Figures from across Labour have joined forces to call for an ‘English manifesto’ to help the party win the next general election.
The English Labour Network (ELN), made up of senior politicians and campaigners from across the party spectrum, says the next campaign must focus on areas where support for Labour has dwindled in recent years, with many older voters turning to the Tories and UKIP.
The party has failed to win the popular vote in England since 2001, and the group says it would be “foolhardy” for the leadership to rely on the restoration of fortunes in Scotland and Labour’s rise in popularity in cities and university towns.
Blogging for HuffPost UK, John Denham, ELN director and a former cabinet minister, said:“These are communities where voters are more likely to stress their English, rather than British, identity.
“The party lags in support amongst English identifiers. Indeed, if the ‘English’ had voted Labour last year as strongly as the ‘British’, Jeremy Corbyn might well be in Downing Street now.
“It’s true that there is little English political nationalism of the sort we see in Scotland and Wales. But these English people are proud of their identity and their nation and they want that identity respected. Politics has always been about identity, about ’who stands for people like me?
“Labour needs more than radical policy; it needs to be seen as authentically English as well as British.”
MPs including Margaret Beckett, Jon Cruddas and Shabana Mahmood; council leaders such as Nick Forbes and Judith Blake and activists including former Parliamentary candidate Polly Billington and Corbyn leadership campaginer Sam Tarry have all backed calls for a bespoke English manifesto to reach out to disillusioned voters.
They want to “show English people that Labour wants to represent them”, and focus on rebuilding support in areas that have suffered economic decline and where alienation and dissatisfaction with politics is high - including coastal and countryside towns.
Forbes, leader of Newcastle Council and of the Local Government Association Labour group, said: “Now more than ever, we need a vision for England as part of a United Kingdom which is based on fairness, social justice and equality.
“Local government will have a key part to play in developing such a manifesto.”