The Death of Labour’s Working Class Support

Interesting piece in the Telegraph:

Labour’s working class support has “died” as the party becomes “very middle class”, an advisor to Ed Miliband has said.

Lord Glasman, the policy guru ennobled by Mr Miliband, said Labour voters who defected to Ukip may never return because the party is failing to address concerns on welfare and immigration.

He told The Times: “That is the dilemma at the heart of the party’s strategy — is it possible to address these economic, political and cultural concerns when the party is becoming, in many ways, very middle class? What I mean by that is liberal and progressive in its sensibility.”

“Ed [Miliband] is trying to address it. This is a long-term trend since 2001, in terms of the working-class vote just declining quite dramatically. The Labour middle-class vote held up [in 2010]. It was the working-class vote that died.

“These are often people who are earning, who have jobs, but they don’t see Labour as representing their interests.”

Many working class communities have a feeling of “dispossession and abandonment”, the peer said.

I wonder why Labour’s working class support has died? I wonder why, after voting Labour for something approaching 100 years, they’ve given up on their party, complaining of “dispossession and abandonment”? Is it really because Labour had become “very middle class”?

Is that plausible? Arguably Labour became “middle class” with the arrival of Tony Blair. But working class support didn’t die. They kept on voting for Blair even though he was a middle class lawyer married to another middle class lawyer.

It can’t be that. It must be something else.

I wonder what?

I think I know what it might be. And I think you might too. And it’s that “very middle class” and “progressive-liberal” are actually long-winded, roundabout ways of saying “antismoking.” The middle class has been quitting smoking for the past 40 years. Hardly anyone in the middle class smokes any more. I watched it happen as, one by one, my middle class (former) friends first quit smoking and then became hand-waving antismokers. And the same thing happened to the newly-middle-class Labour party (and of course the Lib Dems and many of the Conservatives too).

But the working class remained the smoking class. So when the antismoking middle class Labour party banned smoking in public places, it dispossessed them of their convivial, smoky pubs, and abandoned them to exile outdoors. That’s where the “dispossession and abandonment” comes from.

Smug and self-congratulatory middle class Labour MPs may still be delighted with the ‘progressive-liberal’ smoking ban that they rushed to enact in 2006. But when they did so, they waved goodbye to 10 million smoking class votes.

If some of these then switched to the Conservatives in 2010, it was perhaps because it was hoped – even expected – that, since most Conservative MPs had voted against the smoking ban, a Conservative government would do something to ameliorate the situation.

No such luck. Both Clegg and Cameron had climbed on the antismoking bandwagon as well, and were as smug and self-congratulatory as any Labour MP.

But in the upcoming 2015 general election, smokers will at last have in UKIP a party which promises to relax the smoking ban.

I think that Labour made a disastrous political mistake by introducing a draconian smoking ban that was bound to alienate its voter base. They kicked their bedrock supporters in their teeth. And I think the Lib Dems made an equally disastrous mistake by enthusiastically supporting the ban, and demonstrating (to me at least) how illiberal they really were. And the Conservative leadership made the same mistake too.

It continues to amaze me that all these politicians continue to pretend that the cultural assault that the smoking ban launched upon the working class has had no effect whatsoever on their voting behaviour. Either it’s some sort of collective delusion, or they just can’t bring themselves to admit that they made a monumental mistake.

And about the only politician with his head screwed on is Nigel Farage. And he has adopted a cheerful beer-and-cigarettes image which expresses what he stands for far better than a thousand speeches ever could.

And he’s also a middle class city stockbroker.

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29 Responses to The Death of Labour’s Working Class Support

  1. waltc says:

    Agreed, but it’s more too. Gay marriage, unbridled immigration, hostility to religion all go against traditional working class values, (and being called a troglodyte for not agreeing with the liberal elite doesn’t help much either); lifestyle management at all levels aka The War on Fun; a prissy patronizing PC media; a disdain for masculinity; a middle class with unmerited self-regard whose representatives show up on everything from local councils to Brussels boardrooms attempting to anally regulate everything and squeeze the juice out of life.

  2. Steven simon says:

    On a completely different note I am sure that I write on behalf of everyone on this message board to express our deepest condolences to the family of Anne Maguire.i was born and bred in leeds and I know the it not a sad reflection of our society that these tragedies happen.respect and values seem to have gone out of the window as as well as cannot even smack a child nowadays without fear of being prosecuted.where did it all go wrong?

    • DICK R says:

      It is not a reflection on society ,the vicious little piece of filth who did this is the only one responsible! Do not make excuses for them !!

      • Steven simon says:

        Unfortunately you are wrong.over the last three years the police force in thirty one areas have discovered one thousand weapons carried by pupils.what does that imply?

        • P. Ondrin says:

          what does that imply?
          That times have changed. Fifty years ago when I was at school that figure of 1000 would probably have been 10000 or even 100000! The difference then was that knives were not seen as weapons, but an essential part of a boys life. How else could you make a bow and arrow, sharpen a pencil, gut a rabbit, carve your name into a tree, or cut up food? If you were a Scout you owned and paraded your sheath knife with pride. And not always just one. The longer the blade the more prized that knife was.
          What you didn’t do was stab anyone. It just didn’t happen.
          In those far off days the criminal fraternity favored a weapon never heard of now, the cosh. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, not least the fact that murder was a serious crime with consequences.

    • beobrigitte says:

      You should have posted this comment on yesterday’s theme.

      Indeed, I would like to express my deepest sympathy for Anne Maguire’s family.

      However, as a couple of people did (rightly!) point out yesterday: People kill people.

      As for society: well, in my view it is ruled by fear. The “poor chiiildren” are taught to be fearful; they also do not “fail” (as we did!), they just have their “success deferred”.
      Unfortunately life deals every now and then FAIL to parts of everyone’s lives.
      (I brought my kids up along the lines: Deal with it. Learn to shrug your shoulders. Carry on. Start thinking for yourselves. Stop others making you thinking their thoughts.)

      In short, the problem isn’t society – it is individuals within this society following some idealistic guidelines – they will drag a teacher into a court of law if their little “darling” gets a smack, despite their little darling being a little shit to others and the teachers.

      As P.Ondrin already said: my generation grew up with OWNING sharp knives. We NEVER considered to stick them into each other. My dad actually owned guns. They were his hobby. And he taught me. I would have loved to have his rifle and his accordion – except they disappeared after his death. Like my granddad who took an axe to his Zither at the age of 96 because he figured we’d all fight for it, my mum must have done the same.

      I did abstain from voting yesterday simply because I did not find an option that 100% reflected what I would support. However, I did NOT vote against gun ownership!!!
      If somebody would force me to vote Yay or Nay – it would be YAY.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Like my granddad who took an axe to his Zither at the age of 96 because he figured we’d all fight for it,

        Why destroy something everyone wants?

        • beobrigitte says:

          Only one could have it….. The fight of us all wanting it would divide the family. Dividing a family was his worst nightmare – he even had an ashtray to put on the table when I visited him – and he was anti-smoking. He never understood the pleasure I get from smoking and thought of it as unnecessary. Nevertheless, he provided me with an ashtray.
          The last time he played the Zither for me was when he was approaching the age of 96. It was as old as he was – and a beautiful instrument.

          Needless to say – there was no fallout over it. He took an axe to it.

  3. mikef317 says:

    This was intended for the “Should Britons Own Guns?” post but it took a while to write. It should be 10 pages longer, but that would take 10 days, so….

    You asked for American opinions. I’m about your age, and I’ve been exposed to gun arguments over my entire life. I heard of a strange place called England where the police (Bobbies?) don’t have guns. Back in the 1980’s I spent two weeks in London. A real CITY, like (but different from) New York; some differences being polite cab drivers, warm beer, VAT tax, a general mangling of the English language, and cops who didn’t have guns.

    I think most Americans who comment on your blog lean to the right; generally the far right. I lean to the left, but not by much.

    In the U. S., the far right and far left generally cancel each other out. Like anti-tobacco zealots, both sides are utterly convinced that their opinions are the correct opinions. Compromise isn’t an option. Fortunately, it’s people in the middle who ultimately decide what course the country will take. Right now, most “middle” Americans support (or at least don’t actively oppose) smoking bans. Like it or not, it’s a fact.

