UK politics is presently all about the right wing, white working class vote

Well, it is for the Labour and Conservative parties anyway as they desperately try to respectively regain or cling onto this particular section of voters who are, by a majority, backing the Tories in recent years.

For Labour, this is a conundrum to which they seem to have few if any answers and it may well be why Starmer and Labour tend to be keeping their heads down when it comes to acting like an opposition. My feeling is that they fear alienating the white working-class vote even more so until it starts to slip from the Tory’s grip best to keep Mum. Of course, this is a wait and see strategy but if this section of voters stays with the Tories it could be a very long wait indeed.

The messaging from our Tory government and Offical Labour opposition is therefore nearly always aimed at this section of the electorate or has their views significantly in mind as they are the power behind Johnson’s throne, whilst they are also helping to keep Starmer out of power. For Labour, which aspires to be a left of centre progressive party, chasing the right wing voters who used to be in their camp is both problematic and crucial to Labour’s future. If Starmer takes Labour too far right in an attempt to bring the white working-class voters back to his party then he stands to lose his progressives to the Lib Dems and Greens. However, if he doesn’t bring the white working-class voters back he will fail to get anywhere near a majority at the next general election. Remember Labour have virtually no seats left in Scotland, as the SNP has all but destroyed Labour north of the border, and there seems little if any prospect of Starmer reversing those losses. So the reality is that forming any kind of majority is probably well beyond Labour’s capabilities even if they claw back their lost right-wingers. Starmer and Labour are facing a grim electoral scenario whichever way they turn.

And what about that Batley & Spen by-election which bizarrely prominent Labour right-winger Rachel Reeves has been trying to pass off as a victory for Kier Starmer! Oh come on, get real, Labour all but lost it except for the fact that they had a very local candidate with a direct connection to murdered MP Jo Cox. Kim Leadbeater presented herself, at least in style, like a Liberal community politics campaigner/candidate and significantly as one of an independent mind who was not going to be a slave to her party. It’s highly likely that this was why Labour just about clung on to a seat they would otherwise have lost. Trouble is having an independently minded MP in Labour’s ranks who has in effect pledged to put her community first is hardly what a significantly authoritarian Labour Party really wants. If she carries through with her independence then Labour has to prepare for her becoming a thorn in their side. My every experience with the Labour Party has been one of them stifling independent thought in their ranks and demanding loyalty to the party at every turn. If Kim Leadbetter can’t stomach such control where will it end? No, Batley and Spen was a close squeak win for progressive politics but it was the connection with Jo Cox and a community/independent-minded candidate which actually won it. Sadly, this by-election actually confirmed that otherwise the white, working-class right-wing is still the only section of the electorate both Tories and Labour are actually interested in.

Note – I took against Rachel Reeves back in 2013 when the Guardian newspaper said this of her – ‘Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband’s frontbench reshuffle.’ To me, her position was very far from being one of a progressive and I’ve not changed my mind.

Lydiate – Rosehill Gardens a more gradual graduation

Rosehill Gardens is the new housing estate in Lydiate which, by road, can only be reached via Maghull’s Turnbridge Road. However, it now has pedestrian and cycle access into the rest of Lydiate. The link from the estate is onto the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath not far from the Bells Lane swing bridge.

Rosehill Gardens Leeds Liverpool Canal link as seen on 2nd July 2021 during construction.

I was recently asked why this link had seemingly moved from where it was originally planned to be i.e. slightly nearer towards Bells Lane? A look at the works to provide the link brought me to the personal conclusion that it had been moved due to the need to have a shallower gradient and so it turned out when I exchanged e-mails with a Sefton Council Planning Officer.

My understanding is that some form of bollards are to be placed at either end of the link to try to dissuade motorbikes from using it and that if this does not prove to be successful then other obstacles to motorbikes will be considered.

As readers of this blogsite may recall, the Canal and River Trust have gained what is called a Section 106 contribution, via this new housing development, towards resurfacing the section of towpath which runs from Green Lane Maghull to Bells Lane Lydiate. It may also be recalled that Lydiate Parish Council has been trying to engage with both Sefton Council and the Canal & River Trust to see if some of that S106 money could be spent on sections of the towpath north of Bells Lane swing bridge where it is in far worse condition. That dialogue has, as far as I am aware, not brought about any changes to date.

Lydiate Footpath No.5

I’ve been asked by a couple of people about how long this particular footpath will be closed for so I’ve been chasing things up via Sefton Council who are responsible for public rights of way in the Borough.

For those unfamiliar with Lydiate’s public footpath network, the path runs from the side of Church View Farm on Southport Road, across the fields and it comes out on Eagar Lane. You can see the path here on Lydiate’s public rights of way map as Lyd5:-

Sefton highway engineers tell me that they’ve received an update from the contractor who will be undertaking the work to replace the footbridge, which is the cause of the closure. It seems that the new bridge will be fabricated soon, followed by the removal of the existing bridge, then construction of foundations for the new bridge and installation of the new bridge. Timescalewise it looks like mid-August for the works to be completed.

Treating workers as humans

We see so many working people being treated poorly these days that it’s come to be almost accepted that our fellow human beings, who happen to be employees, are simply expendable and worthy of little care. And I say that as an active trade unionist throughout my whole working life (1975 – 2017) where, in general, I saw working conditions getting worse rather than better.

