Party stalwarts concerned over drift from socialism: Merseyside activists fear that moves to widen Labour's political appeal could alienate working class supporters

Ken Murphy is a senior shop steward at Vauxhall Motors and has been in the party 10 years 'on and off'. He said: 'The party's adrift, a bit like a slow moving avalanche. You don't notice it until you're trapped.

'It's the attitude of John Smith's new Labour Party that firms like Vauxhall will take us into the next century with automatic production. What they won't address is the fact that making plants more efficient puts more people on the dole with fewer workers doing more work.

'The party's lost its nerve because it made a conscious decision to do certain things to make itself electable. I think they've made a massive mistake. There's got to be a more dynamic approach but I don't think this leadership is capable of it. They've turned the party into a job club and that concerns me deeply. John Smith's made no impression on me whatsoever. I neither like nor dislike him. He's just not the right person.

'We worked hard for 12 years in Wallasey and turned a 20,000 Tory majority into a Labour victory. I just can't understand why the party hasn't been knocking on our doors saying 'How the hell did you do it?'

'What's actually happened here is that people are frightened of being branded a left-winger. As soon as you put your head over the parapet someone in Walworth Road is going to swipe it off.

'Peter Mandelson (creator of the red rose image for the Labour Party, now MP for Hartlepool) thought to get away from the red flag and anything that looked socialist, but I thought his approach was totally wrong. The party doesn't belong to him; it belongs to all of us and that's what this leadership can't understand. They've totally accepted they can win elections with American-style circuses like that rally in Sheffield . . . but they're not going to do it like that. Even long-standing Kinnock supporters were horrified by Sheffield.'

Edward Byrne, a Merchant Navy officer, who has been in the party for 30 years, said: 'I'm not as active in the party as I used to be. It does seem to have changed. It's not as far to the left as it was, shall we say . . . It may well have gone from one extreme to the other.

'I think at the end of the day, the party's got to care more about its grass roots. I can see why they aren't interested in the working class and trying to concentrate more on the middle class. But if the leadership were to distance themselves too far, there could be the formation of another left-wing party. It's my gut feeling about it. An inevitable result.'

Paul Davies is Wirral party chairman and regional organiser of the Transport and General Workers' Union. A long, bitter local campaign to select him as Birkenhead MP in place of Frank Field still rumbles on.

He said: 'There's no problem with middle-class people in the party so far as I'm concerned. There's nothing wrong with a more professional approach. Some of the glitzy show business stuff during the election was not very appealing, but OK . . .

'It's all become so abstract. I'm not sure there's a plan to what they're doing. It's got out of control.

'People are asked to take pay cuts in NHS Trust hospitals and they turn on the telly and it's some peculiar argument about Maastricht that the leadership's worried about. At the moment, the Labour Party's irrelevant to the work I'm doing. I look at the Wirral and all its problems and wonder why the party never seemed to ask why people joined Militant or what was this vacuum.

'Thinking about it, it's quite extraordinary but I've never heard a comment, good or bad, passed about John Smith . . . What I have heard is the general view of Labour politicians as the middle-class people in suits who don't seem to have any relationship with the people I tend to deal with on a day-to-day basis - the low paid and unemployed. They're so busy appealing to the middle class, which they've got to do to some extent, they've taken for granted the traditional supporter and that's a very, very big mistake.'

Jack Gersham, 78, a retired official with Usdaw, the shop workers' union, joined the party 54 years ago. He said: 'The party's gone off the rails because there's been this effort to wean to our fold the middle-class element. I don't think it's worked because principles are principles and if you stick by them ultimately people will appreciate what you're after and what we're after is a socialist Britain.

'I think Mr Smith is a very highly intelligent person who certainly believes in what he's saying. He doesn't appear to be making the grade, if one can put it so crudely. The problem, which has existed in the party a long time, is when you have people at the top from the intelligentsia, like the present leader. It's not the easiest job for them to put over philosophies which, historically, are bound up with working-class aspirations.

'Kinnock was a very fine leader at his best who unfortunately assuaged his natural views to suit what he believed was a winning ticket, which didn't prove popular. I think people like Peter Mandelson precluded us from winning the last election and may well do so in the next one if they carry on the way they have been. They should go back to the '45 style, go forward and don't be afraid to say what you stand for.'

Pat Moylan, 45, a hospital domestic and local union leader for cleaners, said: 'I've always lived in the dock area of Birkenhead so the whole family's never voted anything alse but Labour. I'd vote Labour the rest of my life and that's purely out of principle. I think the party's lost its roots. Young kids are getting ripped off something terrible but all they're worried about is their middle-class votes. My son's on pounds 2.50 an hour, eight-and-a-half hours a day on a temporary contract, cleaning. So he gets no holiday pay and they can sack him when they want. I'm frightened for my members' jobs. A lot of the women I represent are one-parent families, or they're the only ones working in the house.

'I live on a housing estate where it's the survival of the fittest and people work on the side, under false names and the people who own the cleaning companies are getting fat, ripping them off because they can't put their cards in with false names.

'Labour ought to be in there, fighting and stamping their feet about it and shouting, but they're not. John Smith? The man's got nothing. Like John Major, he's just bland. They all talk about housing estates but none of them live on them.

'I wouldn't like to see another Labour Party, but people can see into the future and some will think there's got to be a break away. It would be a terrible thing if the party disappeared because the working class are getting crucified now and it would be even worse without them.

'I think, sometimes, if only we had a strong leader because that's everything isn't it? Can I think of anyone? No, I can't . . . Me]'

(Photograph omitted)

News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone