Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2486

Does the left only represent a ‘north London clique’?

This article is over 6 years, 4 months old
Nick Clark takes issue with Labour right wingers’ simplistic and patronising view of what it means to be working class
Issue 2486
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Pic: Guy Smallman)

If you listen to his critics, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is causing his party to become isolated from its working class supporters.

They say that Corbyn’s opposition to austerity and war means he is out of touch with ordinary people. His enemies in the Labour Party attacked him along these lines during the shadow cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

A number of Labour MPs came out in support of right wing MP Michael Dugher after Corbyn sacked him. Deputy leader Tom Watson praised him as a “talented working class MP”.

Dugher’s main claim to represent the working class is that he comes from Yorkshire.

Corbyn also appointed Islington MP Emily Thornberry as shadow defence secretary.

She was accused of snobbery in 2014 after tweeting a picture of a house flying St George’s flags.

For commentators, Thornberry’s appointment is proof that Labour under Corbyn only represents a “north London clique”.

MP Graham Jones even suggested Dugher’s sacking and Thornberry’s appointment showed how “traditional working class Labour is dying”.

But people like Jones and Dugher have a simplistic and patronising view of working class people.

They think that most favour austerity and war, and are a bit racist. And they want other working class people to believe this is true.

The truth is more complex. A minority of people hold entirely right wing ideas while another minority is against right wing politics and want rid of capitalism.

But most working class people are somewhere in the middle. Many do want improvements in their living standards and a fairer society.


But they believe the best way of achieving this is by electing people to make small changes within the existing system.

This means there is a vast range of ideas and opinions in the working class that often contradict each other and can change rapidly.

But it doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as working class interests. One thing workers all have in common is their exploitation by a ruling class at the top of society.

Bosses profit from the work we do in the good times—and we’re made to pay for their crises in the bad.

Representing workers politically, whether in a London borough or a Yorkshire town, means organising to challenge this.

The Labour Party has a very different idea of what it means to represent workers.

It tries to appeal to both left and right wing views in order to win elections. And it seeks to do this by lumping the interests of bosses and workers together.

That’s why the Labour Party can end up as divided as it is now.

It involves people like Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to represent the aspirations of everyone who is opposed to war, austerity and racism.

It also has plenty of MPs under the illusion of a shared “national interest” between bosses and workers, so want to represent right wing views.

Far from being isolated from the working class, Corbyn’s leadership can help to strengthen workers’ resistance to the Tories.

Compromising with MPs like Dugher can only hold this back—which is why Corbyn was right to get rid of him.

But ultimately only organising to build workers’ own dynamic struggles can get real advances for the working class.

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