No, no, Yvette

by Rob Marchant

Yes, leadership candidates need to appeal to party before they can become leader and do anything at all.  But the lengths to which some will go to tickle the tummy of a party, which has just suffered two disastrous election defeats, continues to beggar belief.

Better – for the sake of kindness – to gloss over Andy Burnham’s statement that this was “the best manifesto that I have stood on in four general elections”. I mean, what can have possessed him?

To be fair, it is difficult to see it, as some have, as an attempt to lay the blame for the party’s recent meltdown squarely at the door of Ed Miliband. That would be especially difficult, with Burnham’s area of the NHS front and centre in the campaign; and also given that he followed it immediately with the words “I pay tribute to Ed Miliband”.

Which leaves us with one of two far worse conclusions: either that it was convenient lip-service; or that he simultaneously believed Labour had both the right candidate and the right manifesto, and still lost catastrophically. A level of cognitive dissonance verging on the Orwellian.

But just as we thought there could be no dafter statements from the mainstream candidates (after all, daft statements from Jeremy Corbyn are to be expected), up pops Yvette Cooper, asking for Labour to double the number of ethnic minority (BAME) MPs if the party were to win a majority.

A laudable aim, on the face of it. Except when you stop to think about what it actually means.

First, look at the logic: “More than 15% of Labour voters are from BAME communities but just 10% of Labour MPs.” Note that we do not talk about Britain as a whole, just Labour voters (clearly we do not aspire to encourage people who do not yet vote Labour). According to Wikipedia, only 13% of Britons are from ethnic minorities (11% if you exclude those of mixed race). Do we honestly think that there are folk out there saying, “Cuh! That Labour party. They’ve cheated us out of three per cent! It’s an outrage! We demand the exact same percentage and nothing less!”

Of course there are not. But it gets worse. Cooper goes on: “If Labour is not representative of our voters how can we hope to keep their support?” We should just listen to ourselves. Are we seriously saying – albeit slightly dressed up – that if we do not have the same colour skin as our voters, they won’t vote for us?

Second: the perceived reason for that difference in percentages. Racism exists in society, of course it does, sadly. And there sexism is even occasionally to be found in the Labour Party. I have come across homophobia in it, although rarely nowadays. But do we honestly believe the modern-day Labour is a party so rife with racism, that it cannot be trusted to select ethnic minority candidates on merit without being prejudiced against them?

Ah, you say, but there are other factors. Ethnic minority candidates may on average have less money, less opportunities. True. But so do people from white working-class communities. Why choose on ethnicity?

I mean, would you not honestly be hard-pressed to find an organisation in modern-day Britain more painfully right-on than the Labour Party? And yet still we continue to believe the fiction that we are not getting quite as many ethnic minority candidates as in the population as a whole because they are discriminated against by the party itself. It’s mad.

But you cannot say this in the self-flagellating Labour Party, because your motives will be immediately questioned. You must be a closet racist if you do not believe in the prevailing racism of the party (I fully expect some comments on this piece to that effect).

Now – third – you can point out, as the thoughtful and decent Sunder Katwala did to me, that Cooper has not called for quotas. True. But with Labour, we all know where this ends up, every time: quotas. In fact, David Lammy has already called for them.

The reality: as we have observed before at Uncut, this party just cannot resist tinkering with its selection processes at the slightest whisper from an interest group. We already have intervention on grounds of ethnicity at two points and on grounds of gender in three points in our parliamentary selection processes. On the other hand, if you are a white male, and have not successfully passed through the thought-police filter of a major union’s national list, well, good luck. You’ll need it.

It is awful, frankly, that this whole Kafkaesque system even forces us into an alien language of “white males” or “BAME candidates”, as if a candidate’s ethnicity or sex were remotely important in their ability to do the job.

But once a commitment is made to “even the balance”, politicians pull at the only levers they have, which in opposition means yet more messing about with the internal process, one already skewed to breaking point (if you don’t believe candidate selection is in crisis, look at the travesty that was the Falkirk selection and how it has led to the piloting of primaries).

Fourth, the party is crying out for a selection process which aims to maximise candidate quality. Of course, no current MP is going to want to criticise the process which selected them, as it might reflect on their own path to success. But you cannot tinker without excluding some good candidates. It’s just maths.

Furthermore, as John Rentoul noted, my, the Tories have got a surprisingly good batch of new MPs this time around, haven’t they? And, dear me, with talented ethnic minority MPs such as Sajid Javid or Priti Patel already there, who got there on merit alone, eh?

How long before people begin to look at the panorama and think, what is Labour playing at?

Finally, has anyone actually thought that many people of all colours might just find Labour’s attitude not progressive and forward-looking but patronising and antiquated? No? Or that, worse, they might think that this leads to exactly the kind of rancid identity politics that sets communities against each other, as happened in Tower Hamlets under Lutfur Rahman?

It’s not brain surgery. The answer is not to try and enter into a dumb competition with the Tories to see who gets the widest variety of skin pigmentation into Parliament.

The answer, surely, is to be blissfully colour-blind.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

Tags: , , , , ,

28 Responses to “No, no, Yvette”

  1. Metro Elite says:

    Agreed on the identity stuff.

    Though I would contend that labor didn’t lose because of their manifesto.

    They lost because the public knew Ed wasn’t fit to be headmaster let alone Prime Minister.

  2. swatantra says:

    I think Rob misses the point a bit, we are not quite calling for quotas, but for All BAME Shortlists in winnable seats. So that there is better representation in the House. The Tories have indeed got a lot of their talented BAME into this Parliament.
    Its always an unknown as to how many seats a Party can win in a GE, so there can’t be a quota as such, unless you have a List System to choose who will be an MP.
    For example Burnham can correctly say that he will have 50/50 Shadow Cabinet because he knows how many MP he’s got to play with.

  3. Luke says:

    Rob, I like you. You are part of the sensible Left that I used to feel a part of. But I have to tell you that I feel a sense of disgust with the Left, and so I didn’t vote for Labour at the last election, and I probably won’t ever vote Labour again.

    The problem is, you are doomed. Labour is doomed too. I can see Labour having meltdowns in the north and midlands too. Labour dances to the tune of Guardian hipster Social Justice Warrior activism, and to the most reactionary of all multicultural identity politics. Following Rotherham, and a sense of Labour pandering to elements within society that promote values at odds with what Labour says it believes in, Labour and the Left stink to high heaven of hypocrisy. There is a sense that Labour pretty much detests the white working class of Britain. As someone once said, about the WWC, Labour wants your votes, but not your opinion.

    Following the recent events in Tunisia, I have read articles by Owen Jones in the Guardian, and watched Russell Brand essentially play the Islamist apologist game, peddling the narrative of the jihadis, that David Cameron and the Tories are to blame for extremism. This kind of attitude is fueling a comprehensive alienation and disgust with the Left, and even if this is not a formal link with Labour, disquiet with the Left in general, is going to translate into disquiet and distrust with Labour even further. The lunatic Left is, with weasel words and dishonesty, supping with Islamist extremists and making excuses for them. I can no longer be part of a movement that does this, and does not kick and scream in protest at the sheer moral perversion of Owen Jones and Guardian apologetics for Islamism.

    Furthermore Rob, its not just the white working class and middle class who previously voted Blair who are abandoning Labour. Figures showed that a million ethnic minority citizens voted Tory. Even the black and Asian voters Labour has taken for granted for so long, playing superficial games of identity politics, pandering to reactionary community leaders, staying silent on pertinent issues for fear of upsetting some reactionary voters, has led to a widespread disgust in other parts of our ethnic minorities. I fully expect the Tories to snatch more black and Asian votes in the next election. Maybe even up to half of ethnic minority votes next time.

    It seems, surprise surprise, that integrated ethnic minorities don’t want to be spoken to as a separate group, hate this pandering to separatism, and consider themselves first and foremost British, and vote for a party that treats them as British first, rather than Labour, that wants to pander to divisive multiculturalism that divides us as British people and sets groups at each others throats.

    Rob, the Labour Party has succeeded in alienating just about everyone in Britain and I guess if Tories were to stay centrist they will continue to destroy Labour in future elections. I hate to say it, but something about the Left today is repulsive. It stands with a sense of Guardian-ista self loathing of traditional British values that are actually benign and bring a sense of solidarity amongst people in the UK.

    Once upon a time I would have fought for Labour and the Left. Now I see it has no interest in fighting the hateful and reactionary tendencies within it, I have no motivation to care for it anymore. I won’t vote Labour again, and I repudiate the Left in Britain in its current Islamist pandering, patriotism hating, white working class demonising, entrepeneurialism and aspiration baiting incarnation.

    You’re a good man Rob. I feel sorry for you. But I fear that this election was just the precursor for the coming catastrophe for Labour. And I’m afraid to say, that the Left, and Labour, deserve what is coming for it.

  4. Tafia says:

    Luke, this is the reality of the Labour Party. Labour govern Wales and despite the Wales Settlement rising faster than inflation, this is the result – teachers having 27% pay cuts.

    But, wankers in the administrative element of local government are coining it.

  5. ex labour says:


    Well said that man. Burnham or Cooper would be a continuance of the Labour demise. I absolutely hate Cooper and her faux outrage at anything which she thinks might play well in the media. Labour are again speaking to themselves in this leadership debate as most of the country look on incredulous that the leadership candidates have not grasped the reasons for defeat. Worrying about ethnic minorities and talk of quotas or forced representation by fixing the candidate list, looks much like fiddling while Rome burns.

    I bailed out of voting labour in 2010, so I applaud your decision. Maybe, just maybe, somebody in Labour might ask why Labour voters are leaving and the party is dying. the Guardianistas, eco loons, PC brigade, union stooges and apologists for terror think they are being right-on and clever with their morally superior condescending tone, but the voters are having their say at the ballot box.

  6. swatantra says:

    Luke must be pretty relieved to get all that off his chest.
    He is right that the Left have fallen back into their old habits of disruption disruption and disruption, and that the Party really does need to get a grip and purge itself of certain elements similar to the Militant Tendency that infiltrate it last time round; this time its the Taliban Tendency that needs to be rooted out.
    He is right in saying that integration is not working and that the islamists are infiltrating the Muslim Community and these need to be rooted out as well, but that can only be done by the Muslim community itself. The rise in islamaphobia has been brought on their own heads by their own inability to act, or react and take head on the islamofacists. so I have little sympathy for the Muslim Community and they deserve all the criticism they are getting.
    I would disagree with him on one point ie that there were a small number of working class Labour who went to UKIP and the Facist Parties; these I would not like to see back in the Labour fold; the ones that voted UKIP probably like you out of protest against Labour are welcome back once Labour gets it act together.

  7. Twinkle says:

    Labour thinking is contained is a small and fairly crowded paper box. The problem is this box is in a large room. There’s an elephant in this room which is far to big to get even the tip of its trunk in the box- even if it wanted to.

    This elephant is the UK Public who are not particularly enamored with any particular party and today are very cynical about politicians and parties.

    Lest it go unnoticed by those sitting relatively comfortably inside the paper box :-
    1) Only 10% think politicians do the best for their country
    2) 30% think they work just for their party
    3) 48% think at MPs are out for themselves.

    UKIP was second behind Labour is many seats. UKIP voters are extremely negative about the political elite. 74% think MPs are our for themselves, 19% for their party and only 3% think that politicians do the best for their country.

    80% of the elephant works in the private sector so attacking the private sector form the comfort of the paper box means attacking their jobs and job security if indeed they happen to have any.

  8. John says:

    Wow, Luke, well said that man! I agree with your points and with the inevitable conclusion you draw. What you’ve written here should be an article in its own right. I wonder if Labour Uncut would have the guts to run it?

  9. Robert says:

    Well said Luke. Thoughtful, dignified and honest assessment.

  10. Batty says:

    Labour only wins when a substantial part of the white working class vote for it.
    Yet at the last election and even now it insists on policies that irritate that core vote.

  11. Madasafish says:

    The problem simply is this:
    Fifty or so years ago, you would find highly intelligent people who were working class by background but their economic and educational disadvantages meant they did not have access to higher education (when young). As a result, there was a steady stream of competent and very intelligent candidates for MP who had the advantage of intelligence and experience.

    Nowadays the same people would have degrees and studied politics as education is available for all.. See the Labour candidates for Leader.

    The Tories tend to nowadays select on merit…

  12. Jon says:

    The fundamental question is this: who is it that is not being trusted when it comes to specific interventions and the impositions of certain kinds of shortlist?

    It is, by and large, local members whose support, legwork, canvassing and funding have underwritten the Labour movement for generations.

    Their local knowledge, instinct and experience may be far from infallible, but it’s at least authentic. And it’s not as though the parachuted-in candidates and the ex-researcher-looking-for-a-safe-berth folk have worked out all that much better.

    When the Labour Party learns to trust its own members – who were right on Blair and on many other things – then the corner might be turned. But not until.

  13. Dougie says:

    A considered and well-argued piece, Rob, but one that makes the assumption – apparently universally accepted across UK politics – that a defeated party needs to change its policies and outlook in order to appeal to more voters. Here’s a novel thought: how about a party that decides what it believes in and sticks to it, while trying to convince voters that theirs is the best way?
    Of course, it might mean never winning an election again but at least the party would be being honest with itself and the electorate. The only reason I can think of not to adopt this approach would be if the party’s leading figures were so conceited that they thought they were the right people to govern the country irrespective of what they believed in – if anything.

  14. Cynic says:

    Yvette who?

  15. oliver says:

    ‘ Following Rotherham, and a sense of Labour pandering to elements within society that promote values at odds with what Labour says it believes in, Labour and the Left stink to high heaven of hypocrisy. There is a sense that Labour pretty much detests the white working class of Britain. As someone once said, about the WWC, Labour wants your votes, but not your opinion.’

    I reckon this is one of the most concise descriptions of the modern Labour party I have ever read, and I salute the contributor for his analysis.

  16. Luke says:


    I didn’t vote UKIP. I held my nose and voted Conservative. I dislike UKIP, but I recognise and understand why many working class voters are voting for them.

    Imagine if the Tories actually got a charismatic leader from a non Etonian background, someone who was ‘one of the people’, seized the centre ground, enacted a genuine One Nation agenda, kept the economy growing, and battled the self-hatred and self-loathing of the Left that makes them apologists for Islamism and other nonsense.

    How exactly would the Labour Party recover from that? Its being abandoned by everyone. By Scotland, by the white working class, by middle class ethnic minorities. And its firmly rejected by the former floating voters who once voted Blair in the south of England.

    Labour is doomed, and Labour deserves its doom.

  17. John P Reid says:

    Betty is right, how about if labour seats are full of working class people, having local working class people there, I find it hard to believe that a local seat couldn’t even find one, look at the midlands,a lot of the new MPs are too the left, and don’t realize that the Northern vote going Ukip, or Kent / Essex and the South won’t vote labour unless we’re in the centre, but at least they’re working class and local,look at the way Kate Osamor was parachuted into Edmonton,what had she done politically before,and what did she have to do with the area, nothing.

  18. swatantra says:

    Well Luke, I held my nose and voted Labour, but there you go.
    I think we need to give Labour just one more chance to put its house in order; its heart is in the right place but its head isn’t.

  19. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Yvette Cooper travels to Wales to check out Carwyn…..

    …..and how minorities are getting on in the Principality.

  20. Tafia says:

    Perhaps Labour should do what Tory HQ did for selections for this election – insist that priority be given to canidates who had been to state school, not been to university, and had worked purely in the private sector and not been a SPAD, union employee etc.

    Hence why they now have a higher percentage of MPs that are non-graduates than Labour do, a higher percentage that have lived and worked in the real world and one of their new MPs is actually an ordinary every day humble delivery postman from Cornwall who is also a CWU union member.

    You want to be the party pf the workers, select your candidates from the workers.

