Is Labour panicking over Ukip? Fears growing that Nigel Farage's party could eat into the white working class vote, admits Peter Hain

 

Political Editor

Labour has been warned that it risks underestimating the threat posed by the UK Independence Party because Nigel Farage’s party is appealing to Labour’s traditional working class base.

Peter Hain, the former Cabinet minister and a close ally of Ed Miliband, said that Labour is seen by many people as part of the “political class” and should not assume that Ukip will take votes only from the Conservatives.

He told The Independent: “Ukip is hoovering up the anti-politics vote. It goes beyond Europe and even beyond immigration. Some of it is plain bigotry. A lot of it is deep, deep antagonism to the political class, of which all the major parties are part. Under New Labour – and it has still not been wiped away - there has been a big disillusionment with us as a party among white working class traditional Labour supporters.”

Mr Hain, MP for Neath, said: “Under New Labour it took the form of people thinking the  party is not speaking up for their concerns on the lack of housing; the relentless decline of traditional male working class jobs in heavy industry. In areas where the Labour core vote is strong – the North, Scotland, Wales – we still have to win back that constituency.”

The former Work and Pensions Secretary is voicing in public what a growing number of Labour MPs are now saying in private. He said: “We are in a four-party fight. Anyone who does not understand that is living on another planet. I don’t think anybody in the Westminster bubble should underestimate the depth of that disaffection against all of us, of whatever party. The MPs’ expenses scandal was toxic and there is a sense that for a number of years, the major political parties are not speaking up for the ordinary person.”

Mr Hain believed Ukip’s main threat at next year’s general election will be to the Tories, but warned that Mr Farage’s party could harm Labour more in local elections this May, on the same day as European elections. “In the mid-term, it is a threat to Labour as well - unless we address it through a strong presence in communities for a long period,” he said. “There is a danger… when the media and political focus will be on Europe rather than who should run council services.”

Mr Hain said the model for taking on Ukip should be the “pavement politics” in local communities that Margaret Hodge, the senior Labour MP who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, deployed to see off a threat from Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, in her Barking constituency at the 2010 general election. “The answer is not to tack to Ukip’s anti-Europe, anti-immigrant , anti-almost everything agenda but to rebuild trust among our grassroots base and have clear and radical policies on housing, jobs, investment, growth, opportunities and give disillusioned people hope,” he said.

There could be a close fight between Labour and Ukip to come top in the Euro elections. First place would give Ed Miliband crucial momentum a year before the general election. But Ukip is tipped to win by many commentators because of its hardline stance on Europe.

Ukip is targeting second place in next week’s parliamentary by-election Manchester and Sale East, a safe Labour seat. A poll funded by Lord Ashcroft, the Tories’ former deputy chairman, published yesterday, put Labour on 61 per cent in the constituency, with Ukip second on 15 per cent, the Conservatives on 14 per cent  and the Liberal Democrats fourth on five per cent.

Lord Ashcroft said his polling in the 40 most marginal Conservative-held seats showed that Tory “defectors” and Ukip voters are not the same people.

Mr Farage has repeatedly claimed that Ukip is appealing to people who previously supported “all parties and none”. The party claims it is “becoming the official opposition to Labour in parts of the Midlands and North” as well as a real opposition to  the Tories in many parts of the South.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before