Left-leaning patriots unite! Let's get straight about Ukip

Ed Miliband should turn his back on Ukip voters and pitch Labour as the true party of decent working-class people
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The Independent Online

The results of our latest Independent on Sunday readership survey are in, and they show, interestingly, that our readers are patriotic, left-leaning and worry about poverty and social inequality. What a decent bunch of people you sound – which gives me the confidence to say what follows.

A Labour MP resigned on Thursday, having been accused of "sneering" at the working poor. Emily Thornberry was criticised for tweeting a photo of a house draped in England flags which she captioned, simply, "image from Rochester". Rochester was, at the time, counting its votes for Mark Reckless (educated at Marlborough), an MP who recently joined Ukip (headed by a Dulwich College-turned-City boy). Spinning this council-house-raised girl, trade unionist and human rights lawyer as the "metropolitan elite", and Farage as a working-class hero, is a stroke of genius by the right-wing press.

Like Thornberry, I live in London, though I grew up in Yorkshire, Merseyside, Plymouth and Derby, and have lived in Lewisham and Richmond as an adult. Unlike her, I have seen houses covered in St George's flags before, and I don't associate them with poor, working-class neighbourhoods but with the kinds of streets that immigrants and people with brown skin fear to walk down.

Just like IoS readers, I am patriotic. I'm sure that the owner of the Rochester house, who says he bought the flags for the World Cup in June, is too. I believe in English people's right to fly our flag with pride but I know that it is more often appropriated by xenophobes and bigots. So let's just say that in a Venn diagram showing flag-flying Ukip voters in one circle and "a little bit racist" in another, there's quite an overlap. For any politician visiting an area where a by-election hangs on attitudes to immigration, this is all relevant.

Meanwhile, those who profit from turning this into "champagne socialists in class war" are the very politicians and media who have made a mint out of demonising the working poor. We left-leaning patriots know, however, that social inequality will not be fixed by blaming it all on immigrants and hiding behind a flag.

Instead of letting Thornberry resign and pandering, again, to right-wingers, Ed Miliband should turn his back on Ukip voters and pitch Labour as the true party of decent working-class people. If he can't manage that, Ukip wins – and not just in Rochester.

Ladybird does the right thing

Last week brought another victory for the @LetToysBeToys group, as the much-loved children's publisher Ladybird Books promised to stop selling books "for boys" or "for girls". As the literary editor of this newspaper, which joined the campaign in March, I couldn't be prouder.

"At Ladybird, we certainly don't want to be seen to be limiting children in any way," the publisher said. "Children's publishing should always aim to open up new worlds for children. But telling children which stories and activities are 'for them' based on their gender closes down whole worlds of interest."

I couldn't have said it better myself. And, better yet, there's still time for all the other children's publishers to come and join the party in time for Christmas…

We all need ethical codes

The good news, according to scientists, is that bankers are no more dishonest than anyone else. The bad news is that being bankers turns them into liars.

The study by the University of Zurich showed that, when performing a task to win money, bankers were more dishonest after they had been reminded that they were bankers by being asked questions about their jobs. The same behaviour was not detected among other professionals.

The professors suggest introducing a sort of Hippocratic oath for bankers, reinforced by "a training programme in ethics and appropriate financial incentives". In journalism, there is still an editors' code, and all professions should have a code of ethics. But this should be backed up by taking workplace bullying more seriously. Once an employee knows where to draw an ethical line, nobody should be able to push her over it.

Back-to-the-future BBC

At first, I thought that I was missing the civilising influence of Evan Davis on the Today programme, when I took umbrage at Justin Webb saying in all seriousness that finding sexism unacceptable is "a kind of cultural imperialism". Then I noticed that the BBC Radio Norfolk host Nick Conrad had been allowed to explain on air, at some length, why rape is mostly women's fault. Offending both men and women, he said, among other things: "It's the old adage about if you yank a dog's tail then don't be surprised when it bites you." So when BBC News's Daniel Sandford told his audience on Wednesday that Julien Blanc had been banned from Britain "for teaching questionable chat-up techniques" (actually assault), I had to wonder: is it Back to the Fifties month at the BBC? And why did only male presenters get the memo?

Fat and warm

Six in 10 women (and a third of men) "let themselves go" in winter, says a poll by LA Fitness, which recommends sticking to an exercise routine to avoid piling on the pounds. No thanks. In the northern hemisphere it goes dark early and we have only potatoes to eat, so we're supposed to lay on fat to keep us warm. Winter is no time for a bikini diet.


Ellen E Jones is away