Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Labour hasn’t a clue what working-class means any more


Today two TCW writers give their views on the proposal being put at the Labour party conference to extend the vote to foreigners living in the UK. You can read Paul T Horgan here.

THE Labour Party’s Brexit ‘policy’ (using the word in its widest possible sense) continues to defy analysis. Now they are contemplating extending the vote to anyone resident in the UK, which would of course include EU nationals and immigrants. This is being included in a motion that also seeks to extend free movement (regardless of Brexit) as:

‘Labour must be the champion of migrants’ rights in British politics. We must not allow working-class people to be divided on the basis of where they are from.

‘But speaking out on behalf of migrants is not enough. As representatives and activists of the labour movement, we understand that people only ever win justice and beat prejudice when they have a voice of their own. At minimum, this means having the right to vote.’

At the moment this is a motion at a party conference, so it has some way to go before it becomes a manifesto commitment. It could become law only if Labour won a General Election. As Jezza the Red turned down the opportunity to have one when offered it earlier this month, that may not happen any time soon. It is also far from certain that Labour would win, as the terrorist-loving Marxist is currently less popular than Michael Foot was. 

But this idea is symptomatic of the febrile environment that the Lib Dem, Tory and Labour political class exist in. It’s particularly tough for those left of centre (which is pretty much everyone in the House of Commons other than the ERG and the DUP) because most of the electorate are well aware that socialism and the big state do not work. The current Brexit farce surely demonstrates that either the system is broken or that the occupants of Westminster are self-indulgent fools.

In a nation where 48 per cent of private sector employment is in companies with fewer than 50 employees, and where unemployment is just 3.8 per cent (the lowest since 1974), the power lies with the employee, not the employer, as the employee had the ability to withdraw his or her labour and work somewhere else on better terms. This is a far better protection of workers’ rights than legislation. It’s also more immediate and far cheaper. In spite of Brexit (and the lack of a vote in UK general elections) there are now 98,000 more EU nationals working in the UK than last year.

While the doyens of socialism in the political system continue to trumpet about class war and the working class (or proletariat, as Marx would call them), in the real world everyone goes to work, be it in a castle, a bank or a white van (so offensive to the refined tastes of Emily Thornberry). As with so much of current political rhetoric, the concept of ‘working-class’ is long out of date. Fifteen per cent of the workforce are self-employed.

In the 1970s the Labour Party produced an employment policy called ‘In Place of Strife’ which led directly to the Winter of Discontent, the election of Mrs Thatcher and the liberation of the UK’s economy. Adopting this unilateral expansion of the electoral franchise may well chime with the mood music in Westminster, but it is surely a symptom of a tired and passé political party thrashing about seeking to find someone to vote for its failed philosophy. In the real world it is just one more reason not to vote Labour.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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