UK

BBC Newsnight Comments From Oxford Academic Prompts Labour MPs To Fight Back

He claimed there are 'no working class people as MPs any more'.

23/02/2017 08:59 GMT | Updated 23/02/2017 16:16 GMT

Labour MPs have hit back after an academic claimed there are “no working class MPs any more”.

Speaking during a BBC Newsnight special on the Stoke-on-Trent by-election on Wednesday evening, University of Oxford professor Geoff Evans was asked about political alienation.

Evans, who grew up in Stoke, said that he blamed politicians for this, saying: “People have ignored, say, class divisions, they’ve pretended they either don’t matter any more.

“What’s actually changed is not the class divisions in our society, the inequalities, it’s what politicians offer.

BBC
Labour MPs took umbrage with Geoff Evans' comments

“I do have to, to some degree, put the blame on Labour on this one, because in the 90s in particular they were so keen to appeal to an affluent middle class electoral base, they distanced themselves as much as they possibly could. 

“Basically there are no working class people as MPs any more, the intake has almost disappeared.

“The rhetoric adopted by Labour, say by Blair, was very much chosen to be acceptable.”

A number of Labour MPs were quick to hit back at Evans, with Leicester South MP Jonathan Ashworth labelling his comments “patronising garbage”...

The claim also attracted criticism from a wider audience...

But despite this, it seemed that some, including the Leave.EU campaign, agreed.

Evans told The Huffington Post UK: “The data used in our new book, ‘The New Politics of Class’, shows there are now far fewer Labour MPs who had working class jobs before they entered parliament.

“The figure has fallen dramatically from around 40% in 1959  to less than 10% in 2015.

“Labour are not alone in this respect. MPs from mainstream UK political parties are overwhelmingly people who have no experience of having been in working class jobs. In this respect, the findings show Labour has become more similar to other mainstream parties.”

Labour has received some criticism for the make up of their membership base which increased massively in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory.

Last year an internal analysis found a disproportionate number were “high-status city dwellers” pursuing well-paid jobs, not the working class voters traditionally represented by Labour.

In fact Labour is now the third most popular party amongst working class voters, behind Ukip and the Tories for what could be the first time in its history.