Labour launches search for working-class voices


Are there too many middle-class politicians? Or, to put it another way, are there too few politicians from working-class backgrounds?

A senior Labour MP says there aren't enough working-class people in Parliament - or the National Assembly for Wales.

Jon Trickett, who has been asked by Ed Miliband to find more Labour candidates from working class backgrounds, says it's a problem at every level of society, from magistrates to MEPs.

The shadow cabinet office minister is running Labour's "future candidates programme" which is designed to increase the diversity of candidates.

Mr Trickett told The Westminster Hour on Radio 4 that the traditional routes into politics had changed in a country where more people work in call centres than in mines.

He said: "We've got to convince people that if a democracy is to truly function then people like us can become members of parliament." He said Labour were looking for people from all kinds of different, diverse backgrounds - "not the usual kind of suspects who come from a political professional background".

Labour, he said, would offer potential candidates "a huge amount of support" with training and mentoring to overcome financial and cultural barriers.

"He {Ed Miliband} thinks there is a breakdown between the closed circles which run British society and the broad mass of people and one of the ways of opening this up is to change the way parliament works.

"I'm not simply speaking about the House of Commons here because every level of our society the same problem exists, whether it's for councillors, members of the magistrates' bench, school governors, MEPs , members of the Welsh assembly.

"Wherever you have authoritative voices speaking on behalf of 'the establishment' you will have the same problem and so I want to, not put a stick of dynamite under that, but certainly over a period of time see change happen."

He said change would be incremental and Labour's selection process, as parliamentary seats become available, would be monitored.

It's not clear how you define working-class. The former Plaid Cymru MP, Adam Price, has described Leanne Wood as "the only working-class leader of a major party in Britain today" but is someone who's been a well-paid professional politican for almost a decade really be described as working class?

There does seem to be a cross-party consensus, at least at Westminster, that there are too many professional politicians who have never worked outside politics, a career path that has tended to exclude those who don't come from middle-class backgrounds.

Update: A Welsh Labour spokesperson said: "Welsh Labour will always work to ensure that candidates are representative of society and the communities in which they seek election. The vanguard of female representation in the Welsh assembly, Welsh Labour has long played a leading role in ensuring fairness and equality through our selection process and we will continue to do so."

David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    #17 ' To close to home am I. Not Politicians are you.'

    What about some question marks ??
    When i first read this, I thought you were doing a Grand Master Yoda impersonation. "Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does."
    ―Grand Master Yoda, to Obi-Wan Kenob

    Best wishes from The Pedant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Natty way of changing the subject Boys Bach. To close to home am I. Not Politicians are you. Though I did say Politicians inclusive. When you don't want a subject to carry on because it is the truth. Then call on the 'Nats' to get you out of it. They are good for something see. You must be really scared of them. That is just what Politicians do isn't it and look you in the eye at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Politics is full of people who have been educated beyond their intelligence - class has very little to do with it except when money buys such an 'education'.

    "Since I got a little bit of political awareness... " Many of these working class political anoraks are every bit as dangerous as an out of touch toff...

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Of course, the fun-time for any Nats party will be if they are elected, even if the economics make sense. One could see the Litle England UKIP party as sub-Mosely with a Nigel Youth Organisation in Puce Shirts. But would PC go with LW as the La Pasionara of an Agrarian People's Republic? Or more as a Welsh Leni Riefenstahl in the Saunders Lewis mode ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    ... but the training has been to no-avail Crossroads, you can seem to shift a politician from the Left, but its impossible to take Lenin out of that particular Plaid politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Alfsplace1986 (11)

    Quote..."Perhaps 'Working Class' people find it difficult being told to tell lies all the time. When have we known a politician to be honest. They even have training in it"

    You mean like Adam Price training Leanne Wood over the past few months?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    As with boy-racers, child molesters, gone off milk, and haemorrhoids, I have no time at all for politicians of any party

    The UK is now on an extremely slippery slope leading to a huge cesspit occupied by politicians and the devil in his speedboat

    All politicians (working class or not) should have to spend every January 6th, tightly locked in public stocks

    (Piles of gone off food about then !)

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Perhaps 'Working Class' people find it difficult being told to tell lies all the time. When have we known a Politician to be honest.They even have training in it. How to be deceitful and look people straight in the eye. Must be a Toffs thing. Because if you have integrity you will be cast out into the widerness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I've always assumed that most neo socialists today in the Labour party are one step away from Mummy & Daddies purse strings, privately educated who've never done a hard days graft in their lives. This is nothing new as Tony Blair once stated that he admired Margret Thatcher, Sucked up to G W Bush and how Labour's out stripped the National Socialist party & Tories for their right wing policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    ... I read your "Any articulate, politically-motivated ..." and realised that in fact you had identified the prejudices that prevent a better representation of the electorate in political circles.

    Why do our representatives need to be perfect in their delivery (articulate), and why should they be politically motivated ?

    Why not the neighbour motivated by justice who has a speech impediment ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Who was it who siad 'We are all middle-class now' ??

    Any articulate, politically-motivated member of the working class will be picked of or become upwardly mobile. Any poacher who successfully organises a branch of the Poachers Union will be asked to become a Gamekeeper/manager. Look at the NHS: union reps move to Hr management. There are no miners to become working-class MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    For this to have any credibility for Labour they are going to have to practice what they preach. They can start by not 'parachuting in' favoured candidates to safe Labour seats. Strong local candidates with community ties have been pushed aside for some Central Office favorite. There are examples of this sort of nonsense all over the place. Plebs list anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    ... the world has indeed changed, or has it ?

    Still the professional politician has the boot on the neck of the majority, nothing has changed in 2000 years, just the labels to describe the wearer of the boot, prince or politician nothing changes ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The world changed, my dad left school at 14: I got a PhD. Was I brighter than my Dad??
    I had an uncle who became a postman at 14. Come WW2, he was trained as a navigator and got a prize as top of his entry. Astro-navigation requires serious maths. He had the ability; just never had the opportunities.
    So, as to why: there are fewer working-class jobs and much better educational opportunities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    ... but there are a multitude of professional politicians and processes that exclude people from politics.

    Education, or lack of, being the single most effective method of excluding those at the bottom of the social pile from contributing, all political parties share much of the blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    i think most politicians are out of touch with the problems people face on a day to day basis. Alot of them have come from priveleged backgrounds or have lost sight of their origins. Big question is how do we encourage a more representative cross section of society to become involved in politics? Starting point must be to encourage schools to put more emphasis on discussion about politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Before WWII, working class kids left school as early as possible, at 14, and got a job. If bright they worked their way up industry, often through trade union posts, and - if charismatic, got nominated as an MP. There were, for example, many NUM-sponsored MPs.
    Now, with child allowances etc, most bright kids go to Uni and get office jobs. There are no miners, no shipbuilders, no metal-bashers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I think "... that there are too many professional politicians " is stating the obvious, but I wonder, has it ever been different ?

    ... when Jon Trickett says the lack of the little people directly participating in society, the decision making part, he forgets the processes that prevent participation.



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