SHEDNOTES 115: How tofu-chompers lost it for Labour

The Shed once again found wisdom in Zoe Williams on politics in the Guardian, 20.5.15, addressing the divide between “metropolitan” Labour and the blue-collar votes it has lost.

Her observations included:

* “The Labour party has now lost two of its potential leaders to the curse of the metropolitan – Chuka Umunna stood down as a result of press intrusion, the greatest extent of which so far to emerge is a piece in the Daily Mail about the fact that he’s a member of a club with eel-skin walls (this is about as metropolitan elite as you get). Tristram Hunt didn’t have to stand down, having failed to find enough support in the first place, owing to his perceived membership of this clique.”

* “The charge of ‘metropolitan elitism’ from the left vibrates with anger at Labour’s economic liberalism – it is an explosion of rage at these urbane know-alls who love immigration because it makes plumbing cheaper, but never think about what it does to communities where plumbing used to be a really good job. The same charge, from the right, relates more to social liberalism – a resentment of these moneyed cliques in which bohemianism has triumphed, and people who ought to be conservatives are now campaigning in favour of gay marriage and tolerating all kinds of previously insurmountable differences.”

* “There is a relationship between our ‘metropolitan elite’ and the ‘liberal elite’ of American politics, a spectre that grew from the start of the century and was most pithily summarised by the US columnist Dave Barry in 2004: “Godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving leftwing communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts.”

* Quoting from David Graeber, an American now teaching in London: “What is England’s export product? Supposedly, it’s finance. To some degree it’s as lieutenant to America’s empire, but that’s limited. We have a real-estate bubble on the basis of the finance system, because every single super-rich person in the entire world has to have a house in London, so they’re selling bits of London and the south-east. Why is it appealing? On the one hand, you have a creative, subservient working-class. You get the best servants here. Second of all, it’s security; you have political safety, whereas if you come from Bahrain, Singapore, Macau, in those places something could still happen. The historical defeat of the working classes has now become the UK’s export product. So people recognise that, but of course they resent it, so they take it out on the poor foreigners rather than the rich ones. “

* “Pending the revolution, the metropolitan elite is in this airless space, understanding its distance from the ‘non-elite’ but not knowing how to bridge it without committing metropolitan-elite suicide.”

* Quoting David Lammy, the black London MP who speaks up for blue-collar conservatism: “I took my nine-year-old to his Sunday league football match and the parents of his friends came up to me – they were mainly black and ethnic minorities, first-generation immigrants. They were bewildered. Really bewildered. They could not understand how Labour had done quite so badly. And these people are cleaners, security guards, home carers, dinner ladies, nurses –absolutely the people who will experience the harshness. The truth is, people in the metropolitan elite, and that includes Ed Miliband, and me, and you, we will be better off under the Tories. These people will be screwed.”

morelater …

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