English Labour must copy Welsh Labour and talks about national identity to win, says former minister
English Labour should copy Welsh Labour and talk about its national identity to win, according to a former Cabinet minister.
Former Communities Secretary John Denham said that the party needed to appeal to people in England on the basis of their Englishness.
He pointed to Labour’s success in Wales as an example of “fusing what is a genuinely radical and competent Labour government with the idea of Welshness”.
“Everybody in the Labour Party should be talking to Wales and trying to learn from that,” he insisted.
“They have handled questions of identity in the Labour Party much more successfully.”
His comments come as Labour party leader Keir Starmer attacked the “multi-headed hydra of nationalism” in an essay published this morning.
But John Denham said that the key to reversing the ebb in support for the party was to talk about Englishness.
He will be hosting a fringe event at the Labour conference in Brighton on Sunday to discuss the issue.
“The past 20 years is the story of Labour losing its support amongst voters who have a clear English identity,” he told the Mirror.
“They’re not English nationalists, they don’t want English independence. But they have these views about England being properly represented.”
John Denham is the director of the English Labour Network, which was set up in 2017 to “bring together party activists at every level to make Labour’s case for England to English voters”.
“When I talk about the English I think about ‘we’ and ‘us’,” said Mr Denham, who was MP for Southampton Itchen until the seat was lost to the Conservatives in 2015.
“Some people in the Labour Party talk about the English as ‘they’ and ‘them’.
“Until people in the Labour Party are comfortable talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’, we are going to have a problem.
“The balance of power here is held by that group of voters who would identify as English, who are former Labour voters or are from families of former Labour voters who were in working class jobs that no longer exist,” he said.
“They have swung decisively against the Labour Party. It’s the national picture.”
People believed Labour were “not really people like us any more, you don’t speak for people like us”, he said.