The defection of Luke Bozier to the Tories is the tip the iceberg, not for who he is but for what he represents. This Tory-led government, whose policies directly affect those from the poorest backgrounds worst of all, still polls over a third in support from the C1,D,E socio-economic groups. And at the last election scooped more votes than we did. It is the paradox of current politics that is the political equivalent to Stockholm Syndrome.
I know Luke a little, and frequently disagree with him, but have always respected him. He is someone from a single teenage mother household on a council estate, who dropped out of school at fifteen, worked in McDonalds, didn't attend university, but nevertheless set up a successful business and advised the prime minster of his country - all before the age of 30. Anyone who cannot give credit or respect to such an achievement by any individual, irrespective of who they vote for at Westminster, is a very cynical person indeed.
The problem is that I have met or grown up with others with similar backgrounds to Luke, who hold views, let's say, more left wing than him, and should be Labour supporters, yet vote Tory.
I met a young person of a similar age as myself who voted for the Conservative party at the last election, he like myself was on EMAs, single parent family, first generation to go to university too and was disgraced by what the government had done scrapping the scheme and expressed his support for the Save EMA campaign to me.
He said his mum was not political (she didn't even vote) and neither had he been either growing up, just getting by had been their main concern; however, he was more open back then towards voting Labour then he is now. He works in the banking sector and is one of the few people from his background who works there; especially as most of his colleagues were privately educated.
His political epiphany, he told me, came in the work place not at university, when people he worked alongside although from different backgrounds (and he was aware of the disparity in wealth and not income) were complaining about tax rates and it dawned on him that he was being treated just like they were and their interests were for the first time becoming intertwined. That's how he had got involved with local Conservative activists but wasn't opposed to vote Labour for any other reason than he believed it was not in his self interest.
An element of self interest is important. For example, my parents were trade unionists not just because of great ideals of class solidarity, but also because it was in their direct self interest to be so. Likewise they voted Labour for that very reason.
So how are we in a state today whereby working class people who now who go on and achieve generally due to our policies, feel that our party then is not on their side, so vote Tory instead? Where is the dividend for success and social advancement in Britain under Labour? I don't blame Luke or other Tories voting from working class backgrounds; I mean the 'hold what we have' narrative of conservatism is stronger with those who know the value of what they hold because they know what it is not to have held it.
If we abandon this ground to the Conservatives, we are weaker, as the Tories will only provide their own narrative and then speak for a whole generation of people who benefited from Labour policies. So what is our answer to this?
Personally, I feel a new form of asset based welfare should be essential to any future Labour government. Tying down from birth that if you are born into the 14% of children who were on free school meals or the 25% who live below the poverty line and end up in the around 10% of the population who pay the top rate of tax, then that achievement will be recognised.
The Child Trust Fund and Saving Gateway schemes offered the best vehicles, if reformed, for doing this. Its top payments of £500 to the most deprived children only able to be withdrawn at 18 allowed an option for the evolution of welfare policy. We should commit to not just reinstating these policies if re-elected but reforming them. Enabling the ability to track from cradle to grave the achievements of individuals from the lowest socio-economic groups. It would revolutionise welfare, creating the method by which benefits could be laser guided. In effect a move towards a reflexive state.
By combining such schemes with say the Post Bank and providing everyone at birth with a bank account similar to the provision of a National Insurance Number at 16. We could then track or target such asset based welfare benefits to individuals throughout their lives. We would then know if a child in the bottom 14% moves into the top 10%, recognise this and encouraging trailblazers.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: There is only one class in the community that thinks more about wealth than the wealthy, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else. That is the misery of being poor. The Labour Party would be foolish to forget this. Because if we do not give credit where credit is due then we risk a cynical politics becoming our creed.
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