“We had all sorts of good policies for you people; cutting tuition fees, bus reorganisation to sort out travel costs, strong on the environment, lots of really good policies” says Tristram Hunt, lamenting the Labour Party’s electoral collapse at the 2015 general election. The MP for Stoke and former Shadow Education Secretary addressed Durham University Labour Club last week, and was keen to emphasise the role poor 18-25 turnout had in Labour’s defeat.
“We in the Labour Party had a more compelling offer for young people to come and vote,” says Hunt. So why didn’t we vote on mass last year? “I think young people vote – like most people – when they think there is something important on the ballot,” implying Labour failed to provide 18-25s with a reason to turn out.
“It’s not just politics as you know, it’s your membership of churches, it’s your membership of trade unions; millennials are individualists. You are incredibly gregarious in some senses on social media, you’re killing retail in this country because you don’t like shopping, you like having meals together, and you like having experiences, but those experiences don’t seem to involve the polling booth – because maybe it’s not a collective moment. Honestly, I’m not the person to ask.”
The subject turned to Shami Chakrabarti’s recent appointment to the House of Lords. Corbyn’s critics have branded this a reward for her soft approach to anti-Semitism in Labour.
“I think we have a real problem with anti-Semitism and I think there are many on the left who have shared platforms with and indulged anti-Semites for far too long and safe spaces […] have been created for anti-Semitism,” says Hunt.
“Jeremy is not an anti-Semite, there are not anti-Semites at the top of the party, but when you create a structure of thought and a structure of analysis which gives space to this then it’s a real problem, and it is no wonder the Jewish community is turning their backs on us.
“It hurts me, it pains me, because the history of the labour movement is deeply embedded with the Jewish people in this country,” Hunt continued.
“This is a deep and profound connection and we are blowing it apart […] I don’t care about the House of Lords, that was the crime of Shami, not to address that, not think intelligently and deeply about it.”
Asked about Labour’s failure to produce a female Prime Minister, Tristram Hunt then took on the subject of sexism in the Labour party.
‘There is more to be done in terms of policies which actually support gender equality. But, what also worries me in terms of the party is the kind of vicious assaults on female MPs. It’s the really unpleasant stuff which Jess Phillips has to put up with, and Stella Creasey has to put up with. And then if you’re a female, Jewish MP, then it’s horrific.’
And Jeremy Corbyn? Has the self-proclaimed Blairite come to terms with Corbyn’s renewed mandate?
“His position is stable…could I be any clearer?”
Image by Financial Times via flickr.