RADICAL changes in image, policies and organisation are needed if Labour is to garner the support of wavering middle-income voters in the south of England and win the next election, according to research published today by the moderate Fabian Society.
Giles Radice, Labour MP for Durham North and author of Southern Discomfort, a pamphlet based on a study of the crucial so- called C1 and C2s (white collar and skilled manual groups), said the findings called for a 'new Labour Party' that would appeal to these 'aspiring' voters who do not consider themselves to be working class.
It should abandon the traditional aim of 'equality of outcome' and re-write the 'socialist' clause IV of the party constitution. 'It must be the party of the individual citizen, which not only bases its own decisions on one member, one vote but speaks up for the individual against all vested interests,' Mr Radice said.
Key swing voters in five south- east marginals saw Labour as untrustworthy, likely to 'clobber' them and their families and 'against people getting on'.
All the interviewees, men and women aged 25 to 50 with children in marginal Slough, Stevenage, Gravesham, Luton South and Harlow, had considered voting Labour on 9 April but ended up voting Conservative.
Respondents feared the loss of their homes under the Tories, who were seen as the party 'for the rich' and of unemployment, but associated Labour with Neil Kinnock, trade unions/strikes, high taxes, extremism and an inability to manage the economy.
They feared or misunderstood Labour's tax plans, while political values like 'equality' were derided or criticised as hypocritical or unworkable. The Conservatives, by contrast, had a monopoly on the notion of 'opportunity', which, as one respondent put it, 'suggests to me that you are going to strive for it. It's a Tory word. Equality is I can sit back and have it on a plate'.
Mr Radice, a member of the Commons Treasury select committee, said opportunity for all and fairness rather than the 'unachievable' equality of outcome should become Labour's aim.
The booklet says: 'Tax thresholds which appear generous in the North seem far more threatening in the South-east.' The main objection among respondents to Labour wealth 'redistribution' was that they themselves would be classed as rich.
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