Disaffected Labour voters will use the referendum to vent their frustrations

by Kevin Meagher

Forget Farage and Cameron. The most telling interview about the EU referendum came on yesterday morning’s Today programme on Radio Four.

A former steel worker from Redcar, Mike Gilbert, was describing his life following the closure of the steel works last year. After 31 years in steel, in decently paid work, he was reduced to taking a job as a driver on little more than the minimum wage.

In all, 2,200 jobs had gone and like many of his former workmates, Mike was struggling. He and his family had had to economise. Even though he was now working, they had moved to a smaller house and by his own estimation, he had lost around £1000 a month in wages. Others were in the same boat.

He rattled off a laundry list of local industries that had been lost since Britain joined the EEC in 1973. Fishing. Agriculture. Ship-building. Mining. Steel.

His conclusion? He was voting to leave the EU.

Hang on a minute, the Remainers will say, ‘Europe hasn’t closed down our steel industry!’ No, but state aid restrictions mean the government couldn’t do much to save it. And despite its role in leading trade negotiations, the EU has not stopped China dumping excess steel on world markets.

Michael Heseltine came on the programme next to talk about the work he is doing helping to revive the Teeside economy. His efforts, as they have been in many other areas, are worthy and well-intentioned.

But the basic mistake that Hezza – and most New Labour politicians to be fair – is that they assume a job is a job is a job.

Only it isn’t.

Employment in retail, tourism and the like is usually much less lucrative, less secure and lower status than the jobs that are lost in industry and manufacturing.

Never mind the dislocating experience of losing workmates and everyday routine. So just because some of the Redcar workers have found their way back into the labour market it doesn’t mean they are in roles where you can afford a mortgage and to bring up a family.

Steelworkers at Redcar used to earn between 30-40k. Decent money and the types of jobs which are vital in making their home towns economically viable.

These bottled up frustrations of are going to crash headlong into the EU referendum.

Despite the enthusiasm of its MPs, the loyalty of its grassroots and the strained smiles of its leader, many Labour voters –around a third of them – want to quit the EU.

There’s no point trying to scare the Mike Gilberts and millions more like him with Project Fear predictions of economic Armageddon – they are already living it.

They see June 23 as an opportunity to vent their frustrations about the way things are by remembering the way things were. For many, the common denominator, the root cause of their problems, will be Europe.

Immigration. Jobs. Control. Lost, thanks to the EU.

‘So let’s leave,’ goes the argument.

To Remainers it’s a counsel of despair, but beware: there are lot of Labour voters for whom it makes perfect sense.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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14 Responses to “Disaffected Labour voters will use the referendum to vent their frustrations”

  1. Tafia says:

    Disaffected Labour voters will use the referendum to vent their frustrations

    FFS. Next it will be cat lovers.

    Apart from which, if Labour met the expectations of it’s core support, that wouldn’t be happening. Which means it’s self-inflicted. Which means it’s your own fault. Which means that it’s you that’s in the wrong place.

  2. All true, and why, although I’d like Atul’s predictions of a Remain win to be true, I’m not sure.

    This will be a political problem beyond the referendum.

    There’s no magic solution, and with trust in politicians so low, too-good-to-be-true solutions won’t be believed.

    We need to show that we are serious about realistic programmes to make life better for those who have been losing out. We talk a lot about life-long-learning, I wonder if there’s ways we could make it more than just a slogan.

  3. james says:

    I don’t know why Labour are in a counsel of despair. Labour used these very same tactics against the Lib Dems/Tories between 2010 and 2015 (projecting fear and giving an analysis of government policy while not offering any solutions).

    A leave vote is a smart vote. If Remain prevails then it’s another nail in the current establishment view that all you have to do is appeal to the latte crowd `oh Europe yah` who are more than able to look after themselves. The election map will make the establishment ponder on June 24th.

    If leave prevails then there’ll be a sense of change. With Merkel going round like a headless chicken change might happen and at the very least a better renegotiated deal might be arranged.

  4. Disenfranchised says:

    But the European Union is a democratic issue – Jeremy Corbyn was one of the most persistent arguers for that point.

    How can an MP go through his whole political career voting against giving increasing powers to the EU, and when he becomes leader of his party – where he can actually display, and act on, that principle – he does a complete about-turn?
    No wonder people are just turned completely off.

    And, I am pleased for Mike Gilbert above, at least he’s found a job of sorts; many can’t even get their foot on the bottom rung of the jobs ladder.

