Excl: new Trickett and Lavery ‘Northern Discomfort’ warning report was blocked last summer

Report warning liberalism destroying party not heeded in 2019 – and denied publication clearance

Yesterday, Labour front-benchers Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett published their ‘Northern Discomfort’ report.

The report addresses the ‘modern vicious twist’ the class divide has taken post-Brexit – a culture war against people in northern and other towns being waged by liberals inside and outside the Labour Party to distract from the real battle of the 99% vs the 1%.

And it highlights the catastrophic consequences both for those communities and for the party – and the danger that the party is about to push further along that disastrous road.

The report acknowledges the achievements of New Labour governments – but exposes the reality behind them:

Following the 1992 election defeat, right wingers in the Party launched a full scale assault on Labour’s structures, culture, values and policies. This assault accelerated with the seizure of the leadership by a small group around Tony Blair.

We were told that we could secure a great prize but that we must pay a price. They offered the party electoral victories in exchange for selling a part of its soul.

Blair’s core electoral strategy was based on a vulgar idea that Labour’s “heartlands” in industrial communities had nowhere else to go except to vote Labour. Instead of a unifying policy of long term restructuring of our economy and society which would have helped both ‘southern aspiration’ and heartland areas he thought he could pocket the votes of the latter and take them for granted.

Standing on a platform of assumed heartland votes, New Labour then set out to win Southern middle class voters. They thought that they could move forward by realigning the Party with a set of assumed values supposedly embedded within these Southern communities.

For a time, the tactic worked in the sense of delivering majorities in the Commons.

And the MPs go on to expose the consequences of that soul-selling:

Out of fear of Southern voters’ flight, many of our radical purposes were abandoned.

But – and this was clearly predicted at the time – the key assumption that heartland communities would then remain blindly loyal, soon began to break down. And this process accelerated as the tsunami of de-industrialisation and austerity, combined too often by the breakdown of hitherto strong communities, began to bite into the heartlands.

After the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Labour began to change. It was in the first leadership campaign, for example, that we addressed problems in one of our great heartlands in the North of England when we launched “Northern Future” . For the first time in many years we had a policy paper that clearly gave voice to the North of England, and indeed working class people.

But the powerful forces in the Party who remain wedded to the failed New Labour project continued to make their case – and in increasingly strident ways – now even gaining traction amongst the “soft left” . And there are extremely strong elements in the wider society, who out of fear of a perceived threat to their privileged position, are determined to push the Party backwards.

You don’t have to look far to find ‘progressives’ who would write off the majority of people in the heartland communities as backward looking, racist or reactionary. Or even simple minded, uneducated. Regrettably, there were those in the party – including some in important representative positions – who reacted to the EU referendum result by seeking to overturn its result thereby giving the impression that the party would turn its back on the majority.

The relevance and prescience of this report for the general election results in December are clear – as the report itself states, it was originally to be published last July:

This pamphlet was written in summer 2019 before we knew there would be a general election.

Tragically the election proved that a substantial part of our analysis was in fact accurate.

It wasn’t published at the time for a variety of reasons

We publish it now because there is clearly a huge task ahead and many of the ideas in here are of direct relevance. We have added some preliminary analysis from the 2019 election in order to gain a better picture of the current state of play.

But the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that among the ‘variety of reasons’ that the report was not published lies a very simple and fundamental one:

Its publication was blocked when clearance was denied by the party.

It seems that a large faction of Labour’s front bench was so determined to press on with the headlong rush to pivot to a ‘referendum and remain’ position – a position that intrinsically devalued and disrespected the votes of millions of ‘Labour leavers’ – that it could not countenance the publication of a report that exposed and confronted what lay behind that rush.

Tragically, for the country and for the Labour Party, the consequences of that decision to snub the working class people for whom the party was created was exactly as the report predicted.

Lavery and Trickett were prominent voices warning of what would happen – even outside the pages of their report – but they were not the only ones. Many grassroots activists and a number of ‘new left media’, including this one, were warning behind and in front of the scenes that a referendum call would be poison.

We were ignored.

Labour must rebuild its grassroots presence, activity and engagement in those now-former heartlands. But it cannot even hope to begin to do so if it continues to ignore the warnings and to disdain the votes and wishes of Labour’s now-former heartlands.