    Historically, Americans were stupid enough to vote for alcohol prohibition. Nationwide, at all levels of government, there were wet and dry candidates; the issue was debated, millions of people voted, and the bad guys won. Temporarily. In time, prohibition was repealed. And equally, in time, today’s smoking bans will be repealed. (“You can fool some of the people all of the time….”)

    I didn’t take your poll because I didn’t like any of the answers. Here’s mine. Baring people who have been convicted of crimes where weapons were used (they’ll get guns anyway), and baring people who are mentally ill (a hard call), any adult should be able to buy a gun. A handgun or a rifle. But what about a bazooka? Or hand grenades? Or maybe a machine gun that can spit out a hundred bullets in a few seconds? For hunting or target practice? For self-protection? Against what army? Zombie hordes milling around the house?

    Some points about guns, numbered if people want to comment.

    1) In colonial days, Americans could grab their guns and march off to fight the British. Those days are gone. Should every freedom-loving citizen now have an assault helicopter and a tank parked in the back yard? Where would you keep your submarines and jet fighters?

    Recently (Google Cliven Bundy) there was a big to-do in Nevada where maybe 100 (or fewer?) Red Blooded, God Fearing, Patriotic Americans got their guns and faced off against the Federal (Evil Federal Government!) Bureau Of Land Management. And the Federales backed down!

    Maybe because they didn’t want to slaughter 100 crazy people? (Said people wanting women at the head of their ranks so there would be pictures of Evil Federal Government employees shooting good, patriotic American women. Such heroism is truly inspiring!)

    A bunch of nuts with rifles and handguns against the military might of the United States? If I were interested in ousting the government (I’m not) I wouldn’t start by committing suicide.

    2) Americans have already had a Civil War where people grabbed their guns and went off to fight each other. It was a very long war, and very bloody.

    3) Would you like to live in Somalia? (Not sarcasm; an honest question.) Lots of people with military grade weapons. Weak (or non-existent?) central government. Lots of dead people.

    4) Where guns are concerned there are two Americas. You have rural / Sothern / Western areas where owning a gun is traditional; people collect, hunt, target shoot, and they tend to be very much in favor of “self-defense.” Then you have urban areas, in particular poorer sections where guns are in the hands of criminals; there are prohibition style shootouts, and innocent people (including children) get killed by stray bullets. As you might expect, these two groups have very different opinions about guns.

    I don’t own a gun, and don’t feel any need to. I live in a neighborhood that isn’t rich, but isn’t poor, either. The odds of someone breaking into my house are miniscule. Maybe 30 years ago someone did break into the garage in an attempt to steal a car radio; hardly a crime wave. However, if I lived in New Jersey (where you might find a bear wandering around your back yard) I’d probably invest in a few shotguns.

    5) Americans like to say that we are a nation of laws. We are. For all our guns, most disputes between people are resolved by compromise, or, if necessary, the courts. The courts can also be used to challenge the government. (Yeah, it’s tough, but it can be done.)

    Frank, this is your “arbitrary restrictions on…freedom” and your issues with the EU, both of which I find quite legitimate. (But I can’t discuss everything in one comment.)

    At all levels of government (local, state and national) Americans pass laws (and regulations) all the time, as do all governments. We also change laws because sometimes we go too far, and other times not far enough. We’ve done this for hundreds of years, and (with the exception of the Civil War) it’s been done without people shooting each other. It is certainly a messy process, but not as messy as war.

    I think we will soon have a law or regulation that requires all civilian airliners to periodically broadcast their course, altitude, and airspeed. I’m equally sure that the black boxes on these planes will be required to have a 90 day battery supply. This will probably increase ticket cost. Government tyranny?

    There are many laws and regulations that need fixing – and there always will be. The framework of democracy puts power in the hands of ordinary people IF ordinary people decide to use it. (If they let bureaucrats run amuck, that is also a choice.) If you’re mad about something, get other people mad, and if you get enough people mad, the law will be changed. (Easier said than done – but it can be done, and without war.)

