ANALYSIS: Why Labour MPs fear Paul Nuttall is 'a clear and present danger' to their job prospects

Posted On: 
28th November 2016

It was the moment dozens of Labour MPs in the north of England were dreading.

Labour MPs admit Paul Nuttall represents a 'clear and present danger' to their job prospects
PA Images

In a rare outbreak of sanity, Ukip have elected a leader who may just deliver the electoral breakthrough they have long dreamed about.

But don't take my word for it. Speak to northern Labour MPs and they are scared. Very scared indeed.

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They believe that Paul Nuttall - state school educated and from Bootle in Liverpool - represents a "clear and present danger" to their chances of returning to Westminster after the next general election.

"With Farage, all you had to do was show our voters the picture of him holding the Thatcher mug and wearing a trilby and say 'you can't vote for this guy, can you?'," says one backbencher.

But Paul Nuttall is a very different proposition. He speaks the language of many white, working class voters - and crucially, can deliver those views in an impeccable white, working class accent.

He has also vowed to "replace the Labour party in the next five years" and for Ukip to "become the patriotic party of the working people".

Nuttall's euroscepticism is a given, but what he has to say on criminal sentences that "mean what they say" and putting British workers "at the top of the queue" are music to the ears of former Labour voters who feel the party no longer speaks for them.

One Labour MP said: "It's always been the big fear, that Ukip would end up being led by someone like Nuttall, a northerner from a working class background.

"He isn't exactly JFK, but he does represent a clear and present danger to Labour in the north of England, particularly at a time when we are haemorrhaging so many white, working class votes.

"They are deserting us because of Corbyn's stance on defence, security, policing and immigration."

One Labour backbencher points out that in their seat, Ukip managed to come second at the last election without delivering a single leaflet.

With Nuttall in charge, Labour MPs fear that many more of their traditional voters will be willing to make the leap from their column to Ukip's. Throw in those who will return to the Lib Dems after their 2015 meltdown, and others who will back the Tories simply because they see Theresa May as the better bet as Prime Minister, and all of a sudden those five-figure majorities don't seem so impregnable.

"What you'll see is a lot of us adopting Lib Dem-style tactics and going ultra-local," one mournful Labour MP said. "We will effectively disown the leader, ditch the Labour brand, junk the policies and run as a local franchise. It might be the only way to survive."

Writing in The Times today, Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis speaks for many of his colleagues when he says: "There are very few Labour MPs, if any, who would say that they are in what’s traditionally been referred to as safe seats.

"I’m not sure such a thing exists any more. It is clear to me that the Ukip fox is in the Labour henhouse and we have got to make a decision about what we want to do about that fox."

Assuming he lasts longer than Diane James, could Paul Nuttall be the man who turns the north of England from red to purple?