Angela Rayner says Labour has ‘talked down’ to voters for too long
Labour must stop talking down to voters, deputy leader Angela Rayner has said in the wake of the party’s damaging election losses.
Ms Rayner set out on Monday how Labour must change to reconnect with working class voters after the crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.
Her comments came after she was given greater authority within the shadow cabinet following intense criticism of Sir Keir Starmer’s initial move to strip her of key roles as party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator.
Working-class people don’t want a handout or someone telling us what we should think. We want the opportunities to do it for ourselves
The Labour leader told his reshuffled top team that he takes full responsibility for the electoral failings as he met them for the first time since last week’s losses.
Ms Rayner was eventually given a new job shadowing Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove after furious accusations Sir Keir was trying to scapegoat her.
She was also made shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her the shadow deputy prime minister.
Writing in the Guardian, Ms Rayner said: “We have got to change how the Labour Party operates, how it talks and how it relates to the people and communities that we seek to serve and represent.
“For too long we have given off an air of talking down to people and telling people what they need, or even what they should want or what they should think.
“There has been too much of Labour doing things for people and communities, and not enough doing things with people and communities.
“Working-class people don’t want a handout or someone telling us what we should think. We want the opportunities to do it for ourselves.”
Ms Rayner also offered what was interpreted as coded criticism of Sir Keir, who was known for using tactics in the Commons to heap pressure on the Government during Brexit negotiations.
“Politics is not about the language of Parliament or party processes. We need to show those who have lost faith what we stand for that we are on their side and that we will stand up for them,” Ms Rayner said.
Meanwhile, the final results of Thursday’s English council elections were announced when the outcome was declared in Winchester on Monday evening.
The Tories gained 294 councillors across the nation, while Labour lost 267.
Labour sources earlier in the day said Sir Keir made clear during his shadow cabinet meeting that he was not trying to shift the blame for the party’s dismal election showing.
He was said to have told them there was no escaping the scale of the defeats which said “something profound about the size of the journey we have to go”.
He said: “To be clear, I take responsibility. Nobody else.
“I lead the Labour Party and it is entirely on me.”
Sir Keir said that he had given Ms Rayner “a big new role, taking the fight to the Tories”.
In other changes, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was demoted to party chairwoman, to be replaced by Rachel Reeves who was previously shadowing Mr Gove.
Veteran chief whip Nick Brown also stood down to be replaced by Alan Campbell.
Sir Keir continued to face criticism over the way he treated Ms Rayner – particularly from the Labour left.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Labour leader was trying to make her “carry the can” for last week’s poor results.
“It was a foolish thing to even think about and he has had to walk it back – you can’t sack an elected deputy leader,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that he did not like the way Ms Rayner’s removal as party chairwoman was handled.
“I don’t think the way Angela was treated was right. But it’s been resolved and we move on from this morning,” he said.
Mr Burnham denied the results were “catastrophic” for Labour and said the party needed to build on those successes it did achieve – such as in Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire where Tracy Brabin became the region’s first elected mayor.
“Labour needs to move on from the left and the right conducting this civil war within, focus on delivery now and making change happen and celebrating Labour in power – because this is Labour in power, look at what we’re doing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the party’s new national campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood acknowledged that Ms Brabin’s success in West Yorkshire meant they were facing another potentially difficult by-election in Batley and Spen where she was the MP.
Ms Mahmood told BBC Breakfast: “It is no doubt going to be a big test. It is an important by-election for us.”