    But, once we’ve all had our get together with the Tories and bankers, and made sure that we keep our backsides on the EU gravy train, we can then get back to the Westminster pantomime of shouting our faux anger at each other.

  5. Tafia says:

    George Kendall This will be a political problem beyond the referendum.

    That is a dead cert. In spades.

    Disenfranchised How can an MP go through his whole political career voting against giving increasing powers to the EU, and when he becomes leader of his party – where he can actually display, and act on, that principle – he does a complete about-turn?

    Because he believes in Cabinet Collective Responsibility – and because most of his Cabinet are pro-EU then both he and McDonnell have to take that line as well.

  6. paul barker says:

    The big problem is that Labour voters who dont much care about The EU (most of them) will vote Leave because they dont know that Labour back Remain, they dont know because Labour arent telling them. Labour are silent.

  7. Tafia says:

    “The European Union is doomed unless Brussels overhauls free movement rules across the continent”, Labour’s Andy Burnham warns today.

    The Shadow Home Secretary says “there will have to be changes” to EU rules which have let eastern Europeans­ flood to the UK.

    “The EU won’t survive if it won’t make them,” he will warn in a break from Jeremy Corbyn ’s official position.

    Being as the freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the EU, then that means it’s doomed.

  8. Anon E Mouse says:

    I’ve kept out of these national blogs for a couple of years and in the past have been wholly against the views of this author but (again in recent times) he is bang on the money here.

    Labour voters like myself are living this EU nightmare with our friends in South Wales working for less than we did a decade ago and now in insecure jobs.

    One firm locally advertises abroad and employs nearly 100% polish workers who are great but now put pressure on services.

    One thing Labour MP’s might start doing is stop telling us what we should use to decide which way to vote. If I want to vote on uncontrolled mass migration that’s what I’ll do and the likes of Yvette Cooper and her cronies will only make me more determined to do that.

    I think we will vote to leave personally and by a landslide and I think those living in their London centric bubble are going to get a wake up call….

  9. John p Reid says:

    Tafia, but he could have had different people in the shadow cabinet,even to make it 50/50 , can’t believe that Kate Hoey John cryer Graham Stringer, even Denis skinner in a minor role,wouldn’t have ,been prepared to be in the Shad Cabinet if asked, and there are others,

    But also Jeremy has taken a different stance to most of the rest of the Shad cabinet on Trident renewal

  10. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Jeremy Corbyn, the man of principles……

    “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

    Jeremy Corbyn will always be a Marxist – Karl and Groucho.

  11. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “One firm locally advertises abroad and employs nearly 100% polish workers who are great but now put pressure on services.”

    British workers would be great too, if they could move to a country in the EU and earn between £21.6 (Polish equivalent) or even £36 (Romanian eqivalent) an hour on a minimum wage.




    EU free movement policy is akin to a mega Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800’s!

    “There’s gold in them thar Welsh hills” and “there’s millions in it.” (modified Mullberry Sellers quote)

  12. James Martin says:

    Paul Barker, I know full well what the Labour Party’s position is as I have been bombarded non-stop by increasingly desperate emails telling me and inviting me to event after event. I’m still voting to leave the rotten undemocratic bosses club, the crusher of Greek workers and Greek democracy, and the body that would seek to stop us nationalising rail and anything else. And there are many, many Labour Party members like me who will also be voting with our heads held high for Lexit on the 23rd, and the end of Cameron and the possible end of this rotten Tory government at war with itself. The fact that the PLP has not adequately reflected the level of opposition to the EU of Labour Party members is though something that will cost us dearly I fear later on.

  13. Anon E Mouse says:

    I too have been bombarded by emails from the party and they are getting more and more desperate as they know what their internal polling is telling them about the result on the way.

    Labour do not represent the working class anymore and any politician that is surprised by the reaction to them on the doorsteps needs to rapidly change their position on things or start a new party of middle class out of touch numpties.

    The sooner Europe with it’s arrogant bullies can be put out of it’s misery and countries can go back to representing the masses the better.

    Tell you what though I think the bribes will start by the weekend with offers of milk and honey from the EU.

    Mr Akira Origami I agree entirely. (There is also coal in those same hills yet we continue to import the stuff from Germany!)

  14. Yellow Submarine says:

    I’ve no doubt this article is correct. The political problem is the voter mentioned is utterly wrong. In politics as in retail the voter/customer is always right. Voters are perfectly entitled to vote on nostalgia, rage and cultural grief. But politicians who aspire to hold office can only go so far in mirroring that populism else they are destroyed in government. Ask Nick Clegg.

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