    6) In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up a Federal office building in Oklahoma City because he was mad at the U.S. government. Justifiably mad or not, 168 people died, including 19 children in a day care center; hundreds of others were hurt. None of those people ever did a damn thing to Timothy McVeigh.

    7) Some on the far right seem to place the Second Amendment above all other rights in the Constitution.

    A half dozen guys walk into a coffee shop. They all have assault rifles. Why would this make anyone nervous? They’re just exercising the constitutional right to bear arms and drink coffee.

    There was a guy in a suburban neighborhood (in Florida or Texas) who decided to set up his own (apparently legal) outdoor shooting range. Would you like to live next to this guy? He’s a nice fellow who won’t start shooting before 8:00 AM.

    8) How well trained are the police? A while back there was a shootout in midtown Manhattan. I think at least a half dozen cops were involved; maybe more. There was apparently good reason to shoot. But – most shots missed the target. Several ricocheted off buildings and hit innocent bystanders (fortunately causing only minor injury).

    I can’t quantify this, but I see an occasional video of some police action, and think that the cops are more dangerous than the crooks.

    Police get special training and are subject to rules on weapons use. None of this applies to the average citizen; God only knows how well they can handle their guns.

    9) In the U. S. there is a growing concern about the “militarization” of the police. In the middle of the night, a heavily armored vehicle rolls up to someone’s house and 8 or 10 men in bullet-proof vests emerge. They’ve got assault rifles, night vision goggles, and God only knows what else – all to arrest some guy who’s growing a few marijuana plants in his basement (assuming that the police got the address right). If you were the guy, and if you owned a dog, the cops would shoot the dog to “protect” themselves.

    10) Many Americans have a fear of strangers knocking at their door, especially at night. A man is in a car accident. Seeking aid, he goes to a nearby house. On occasion the homeowner will shoot the man who, late into the night, was obviously trespassing for some nefarious purpose.

    11) I’m getting down to minor issues, and I haven’t discussed “stand your ground” laws. But it’s almost 7:00 AM in New York, and (horrors!) I’ve drunk the last drop of bourbon in the house, so I’m going to call it quits.

    I’m not overly interested in guns or gun laws; I’d probably have to do some research, but…

    This is mostly for non-Americans. Suppose you were American. (Worse things could happen.) Suppose you live in New York City. Suppose I break into your house with robbery in mind. You’ve got your gun. You’ve got Second Amendment rights. Your marksmanship is superb – one shot, between the eyes, BAM!, and I’m dead.

    One less crook in the world! Maybe someone will give you a “heroic citizen” award?

    I’m an American. I have Second Amendment rights. If I had a gun, I GOD DAMN WELL WOULD NOT TAKE A KILL SHOT except as a last resort. I’m not being religious or merciful here; I’m thinking of the legal consequences (for me) of killing someone. There are 50 states, with 50 different laws; it’s extremely complicated. Many Americans think they can kill intruders without consequence – and many Americans are serving time in jail because of that mistaken belief.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Historically, Americans were stupid enough to vote for alcohol prohibition. Nationwide, at all levels of government, there were wet and dry candidates; the issue was debated, millions of people voted, and the bad guys won. Temporarily. In time, prohibition was repealed. And equally, in time, today’s smoking bans will be repealed.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but in NYC where you live, New Yorkers didn’t debate and vote for a smoking ban. Instead Mayor Bloomberg used his executive powers to impose one on them.

      And it was much the same in the UK. The Labour party manifesto had a proposal to only ban smoking in pubs that sold food. When Labour won the next election, they tore up that promise, and imposed a complete ban. So much for manifesto promises.

      I’m all for people debating and voting for these things. It’s called democracy. Unfortunately there seems to be less and less of that around. And it’s that which I find most disturbing.

      • gdf1 says:

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but I lean neither left nor right. I’m solidly libertarian. Which means in practice that I support liberty in all forms. For example, I support minority, women’s and gay “rights” (that is, gays and others should have the same rights as every other person, although I believe that the state has no business supporting or denying marriage – which should be a private consensual arrangement), I support drug legalization and religious freedom, I oppose both welfare and warfare, I oppose bans in general, and I support the right of individuals to own weapons. Most of all, I oppose the growing state encroachment into private life.

