In the heartlands, Europe is the problem, not New Labour
Wednesday 23 June 1999
Breweries and the Royal Ordnance factory employed much of the workforce here 15 years ago. Now it's the council and several hypermarkets. The old-style working man has gone and (judging by the European elections) so has theLabour vote - even though Jack Straw is the MP. The Euro turn- out was an embarrassing 17.18 per cent and the swing from Labour to Conservative 14.1 per cent.
"We are no longer a part of Millbank's kind of politics, even though Tony Blair is a North MP," said John Arnold, tucking into a jacket potato in The Brewery Tap, yesterday. "They didn't come out to talk to us about the elections so everyone still thinks Europe's a joke about the size of bananas."
The town's former MP, Baroness Castle, 88, would agree. "We have watched New Labour jettison the achievements of past years as ideological baggage which must be dumped in the name of modernisation," she said recently.
Even Phil Riley, secretary of Blackburn's constituency Labour Party struggles to resist the suggestion that Millbank is remote now. "I suspect the answer to that is slightly yes," he said. It was delicate phraseology considering Mr Blair, in documents obtained by The Independent, had said some constituency parties are akin to Trotter's Independent Traders from the BBC's Only Fools and Horses.
Since even Mr Riley struggled to get his party activists interested in the European elections, it would be wrong to depict the low Blackburn turn-out as the working classes deserting Blair. It's simply disinterest in Europe.
Neither are Blackburn's Labour activists flat-cap socialist-union members who feel philosophically betrayed - the decline of the industrial base put paid to all that. While the "old Labour" brigade number just six out of 100 in the local party, there are many white collar professionals and a relatively high ethnic presence - all reflective of the town's make- up. Of the "Del Boy Trotter" tag, Mr Riley mused: "We recruit who we recruit."
But even the modernists feel marginalised. Some, it seems, don't recognise the value of Government policies because of its habit of "acting left and talking right". "There have been two good, redistributive budgets but when things are being presented by stealth, the message tends not to come across," said Mr Riley.
In Millbank's defence, he concedes that after 18 years out of power too many constituency parties have become unreasonably "oppositionist". They expect to see their MP often and feel frustrated to find him too busy running the country.
But in the Brewery Tap, that is little comfort to John Arnold. "They talk about the Labour `brand'," he says. "They need to talk a Labour language again."
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake: How you can help victims of the Kathmandu disaster
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: The photo of a tree that proves the Tories have an image problem
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...