Denham deflects left-wing challenge

Cabinet minister John Denham found himself on the receiving end of an attack from the left wing of the Labour party this lunchtime.

The innovation, universities and skills minister was explaining his belief that the changing nature of the economy means working class jobs which do not require “any skill or qualification” are drying up at a Fabian Society fringe event in Manchester.

Jon Trickett, the MP for Hemsworth who has written an article in the latest Fabian Review calling for Labour to refocus on its “core voters”, the working class, challenged this view.

He said those in the lowest social categories, including unskilled manual workers, faced a world for work which includes redundancy every six to eight years, a gradual decline in their social class and, “for many, the end of a way of life”.

“The only route out we offer is education. But for many of those who failed at school, they won’t be seen dead going back,” Mr Trickett said.

“I sometimes think the government needs to remember we’re here for a set of values. rather than just managing the system.”

Mr Denham rejected this argument forcefully, claiming: “We can’t promise people a world where there is no change. What we have got the power to do is equip people to get jobs that will be available.”

He claimed Labour had been good for the white working class over the next ten years but conceded that many of them need to “feel life around them is getting better and they feel they have a say in their own future”.

The largest applause of the meeting was given to a speaker from the audience called Stuart who described himself as a “social class D, 10p taxpayer”.

“You can put lipstick on a low-paid job, it’s still a low-paid job,” he said.

A Stoke-on-Trent councillor, from a ward where the battle is between Labour and the British National party, pressed the importance of “communicating with the electorate”.

And Jon Cruddas, the unofficial leader of the party’s left wing, warned that as class had retreated a “retreat into tribalism that was underway”.