PROPOSITIONS Blair: a man for all classes

New Labour is for estates and leafy avenues alike, says Peter Mandelson

Share
Related Topics
Tony Blair was putting more flesh on the bones of Labour's new Clause IV yesterday, talking about family values to an audience of mainly professional women: the readers of She magazine.

Doubtless there will be those who take this as further evidence of Labour's drive to take its message upmarket. But this is to miss the point.

The long-suffering residents of the Dyke House estate whom I met in my constituency on Sunday were in no doubt who Tony Blair is speaking for. New Labour's advocacy of duty, civic responsibility and the need to nurture family life addresses my constituents directly.

Yet these are not middle-class or even middle income earners. They feel beleaguered by a combination of lawless young bullies assailing and defacing the neighbourhood, parents who don't care or who have given up, police who are hopelessly stretched, and a government that promises much but delivers little.

These residents are not untypical of working-class communities; indeed, we are probably better off in Hartlepool than most. But the idea that Mr Blair's message of duty and respect for one another, and of civic responsibility, is only of interest to middle-class people is patronising nonsense.

Indeed, the main reason for Labour's exclusion from power in the Eighties was the loss of working-class, not middle-class, support. The central drive to modernise the Labour Party has come from the need to regain the support of both groups.

In Labour's heyday, working-class support ran at about 70 per cent. By 1983, when the party was at its most extreme and unworldly, this figure had fallen to 42 per cent. In 1987, Neil Kinnock arrested this slide, gaining 45 per cent of working-class support; by 1992, Labour was back up to 51 per cent.

By comparison, the movement in middle-class support was much smaller over the same period. Today, the polls show a remarkable recovery in both middle and working-class support.

Middle-class voters have come to New Labour not at the expense of working- class voters but because we are consciously speaking up for the majority: the people's party is back.

Those who argue, therefore, that Mr Blair's recent speeches mean that he has "given up on the working class", as Arthur Scargill said in a debate with me the other day, have entirely missed the point.

Both groups want secure employment, high-quality, reliable public services, streets free from crime, and a sense of fairness brought back to government and society.

Of course definitions of class are difficult, because society is far more complex than it once was. Many working-class people see themselves as middle class, and certainly aspire to be so. Many middle-class people are now experiencing the same sort of insecurity and unhappiness that used to be the preserve of working-class people. But this only shows how right we are to make Labour's appeal not on the basis of class but on Labour's values, and on our programme of national renewal.

The mistake made by many political commentators is to assume that talk of responsibilities and duty, of a strong civic society backing up the individual and prudence in economic policy, are food only for chattering folk. Mr Blair's message of economic modernisation, social justice and strong communities appeals equally to the residents of Dyke House, Acacia Avenue and The Willows. The only irony that New Labour's critics might point out with any force is how much this message harks back to the party's traditional roots and historic success.

The writer is Labour MP for Hartlepool.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor