What exactly do the likes of Graham Stringer and John Mann MP want?

3:07 pm - May 23rd 2014

by Sunny Hundal    

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Political journalists love reporting on infighting: it adds drama and excitement to a beat that is usually about boring policy announcements. This isn’t a criticism – as a blogger I loved reporting on infighting too (even within Labour) because it meant clicks, eyeballs and excitement. Its the stuff we worked for.

The local / EU elections have brought Labour MPs John Mann and Graham Stringer to the forefront for precisely this reason: they’re willing to fuel the infighting narrative.

But listen to what they actually say and you soon realise they’re just spouting empty platitudes. There’s not a single policy demand in what they say, other than Stringer’s demand for a referendum on the EU. I’ve long called for Labour to promise a referendum on the EU too, but you have to be really obtuse to think Miliband is going to u-turn on his sensible and cautious policy now just to satisfy us. And even then, it would make very little difference to the UKIP vote.

But all this is lost on John Mann and Graham Stringer, who repeatedly call on the Labour leadership “to listen to the people” as if this were a new and radical idea.

Listen to John Mann on WATO

They have zero policy advice on what needs to be done. They have zero practical advice for the leadership.

What this does highlight however is a broader issue: the Labour leadership are aware of all the above but there is no simple answer because voters themselves are contradictory.

“Labour should be Labour, but they’re more like Conservative,” a voter from Rotherham told BBC World at One earlier, who had opted for UKIP – a party even more right-wing than the Tories.

A lot of Labour people voted for UKIP because they feel alienated by the party and by Westminster in general. On that front, the party needs broader cultural change and more extensive outreach to voters. But Miliband isn’t idle here either: he’s been fully behind rolling out the community organising model across the country. The leadership have been making heavy demands on candidates to knock on doors and speak to voters too.

On policy, should Labour go harder on immigration? It can do, but it will alienate more liberal voters in London (without which it can’t win in 2015 or 2016). And how exactly do you out-UKIP on immigration? None of these questions are answered.

The Labour leader has chosen instead to focus on the economy, and reach out to people who feel alienated because of growing inequality and are voting UKIP out of frustration. Do the likes of Mann and Stringer have any policy suggestions here? Nope. I haven’t heard a single policy suggestion yet. Which begs the question: how do these people think they’re helping?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Sunny, the term ‘left or right’ means very little to the average voter, in fact most political ideologies have some shared similarities.
The Rotherham local council results were a car crash for Labour, even the Rother Vale ward (which covers Orgreave) went to UKIP and, where Labour won, UKIP was very close behind.
Although local council elections are a poor indicator for general elections, in Rotherham and Doncaster (Doncaster North is Ed Milliband’s seat) Labour votes have halved since 1997.
The answer is in your post “Labour should be Labour, but they’re more like Conservative”. Labour have continued to win seats in their core constituencies because the majority of their old supporters refuse to vote for other parties but those are slowly dying off.
Infighting within the Labour Party is of little consequence to the people who the party should be trying to gain support.

2. John Reid

The out Ukip on immigration, view is odd, as immigration is a concern of Northerners too, and apart from in Liberal North London, there’s. Ot this great amount of liberal Or Respect voters who’ll return labour too power,in fact the Libdem supporters now voting Labour would have turned had Balls or David M been leader,

Didn’t John Mann back Ed M, for leader.


Labour aren’t losing votes because of individuals they are losing because of policies and the interest groups they have been appealing to.
Balls and David M were part of the problem not the solution.

2: “The out Ukip on immigration, view is odd, as immigration is a concern of Northerners too”

It is, but it isn’t an area in which Labour can ever win. The people who believe immigration is the biggest issue affecting the UK today (public services, housing, jobs, benefits, the lot) mostly believe this because they read it in various newspapers who make a big issue out of it.

It’s important to realise those press outlets are NEVER going to portray Labour as having anything other than an “open door policy”. They simply are not. Ed Miliband could copy UKIP’s lines word-for-word and the best he would get is “Labour admit they now regret destroying British culture with their scrounger Muslim flood (who vote Labour, by the way)”.

The best they can do is institute a sensible policy and promote it. Most people don’t actually want an unreasonable and unfair fortress immigration policy; they just oppose that Labour “open door policy” which doesn’t actually exist.

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