Snob-berry is Moment of Truth for Labour
In one poorly judged moment, it captured all you need to know about the metropolitan Labour leadership and it points to a very difficult future for the party outside London.
Put simply, the struggle Labour faces is between the reality – a parliamentary party of metropolitan mercenaries who were stolen from their mothers in infancy, breastfed policy papers by think-tanks and have never set foot outside SW1 since; and the fantasy they portray for the benefit of their union paymasters – the party of ‘working people’ so enriched with the salt of the earth that you could cure a full side of Prescott Prize Pork with every manifesto.
This is not a new contradiction. Lovie Labour in London has worn the disguise of the ordinary man more successfully in the past. Limited alternatives and Blair’s charisma kept the safe-seat circus on the road. Witness home-counties hero Peter ‘comfortable-about-people-getting-filthy-rich’ Mandelson, parachuted into Hartlepool with a 22,000 majority as one of the finest examples of taking voters for granted imaginable.
The Tories have been equally guilty of dropping favoured wonks into unfamilar territory. The difference is that with their selections the Conservatives are very rarely trying to integrate a completely alien species. Tory carpet-baggers usually share the same background, class or values as the electorate they seek to represent. Labour have rarely seen such a convenient combination as relevant. But they managed to get away with it.
Now with the super-geek, arch-insider (and MP for Doncaster, naturally) Ed Milipede at the helm and with UKIP, SNP, Greens and (yes) Lib Dems presenting alternatives, what the papers call ‘traditional Labour voters’ (for which read people struggling to make ends meet who were not well served by Thatcher) have had enough of the act.
Enter stage left Emily Thornberry, carrying modern day Labour’s hammer and sickle – the smartphone and take-away coffee – arriving at the provincial by-election campaign (wearing ebola style infection prevention suit) ready to launch her tweets of social justice.
What she found in this foreign land, far from the pavement cafes and independent book-sellers of Islington was so shocking that she did not have time for lucid prose. Here, before her very eyes, was the home of one of those oiks that tear along Upper Street with no regard for the consumers of al fresco lentil and goji berry macchiattos. “Forget the cost-of-living crisis, this discovery must be reported back to the capital”, she must have thought as she delivered her pricelessly concise reportage.
And with that the mask slipped, perhaps for good. Milipede’s reaction only worsened the situation. His words of ‘respect’ for the victim of Thornberry’s condescension were pathetic. I found myself thinking: Come on, Ed you don’t respect these people at all do you? Thornberry has given you the chance to confess – cut the crap, why not get it out, get it all out? Burst into a frenzy and just say it loud and proud – “Me and my mates just don’t like nationalistic provincial poor people”. It will make you feel so much better and maybe people will start taking you seriously.
Labour has ridden its dual horses for far too long. After bigot-gate in Rochdale I was surprised that so many ‘traditional voters’ turned out for Gordon Brown. But now UKIP and the SNP have slapped Labour’s core vote pony right on the arse and it has bolted for the stable door. What a surprise to find Emily Thornberry holding it open (while slurping a kale smoothie and tweeting poetically on her smartphone). The question is, will it come back by next May?