Ukip have come a long way from this Photo: Euro Realist Newsletter
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Ukip's assault on Labour continues

Ukip threaten Labour in 2015 and beyond.

So Ukip now have their first elected MP. Douglas Carswell won Clacton as emphatically as expected. The forgotten Bob Spink is no longer the only Ukip MP in history.

That much we envisaged long before the night began. What we did not were the events in Heywood and Middleton, where Labour only held off Ukip by 617 votes. Although its vote share rose by 0.8 per cent, Labour’s majority of 6,000 in 2010 fell by 90 per cent to 617. "We are ripping lumps out of the old Labour vote in north England," Nigel Farage said. Expect plenty more of such bluster.

Ukip are not about to overturn dozens of Labour’s northern heartlands. But the result in Heywood is further evidence of the threat that Ukip poses Labour. It is one rooted in much more than the charisma of Mr Farage, but the disconnect between Labour (and all main parties) and the working-class. In 1979, there were 98 manual workers and 21 people who worked primarily in politics in Parliament. In 2010, 25 manual workers were elected to Westminster - and 90 people who had worked primarily in politics before becoming an MP. Average turnout was just 58 per cent in Labour’s 100 safest seats in 2010.

This deep-seated discontent underpins Ukip’s “2020 strategy”: the belief that a series of strong second-placed finishes next May, especially with local candidates who will contest the seats again five years later, will set the party up for a renewed assault at the next election.

And there are some northern seats that Ukip could even win next May. It is a threat that some in the Labour Party are increasingly recognising. A report by the Fabian Society last week argued that, while it remains a psephological fact that Ukip take around three Conservative votes for every one Labour vote, more than ten Labour seats could be at risk from Ukip (including Great Grimsby, which I visited last month). Labour could also miss out on gains from the Conservatives in seats where Ukip takes more votes from Labour than the Tories.

A number of MPs have admitted that Labour was guilty of complacency against Ukip in the past. After the European elections it became impossible for Labour to ignore its Ukip problem. And that is what makes the result in Heywood so worrying. Labour thought that it had honed its line of attack against Ukip – “More Tory than the Tories”. Evidently, it did not work.

Heywood also provided further proof of the strength of Ukip’s campaign machine. A poll from Lord Ashcroft last week gave Labour a 19 per cent lead in the constituency, which Ukip cut to two per cent tonight. We have seen this before: in Eastleigh last February, Ukip gained 31 per cent of its support in the last week, including 18 per cent on the day itself. Nigel Farage’s decision to talk down expectations in Heywood, and not campaign on the day of the vote, may have prevented John Bickley joining Douglas Carswell in Parliament.

That should be little consolation to Labour. John Mann, who has long been ahead of the party leadership in recognising the Ukip threat, warned immediately after the result: “If Ed Miliband does not broaden the Labour coalition to better include working class opinion then we cannot win a majority government.”

The underlying problem for Labour is that its poll numbers under Miliband have only held up because of the support of nearly a quarter of Liberal Democrat voters in 2010. Trying to reconcile appealing to voters now plumping for Ukip while retaining Labour’s appeal to disaffected former Lib Dems was not in the Miliband grand plan seven months before the general election.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.