  21. Dave Roberts. says:

    An excellent article and an equally good post from Luke. Cooper is now one of the last politicians standing to be talking quotas on race. This issue is a guaranteed vote loser, it was for Livingstone and will be if Labour adopts it which, given the present showing, they well might.

    A number of things have happened over the issues of race and ethnicity in the last few years which seem to have eluded the Labour Party. The first is that all parties now speak of the white working class when even five or so years ago that was the preserve of the far right. Livingstone decided that by appealing to the ethnic minority vote in London he could compensate for the loss of white votes and miscalculated massively.

    When he made his tearful apology for slavery on behalf of Londoners and was comforted by that master of racial scaremongering Jesse Jackson he lost the election because he lost the white vote, or enough of it. The section of Londoners which had loyally voted for him at the GLC and as an MP had had enough and that is happening nationally to the party as a whole.

    Labour is now closely identified in the minds of a large section of the electorate with ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and people on benefits. And there is some truth to this. The problem is that, for Labour it is exactly these groups, along with young Guardian readers and urban metrosexuals which are either the most unlikely to be registered to vote and if they are not to do so.

    The other race fallacy is that there is a BME or BAME constituency. There isn’t and never has been. Members of ethnic minorities vote according to their political beliefs and not their ethnicity. What does a wealthy Sikh builders merchant owner from Ilford that I know have in common with a Somali asylum seeker? Nothing and my friend says so.

    When Bertrand Russell spoke of the ” fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed” he could have mentioned, had he known it, of an equal fallacy of the commonality of interests of ethnic minorities. The left have allways been great ones for fallacies the most recent being that Labour lost because the manifesto wasn’t left wing enough! You couldn’t make it up. You don’t have to the left of the party will do it for you.

  22. Ex labour says:

    @ Swatantra

    you insist on referring to UKIP as facist and they are nothing of the sort. The reason many Labour voters went to them in my area was that they reflected the concerns of that part of the electorate and discussed issues Labour didn’t want to because of their usual PC bollox.

    there is nothing more fascist than a scorned left winger. Just look at the footage of some of these marches and see the vitriolic obscenities hurled by the fascist left who clearly don’t understand the principles of democracy.

  23. Mike Homfray says:

    Luke is voting Tory, because his attitudes and beliefs are Tory.

    Quite why he ever thought they were Labour is much more of an interesting question.

  24. The Watchman says:

    I see that for everything that has proven the utter failure of the identity politics and cultural Marxism that has damaged the Labour Party, “swatantra” still cleaves to the same old crap. I thought that old Swatty still thinks that one more try at the politics of jealousy and failure that is socialism that hasn’t worked anywhere in the world ever, may work this time. It won’t and cannot, once it runs out of other people’s money, gone the same way as the dinosaurs. Keep taking the tablets Swatty.

  25. The Watchman says:

    Well said Ex Labour. The biggest fascists are always the Hard Left. Just look how they suck up to and support every Marxist monster, dictator and fascist Islamic murderer. My experience of UKIP is that they are far more welcoming and accepting of free speech than the pernicious and malignant left.

  26. Steven Veitch says:

    Where is Melanie Phillips atricle on Islam? I keep getting that Yvette woman.

  27. John PReid says:

    Swtartra ,the closed shop was Fasicst, inviting the fascist IRA with open arms,was as bad, David Blunketts polices at the home office were fascistic, not wanting so much EU immigration but wanting more immigration form the commonwealth including the Carribean,certainly isn’t fascist ,we know ex labour members in Thirrock who voted Ukip,because they saw too much Eu immigration repaired to cut corners work on th echo that was costing British people ( who include bME people) their jobs

    Labour could try to get back those 2/5th of Asian who voted Tory, probably hadn’t voted labour since he 70’s they were also defined as the skilled working class,who’d be called middle class before,now where have I heard that before, oh yes,they could also be used to describe, as the white skilled working class, some of whom like their Asian counter parts, voted Ukip, including in thurrock

  28. @Luke

    Is that Luke the IT entrepreneur of ex-progress, ex of Labour List and this blog, joined the Tories in 2010, and of Brazilian teenage prostitutes fame? Just wondering.

Leave a Reply