        I don’t mean to restart the gun ownership debate, I just wanted to clear up that not all supporters of the 2nd amendment lean “right”. In fact, most (actually all, now that I think about it) of the folks that I know personally, who support gun rights – are libertarians.

        “I’m all for people debating and voting for these things. It’s called democracy”
        Like the old story about 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner… democracy is fine for the trivial things, but you can’t just vote on who gets to have liberty.

      • Junican says:

        Don’t forget that Labour actually introduced the Bill with clauses exempting private clubs and wet-led pubs. The amendment extending the ban to all places was introduced at the last minute, at which point, the Gov made the vote a free vote, knowing full well that there was insufficient opposition in the Commons to stop the Bill being passed.Note that, by acting in that way, the Gov made it impossible for any group (like publicans) to organise opposition.

    • DICK R says:

      One day the indigenous population will need to be armed.

    • smokervoter says:

      Comparing a country of 246,200 square miles and 11 million people (with a $600 per capita GDP) to the United States is flat out ridiculous. You’re obviously a smart man, so you really do know better than to use that tired old chestnut in denigrating the libertarian philosophy. The leftwing control freak, big-government-loving faction of this country is squarely behind not only the micro war on smokers (think Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Henry Waxman, Richard Blumenthal [we almost got rid of him the other day by a train accident] and Barack Obama) but also the macro smokophobic war better known as radical environmentalism, which is crazily seeking a world without fire. Where there’s fire there’s smoke goes the logic.

      However, and this is a big however, I must say that I’m heartened by the fact that you’re a longtime reader of this blog, along with Margo, Marvin and some others who lean to the left. It gives me hope. I remember a time when I would have thought that it would be the leftwing of the political spectrum who would come to the defense of smokers on the grounds of live and let live. Such is not the case. I don’t need any more proof than my own two eyes and ears and a reasonably functional brain connecting them.

      And I’m a lifelong native Californian, the (nowadays) undisputed worldwide capital of loonytune leftwing control freakery. Only the right-leaning counties here are fit to live in anymore if you don’t choose to fit in with the mandatory Standard California Human profile.

      • smokervoter says:

        My comment was in reference to the anarchic Somalia argument advanced up the thread by Mike, who I sometimes disagree with but greatly respect. Over the years he’s been the source of some of the niftiest anti-nanny state news nuggets on this blog!

    • margo says:

      Mikef317, as an English person (and a pacifist) I found yours a very interesting and thought-provoking post. Thanks!

    • beobrigitte says:

      Historically, Americans were stupid enough to vote for alcohol prohibition.

      Historically the Germans were stupid enough to vote for the smoking ban and alcohol prohibition when Hitler was in power.
      Please google Goebbels – my granddad was never very good at distilling Schnaps in his cellar and the tobacco he grew was plain awful to smoke. Nevertheless, in the nights he traded both. And so did many others.

      It isn’t as plain cut like “stupid people voting” – it is a case of propaganda bombarded people voting.

  4. The irony is that the middle class(es) are being destroyed. The reason being that they form a buffer zone between the working class and new benefit-dependent sub-culture and the elite.

    It cannot be allowed in the global Marxist-Leninist state being constructed any more than smoky pubs can be allowed or faith-based institutions and values, or objections to manmade climate change, or any sort of freedom.

    • beobrigitte says:

      The irony is that the middle class(es) are being destroyed. The reason being that they form a buffer zone between the working class and new benefit-dependent sub-culture and the elite.

      I had to think a bit about this before replying; you see, many years ago I made a personal choice that affected my family and put me initially into this “benefit-dependent-subculture”. To this day I am grateful that there was a system in place that would support me to pursue higher education thus providing a possible route out of the benefit system. The conservative party has changed a lot since!!! Then, Labour brought in student loans. AND THE SMOKING BAN. And students who work in sex bars instead of pubs to earn what they EAT because the loan pays just the tuition fee and the rent for the place they live in. I ensured that my daughter did NOT have to do that – I know enough people less fortunate!
      I ended up with 3 degrees and a by now (by myself) paid off mortgage. I have met many members of this “benefit-dependent-subculture

      We have become a SAD society – hands up! Who wants to live 10 years longer in it?

    • margo says:

      Hey, Stewart, I’ve just seen your yesterday’s comment in which you AGREED with something I said. I’ve answered it. I said: yes indeed it makes a change! I agreed with you, too, about having EU and UN on our list.

  5. cherie79 says:

    I am not sure what we used to consider working class still exists. All of what we used to call the respectable working class in good manual jobs live essentially middle class lives; owning their homes, doing the best for their kids and having a good standard of living. I grew up in a solid working class home in Glasgow but now live in a very middle class area in SE England, gradually moving to better houses over 40 years. If you look at how tube drivers are paid, they are working class but far better off than many in middle class jobs. There will always be a demand for skilled tradesmen but I think many middle class jobs are threatened by technology, as indeed are the tube drivers. It is quite confusing now.

    • nisakiman says:

      That reminds me of a letter I read in the Daily Telegraph about fifteen years ago, where a retired solicitor had a plumbing emergency, and called a plumber in to fix it. When the job was done, and the retiree was presented with the bill, he exclaimed “Good Lord! I didn’t earn that kind of money when I was working as a solicitor!”

      To which the plumber replied: “No, nor did I.”

      • margo says:

        Good one, nisakiman. What is a ‘working class’ person? I think (not sure, mind) it’s someone whose work makes a profit for someone else while giving him (the worker) a wage – which may or may not be a ‘living wage’. In other words, it’s anyone who isn’t self-employed, the boss, or living on private wealth. That’s what I think. Other people define it in other ways – by educational standard, maybe, or by profession – but I think my definition is better. And what did the Labour party stand for that it no longer stands for? Don’t know.
        I don’t know where ex-smokers who became Anti-smokers fit in. They are a mystifying crowd. I think they’re just conformists who do as they’re told without asking ‘Why?’ and checking things out for themselves, and presumably they always were. I’m afraid there’s an awful lot of them.

  6. Tony says:

    Off topic but there’s a nice photo of Peter Cushing here:

  7. smokingscot says:

    You’re perfectly correct in saying the smoking ban was enacted in 2006. Labour did that in Scotland on 26 March 2006.

    It was introduced in Wales by a Labour lead coalition 2 April 2007.

    N. Ireland brought up the rear of the regions on 30 April 2007.

    And England got the full monty on 1 July 2007.

    Different dates and staged introduction was a deliberate tactic to ensure we couldn’t all commiserate together.

    Well it did seem terribly clever to them at the time. And Labour got the hoof in Scotland the following year, to give way to SNP (and look set for several more years in opposition, though – as with England – they’re all cut from the same cloth about the ban).

    It took almost three years and a change of PM for those in England to hoof Labour (sadly Scotland didn’t help one iota on that either). And for their troubles we got the coalition with Clegg as the Deputy PM. Oh and the consummate theoretician – Vince Cable.

    You gotta hand it to them; they really screwed up on that one. Big time!!

    • beobrigitte says:

      Different dates and staged introduction was a deliberate tactic to ensure we couldn’t all commiserate together.

      Divide and rule. Worked for Caesar and for tobacco control. There will be ET TU, BRUTE.

  8. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Dave401 > William Morgan • 2 hours ago

    It isn’t really nannyism. There are a lot of people who are more health conscious than the smokers who recent having to endure the stench of cigarettes everywhere they go.

    Stench……………woo that exudes quite the hatred most of the prohibitionists have towards smokers,fatties,vapors,drinkers,gamblers,sugar users etc etc.

    Its truly a shame to see people waste their lives trying to force others to live by their own moral codes and even worse when those moral codes and bigotry are used to create criminal laws just for doing something that was never criminal to begin with……….and don’t throw that junk science second hand smoke trash out any longer its long past that point as nobody believes it any longer……..90% water vapor and ordinairy atmospheric air!

    Guess how many hundreds of the same chemicals that are in tobacco smoke you exhale yourself via VOCs every moment of your miserable hateful lives with each breath!

    Your favorite non-smoking restaurant spews out millions of cigarettes each hour as you pull up going omg doesn’t that smell good……….its all the same thing even cooking in your own home and you criminalized people for that!

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