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The Independent Online
AN EXCERPT from the statement on the working class and the Labour party which was issued by Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union:

"When the AEEU revealed its intention to help more ordinary working people into Parliament, it touched a raw nerve. Westminster has fewer people from the factory floor than ever before. And we know that it's wrong. Parliament does not reflect the people it serves.

The unions founded the Labour Party to give working people a political voice. [But] Labour has changed, with just 13 per cent of our MPs from skilled manual backgrounds. Barristers, academics and doctors have taken their place. Parliament is fast becoming the preserve of the professional.

Times have changed and class distinctions have blurred. Manufacturing has shrunk, heavy industry has lost some of its weight. And more women work now than half a century ago.

But the interests and pressures have not. Ordinary working people work hard for a living - because they have no choice. They cannot afford the luxury of taking leave to pursue a political career. [But] when Parliament debates pressures at work, ordinary working people know what it means.

Some may accuse us of living in the past, that times have changed, and we're all middle-class now. They are wrong. Working people may never dominate Parliament as they did in the past. But the AEEU will make sure they have every chance to level the playing field."