Why Labour’s “Red Wall” Finally Crumbled
To defend the value of our votes, working-class communities had no choice but to vote Conservative, thanks to their betrayal by the Labour Party, writes Chris McGlade.
The Tories didn’t win this election. Labour lost it. The Labour Party could have won if they’d stuck with their 2017 manifesto commitment to honour the result of the EU referendum. If Labour hadn’t tried to stop Brexit, they would have walked it.
I’m from Redcar, an old industrial town on Teesside. We’ve never had a Tory MP, but even though the Tories decimated our steel industry, closed our coke oven, and shut down the biggest and oldest blast furnace in Europe, Redcar still voted Conservative this week, with a whopping 15.5 percent swing from Labour. I’ve been a member of the Labour Party. I flirted with Militant when I was 18. I was in three trades unions. All my family are working-class, Irish immigrant stock and Labour supporters for decades. We’re not brainwashed, but we all voted Conservative.
Why? Because we expect to be ignored by the Conservatives, but we don’t expect to be ignored by our own party and that’s what has happened. The Labour Party is dominated and controlled by middle-class progressive liberals who don’t think like us, speak like us, act like us, who haven’t suffered like us. They look down their noses at us like they’d stepped in something. They despise us. They care about us as little as the Conservatives do, but we expect that from the Conservatives. We don’t expect it from our party, the party set up to defend us, not sneer at us and think we’re thick and racist because we voted to leave the mega-rich man’s club known as the European Union.
Working-class people aren’t intolerant. I don’t care what race, colour, creed, religion, sex or sexuality you are. But progressive liberals are convinced we’re all knuckle-draggers. Since the election, they’ve come onto Facebook and called working-class people ignorant, stupid and racist, saying we’ve made our own lives worse. One woman blamed me for ruining her daughter’s education. Another said we’d ruined the health service, that we’d made it worse for ourselves. One even said that the working class would be culled first. The protestors on the streets of London and Leeds, screaming about the outcome of a democratic election, are singing “oh, Jeremy Corbyn”. But Jeremy Corbyn hates the EU as much as we do. You might be pro-EU, but he isn’t. He was forced at knifepoint to support Remain.
Working-class people have always had it hard. We don’t have hand-outs from mummy and daddy; we don’t have an allowance to go on a gap year around the world. When the south was prospering, our communities were being decimated. Our mines were closing. Our steel mills were shut. We’ve always had adversity up here and, yes, we’re bracing ourselves now for more adversity. When public education and health services decline, it’s our children that will suffer. But we took all that into consideration and, still, the worth of our vote, democracy in this country, meant more. Because if we lose that, we’ve got nothing.
I spoke with my 72-year-old uncle, a retired plumber. A hard man in his day, a proud man, a man who’s never voted Tory till now, and said his dad would be turning in his grave if he knew he’d now done that. He voted Conservative because, like me, he had no choice. We voted to Leave, and the middle-class progressive liberals that dominate the Labour Party made us a party of Remain. My uncle said, “how can I vote for an MP who’s ignored her own constituents?” And the answer was, we couldn’t. She didn’t deserve to be re-elected just because she wore a red rosette.
The Labour Party no longer represents working-class people in the northeast. It no longer speaks to us. It doesn’t think like us. It’s not us anymore. We have no voice. And, so, we voted for the only party who were offering to respect what we voted for in 2016. Yesterday, we voted in Redcar for democracy and the worth of our vote. If we’d lost that through a pack of middle-class progressive liberals getting elected and holding a second referendum, we’d have lost everything. They’ve taken everything off us up here, even our party. Our vote, our only protection against them, couldn’t be taken away from us as well.
The relationship between northern working-class people and Labour is like being in an abusive relationship, where you’re with a horrible person who treats you badly, they keep going behind your back with other people, they keep lying to you. But because you love them, you keep taking them back time and time again, because it’s all that you know, because you’re frightened to leave them, because you’ve conned yourself into thinking that you can’t live without them and you need them. Then, all of a sudden, one morning you wake up and think: I don’t need to take this anymore. I don’t need someone to look down their nose at me. I’m going to leave you. And suddenly, you end it, and you go and find someone else. They might be better; they might be worse – who knows? When you end an abusive relationship, the person who treated you badly, they come back, trying to cajole you, trying to get back in with you, and when you don’t give them what you want, they get nasty and start hurling abuse. That’s exactly how the relationship has been between northern, working-class people and the Labour Party. They have taken us for granted, they’ve treated us like shit, they look down their noses at us, they go courting the progressive middle-class liberals, and we’ve had enough. We deserve better than being kept down and being expected to be there all the time.
We constantly hear that we mustn’t discriminate on grounds of sexuality, gender, race and religion. But there is constant discrimination against the working class – white, black, Muslim, Christian. Every institution and profession in society is dominated by the liberal middle class, who constantly hurl abuse at us, then come online and wish death on us because we’re sick to death of a Labour Party that no longer represents us and we had no choice but to vote for the only party that would uphold the decision that we made in 2016. The more abuse we receive, the more justified I feel in having voted Conservative.
Chris McGlade is a comedian who came up through the Working Men’s Club circuit, and who performed as George the boxing coach in the West End run of Billy Elliot. His new show, Forgiveness, runs at London's Soho Theatre from 26-29 February 2020.