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Union Chief Says Labour Is More Focused On "Primrose Hill Parents" Than Workers

The GMB chief has taken aim at Labour just days before the party's annual conference

3 min read

General Secretary of the GMB Union has accused Labour of becoming "more and more remote" from working class voters, just days before the party's annual conference.

Gary Smith, who leads one of Labour's biggest union backers said he believes Keir Starmer is relying on "empty slogans" rather than connecting with workers in a scathing assessment of the party's strategy to win back voters.

In an interview with The House magazine, Smith, who was elected to the top role in July, also accused the party of being more interested in "putting workers on the dole" than listening to working class communities following a row over party staffing.

GMB and Unite members who worked for the party voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action after Labour bosses concered about financial pressure proposed compulsory redundancies earlier this year, before backing down in the face of the walk-out threat.

"If Labour wants to be the party of workers it is going to need demonstrate that not by empty slogans but about actually talking about the issues that matter to working class people," Smith said.

"What Labour is obsessing about is putting workers on the dole rather than actually focussing on getting working class people back voting for them."

His comments come just days after Keir Starmer said in a speech at the Trade Union Congress that Labour was "the party of working people" and vowed to "always stand with the trade unions".

But Smith hit back at the party's approach, accusing the leadership of being "more and more remote from the concerns of working class people".

He added: "The Parent Teacher Association in Primrose Hill does not represent mainstream thinking in this country, it doesn't represent the concerns of most working class communities."

The remarks are likely to put further pressure on Starmer just days before MPs and members gather in Brighton for his physical party conference since becoming leader.

Starmer already faced criticism from his own MPs over his leadership following the resignation of shadow minister Khalid Mahmood who claimed the party had been taken over by "a London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors".

Smith, who insisted he was not seeking to "lecture" the party's leadership, also criticised former leader Jeremy Corbyn for the loss of the Copeland by-election, claiming he had failed to convince nuclear workers the party would protect their jobs.

"Remember Labour lost Copeland under Corbyn. Copeland has one of the highest levels of trade union membership in any constituency in the country," he said.

"These are nuclear workers and these communities believe that Labour was against their jobs in that industry, and they voted accordingly."

He added: "Labour is clearly out of touch with large swathes of the working class and voters, and it's up to Keir Starmer and his team to figure out how they're going to reconnect."

A Labour spokesperson, said: "Labour has always and will always be the party of working people.

"We have been fighting the Government every step of the way to stop the shameful cut to Universal Credit. We voted against the Tory’s national insurance hike because families on low incomes will bear the brunt.

"The Government is trying to make low income families pay as a result of their chronic mismanagement of the pandemic and the economic recovery. Labour is the only party that can be trusted to stand up for working people, and we will be relentless in not letting the Government get away with letting them down."

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