise.
If that is hard to grasp, then consider the fact that Boris Johnson has just been elected as mayor of London. Consider also all those working class people who once voted for Churchill, MacMillan, Eden and then Home in the 1950s and 60s. It may be argued that Home lost the 1964 election, but it was by the narrowest of margins, and that was in spite of Harold Wilson's constant jibes in the Commons about Home's aristocratic origins.
The simple truth is that ordinary people do not particularly dislike the upper class, partly because they are removed from working class lives, but mainly because quite often those same toffs are willing to vote for measures that working class people support. The Tories in the 1950s used to gloat that they had built more council houses than Labour, and at the same time they went out of their way to appease the unions.
Compare working class attitudes to those earlier Tories with the atavistic loathing that was directed at the likes of Thatcher and Tebbit. That loathing was only partly due to actual policies: a big chunk of it came from the knowledge that those creatures were close enough to us to be recognisable as being akin to the foremen and under managers at work.
So Labour is on course to lose Crewe. One of the reasons is that it is attacking the type of person that Labour voters are indifferent too. The targets they should go for are the children of those foremen and under managers: the social work scum, teaching trade and local government jobsworths.
Labour will not do that because those chancers are the new party activists, councillors and client voters. Labour can have them or it can have its traditional voters, but it can't have both. All their whining about toffs won't change that.