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Wanted by Labour, working-class MPs
Michael Savage Political Correspondent
Published at 12:01AM, July 16 2012
The Labour Party will try to rediscover its roots by launching a search to find a new generation of working-class MPs.
The party, once synonymous with flat caps and mining, is to begin a drive to find and mentor people from lower-paid jobs amid concerns that too many MPs have backgrounds as political researchers or special advisors.
However, some in Labour fear the project could end up handing unions even more power over the party.
The programme, championed by Ed Miliband, is being overseen by Jon Trickett, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister: “The Labour Party should be the engine of social mobility. It’s particularly important that our MPs reflect all the different parts of our country,” Mr Trickett said. “In the past, there were routes into Parliament for manual workers, engine drivers or miners.”
Labour still has some MPs from a mining background, including Dennis Skinner, who regularly baits David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. However, many of the party’s most senior figures – including Mr Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham – have become MPs after serving as political advisers. Mr Trickett said the party was not “harking back to a nostalgic past”, but an attempt to link Labour back with the working communities that it was trying to represent.
“Society has changed hugely over the last few decades and we live our lives in very different ways. Now over one million people work in call centres. Yet, I cannot imagine how such a person could eve become a member of parliament,” he said.
“There’s a sense that the country is run by a closed circle of people that is not easy to break in to.”
At the 2010 election, 34 per cent of the MPs returned were privately educated, while 91 per cent attended university. A study by the Smith Institute showed that 24 per cent of the 2010 intake had worked in politics before becoming MPs.
Mr Trickett said he was hoping to help working class Labour supporters become politicians at all levels, from MPs to councillors.
“Roughly one in four MPs, before they became MPs, were effectively full time politicos already,” he said. “Nobody wants to say you should be excluded because you were a speechwriter. But it is disproportionate. Why shouldn’t you be able to become an MP if you work in a call centre?”
Some on the Blairite wing of Labour are nervous, but Mr Trickett said that he was not talking about recruiting officials. “I’m just talking about ordinary people.”
This article was first seen on The Times website. (Paywall)