The only thing that seems to matter these days is the production of whatever form of widgets you can imagine; greater and greater efficiency is the ever strived-for goal but at what cost? Mental health issues are at very significant levels and often the root cause can/will be working conditions, pressure at work, unreasonable production goals, and no time to consider that humans can only be pushed so far before they literally break down. Indeed, I fear that in times of raised unemployment some companies will push their employees past the brink as they don’t care and there’s always someone else who can fill the position of the person they’re in the process of breaking.

The gig economy is leading to huge and unacceptable exploitation of workers with governments and indeed trade unions across western economies struggling to bring this out of control sector to heel. But many mainstream companies, in trying to survive, are pushing their greatest assets to and past the brink. The NHS, poorly resourced as it is for mental health, has to try to pick up the pieces.

The latest mental (and of course physical) health crisis associated with employment is the pandemic we are presently living through. People working from home in inappropriate/inadequate conditions will take a toll on some workers, whilst yes some will find the situation liberating if they have the right conditions to be able to work at home. Generally, the poorer the worker is then the worse it will be trying to convert living space, which may well be scarce anyway, into a workspace. But what about when the pandemic is easing and workers are being pulled back to their traditional workspaces in offices often miles away and a public transport ride from their homes.

Isn’t bringing someone who has been working at home for say 15 or more months akin to bringing back an employee into a workplace who has been on long-term sick leave? Do employers realise that it’s probably not a good idea just to pull a lever and say ‘you’re back in the office next Monday’? Significant management skills are required to sensitively look after staff who are home-working and more again to identify those who will struggle to return to an office environment. The larger the company the more they should be able to ensure their managers, at all levels, are trained and able to help their staff members.

I’ve often felt that government should be leading the way as a massive employer of workers. It should be promoting the best practices and it should certainly not be contracting out work to companies unwilling to uphold similar high standards. Trouble is, at least in the civil service, that’s how things used to be and I started work at the tail end of such good practice. Sadly, I saw how government relinquished its moral responsibility with regard to best employment practices is it went through many years and counting of trying to get its work done at the lowest possible cost and bugger the consequences. And this process has run through governments of all colours I might add.

So, the reality is that government now, in effect, promotes very poor employment practices and even seems to be involved with dubious companies who may be working to undermine our tax system via National Insurance and tax dodging! With such leadership is there any wonder that looking after a company’s most important asset, the people who work for it, becomes a non-priority?

How long will it be before employers realise that treating employees poorly leads to poor outputs and treating them well has the opposite effect? It may take full employment before that lesson is learned by some companies (their staff will walk) but government can and should be leading the way rather than helping to create an explosion of workplace mental health issues!

50 years of the 2nd (Wallasey) Mersey Tunnel

This is the front page of the booklet produced to celebrate the opening of Kingsway Tunnel in 1971.

I’ve posted a couple of times in the past about the Mersey Tunnels and as the second, Kingway Tunnel, is this week celebrating its 50 anniversary it seemed appropriate to re-run (see links below) those postings:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/06/building-the-mersey-tunnels/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/08/mersey-tunnel-kingsway-75-miles-of-new-electric-cables/

These are the tickets my family were given when we walked through the new (2nd) Tunnel in 1971, the day before it opened to vehicles.

Sadly, I don’t have any photos of us walking through the tunnel on what I can still recall as a very exciting day indeed. Even now when I drive through either tunnel, probably 3 or 4 times a year, I think back to that walk-through with my Mum and Dad. Yes, the Mersey tunnels are both very significant pieces of engineering to marvel at.

Sturgeon V Burnham

Or is that Jimmy Krankie V Andy Capp?

Sturgeon, who comes across as a tough Glasgow political street fighter, takes on Greater Manchester’s Scouse Mayor who tries to portray himself as the fighter for the common northern man and woman. Well, there’s only going to one winner in that spat and it’s not Andy Capp. Frankly, Burham’s not in the same league as Sturgeon; he’s more a shouter from the sidelines in my view.

Yes I know, I’ve never rated Burnham as readers of this blog site will know. He’s always struck me as a populist follower rather than a leader of progressives. And wasn’t he close to NHS privatisation during the Blair years?

But whilst the spat is ostensibly about whether Manchester/Salford folk can travel to Scotland during the present Covid 19 situation the reality seems to be that Burnham, you might say cleverly, is using the issue to promote what looks like his ongoing plan/campaign to run for Labour Leader leader (again). This on the basis that, as many within the Labour Party seem to think, Starmer is forced to call it a day or is told to call it a day. But let’s not forget that Burnham has stood for leader previously and if memory serves his performance hardly won many hearts and minds. The reality is, of course, that Starmer will probably limp on until the next general election so Burnham has a while yet to find a safe seat. If he does stand then it will be to try to pick up the leaders job.

So would Labour do any better with a populist (with a conscience) as their leader especially one who is clearly a northerner? That’s a question no one presently has an answer to but you can bet it’s exercising many a Labour strategist mind presently. Of course, as I’ve already indicated Burnham will have to find a safe Labour seat to become an MP once again as his old seat (Leigh) is now represented by a Tory! And that very situation kind of sums up how left of centre politics has been unable to find answers to populist right-wing politics (with little or no conscience).

With credit to Private Eye re. Andy Capp