There’s a stushie going on in Falkirk, and Peter Mandleson’s stepped right into it. Apparently, he’s fed up that Unite the Union is dominating Labour’s parliamentary selections, with all the implications this has for the future Parliamentary Labour Party’s centre of gravity. Meanwhile, Len McCluskey, Unite leader, is justifying his union’s activist stance by saying that Labour needs more working class MPs. My constituency of Falkirk is, for today anyway, in the thick of it. So here are three thoughts.
Social class first. Falkirk already has a ‘working class’ MP. I grew up on a council estate, left school with no qualifications and my first job was as an army private, or squaddie. I’ve never earned as much as my electrician – albeit on the oil rigs – brothers. When I was selected as a parliamentary candidate, though, I was presented by some as the Blairite ‘posh’ boy (because I was by then an army officer – fancy that!) and my higher-paid trade union opponent was the left-wing, working-class lad. That was sectional and personal interest masquerading as ideology. Pure dumb-assery.
I’m obviously not really working class now at all, of course, and neither was my opponent. But, then again, neither are most of the people born working class at the same time as me; nor are our kids. Many trade union members in my constituency voted SNP at the last election. In England, the Tories may actually have won more trade union votes than Labour. The secret to getting those people back, and actually winning an election, will not lie in Labour wearing its ‘working class’ credentials like a cowboy hat. It will lie in showing regular, aspirational, folk how Labour serves their own, and their families’, personal interests more than the Tories or SNP do.
Finally. I noticed the moralistic line the Scottish Labour Party (but not, interestingly, their opponents) took re: my fighting in a pub antics last year. A ‘sine die’ ban, they argued, without even bothering to wait for the technicality of a court verdict. Perhaps I am too working class for them after all. But then there isn’t actually such a thing as the Scottish Labour Party, is there? So perhaps it’s time I asked the bigger boys and girls if I’ve done my porridge now.