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Northern MPs tell Starmer: win back working-class trust

New report investigates reasons Labour has lost support, including Brexit betrayal and failure to work with trade unions

LABOUR must recognise the importance of trade unions and apologise for its Brexit stance to win back working-class voters, Sir Keir Starmer was told by former frontbenchers tonight.

Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett and Laura Smith, who were in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow ministerial team, said that working-class Leave voters remain “highly sceptical” about Labour after it went into the election promising a second referendum.

The three former shadow ministers made the remarks in a report called No Holding Back, which is the result of 50 virtual events with Labour groups.

Sir Keir, who was Mr Corbyn’s shadow Brexit secretary, played a major role in formulating the party’s campaign for another referendum.

He was told by the trio to apologise to Leave voters and “not bury his role under the carpet” as it will “come back to bite him and Labour.” 

Writing for HuffPost UK ahead of the report’s release, they said: “The party went against one of the only times in recent history that people felt they could finally express their justified anger at the present political system.

“To rebuild trust that has been lost and restore people’s trust in politics, Labour should say sorry. This is not only about Labour winning elections but restoring faith in democracy.”

The report also warned that trade unions, working people and local communities should be at the centre of any Labour policy.

It said: “It is essential that we work hand-in-hand with the trade unions to organise together in every town. 

“And that means we need to re-commit and re-strengthen Labour and the unions to organise up and down the country to ensure every trade-union member not only votes Labour but communities know that Labour is on their side.”

Eighty per cent of those polled in the report think Labour should use community organising to reconnect with working-class communities.

One Salford interviewee noted: “Working-class people need to see Labour as a party that will stand up for them in their day-to-day struggles.”

Mr Trickett told the Star: “The Labour movement needs to go beyond top-down command and control. It doesn’t work. 

“Especially when there is a need to rebuild trust in hardworking, held-back communities.

“This is why new techniques need to be used utilising community networks of resistance. We also need to ensure that relationships between trades unionists and party members are strengthened for the same reason.”

Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union national president Ian Hodson said the report should be welcomed by the whole of the party and “all those wishing to see a victory for real political change in our society.”

He told the Star: “It's not long ago since those challenging for the leadership of the party said we had to build trust if we wanted to find a way of winning back power in those seats they identified as red-wall seats. 

“Well here is a document that has seen people prepared to talk to and most importantly listen to what people feel and why they felt the Labour Party didn't represent them.”

A Unite spokesman said the report contains “some very important lessons … not the least of which is how the mishandling of the Brexit issue repelled our heartland voters.”

“We urge Keir and his team to study it closely and embrace its recommendations.” 

He added that the party could only win the next general election with the support of the trade-union movement and its “army of campaigners.” 

“But they will need something to be enthusiastic on the doors about, so as long as Keir sticks to his 10 pledges and doesn't alienate the huge number of members who joined because a Corbyn-led party stood clearly for a redistribution of wealth and power in this country, then working people will have a reason to vote Labour."

The report also makes a number of suggestions on Labour’s economic policy, including a call to tax Covid-19 profiteers ”so the likes of Amazon are paying their fair share in this crisis,” an outsourcing contract tax and a watchdog to protect public spending.

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