Presenting a new leader to those communities who was at the forefront of that fundamental disrespect for their votes and views will be lethal to Labour’s hopes of recovery, potentially for years.

Those whose obsessions and agendas brought Labour to the catastrophe of last December must not be rewarded for the contempt their decisions in 2015, 2016 and since heaped on working-class people.

Read the full report here.

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  1. Of course, the reality was (and still is) that the damage that Brexit would cause to the economies of the Northern heartlands (and I post from Teesside) was such that the overwhelming moral objective had to be to fight against the leave case. Both authors had never hidden their Lexit roots and thus the party (as a whole) did what it had to do. Simples.

    1. Rubbish Mr Walsh. Total rubbish. The northerners and midlanders were suffering for the last FOUR decades. It is ridiculous to argue that change would guarantee their situation would get worse. The same empty Blairite arguments were made re joining the Euro.

    2. That about sums it up. The damage was done with the anaemic response straight after the Tories put one over on Labour (aided by the captive MSM) with the Brexit schtick, and people like Lavery and Tricket backed them (Against the majority of Labour members). A doomed non-strategy, with which the Tories again outwitted Labour with ‘Let’s get Brexit done’ fakery.

      Basically – standing around gormlessly searching for your arse when the Tories are making the running isn’t a good look.

      Now it’s what every little partisan faction is into – post-hoc justification, using the phrase ‘working class’ as a token and fake emblem.

      1. You pathetic wretch,even now you can’t admit to what your stupid right wing refusal to accept the Brexit vote was the reason Johnson is in Downing Street.

      2. But, John, what you fail to grasp is that dicky’s constituency returned a Labour MP so that absolves him of any blame while granting him the authority (through his obvious infinite wisdom) to pontificate to everyone else.

      3. That supposed to be some sort of attempt at humour, dicky?

        How’s your labour MP doing? Managed to change any Brexit policy from their minority position , yet?


        Managed to change ANY policy at all from their minority position?

        I wonder why? Maybe if YOUR labour mp had a lot more labour MPs beside him/her like they most likely would have done had they listened to the working classes you detest or the electorate as a whole you ignore…

        But hey! YOU got YOUR labour MP elected…


    3. I post from Merseyside…Doesn’t make my opinion any more or less valid.

      And NO – the party (as a whole) DIDN’T ‘do what it had to do’

      STARMER (plus a few other rodents) did what was uncalled for undemocratic, and more to the point – Unforgiveable to many a (longtime and northern) labour voter.

      He did that on behalf of the 70% of the party (Without any vote being taken to make it policy) using fatboy slime’s A/S coercion shithousery as leverage, and completely ignored the issues that caused 4million labour voters – nationwide – to vote leave in the first place.

      17m will ALWAYS be bigger than 16m.

      4m will always be greater than 350k (or thereabouts)

      But idiots NEVER learn from past mistakes, or the glaring evidence right in front of their eyes.

      Vote sleazy,slimy starmer – get a toerag enabler.

      (PS has he published this donor list yet? )


    4. The usual totally ignorant drivel from that know-nothing Remainer, David Walsh – who hasn’t noticed the de-industrialisation of our old Labour heartlands over the last thirty years , including under the New Labour regime of Blaire and Brown. Or the destruction of the wage rates and conditions of our unskilled and semi-skilled working class ex voters by the EU-facilitated unlimited labour supply pursued as a key policy under Blair and Brown. All encouraged and enforced by the EU’s neolioberal Single Market rules and pro privatisation agendas !

      This report is a brilliant demolition job of Labour’s New Labour capitulation to neoliberalism – and also, less intentionally, of the continuing capitulation of the Left-Liberal ‘Corbynistas’ to that continuing agenda , despite the Corbynist radical rhetoric.

      Even if this excellent report HAD been published in the summer last year before our electoral suicide , would it have changed our Party’s overwhelming Left Liberal direction and politics ? Nope. Our overwhelmingly non working class , professional middle class, identity politics obsessed, Left Liberal membership actually despise our working class heartland ex-voters, and love the neoliberal EU which delivers them personally so many benefits, from cheap labour Uber taxis to plumbers, to delivery drivers, to easy holiday access to Europe. The class composition of our Party precludes a serious return to socialist politics and policies.

      1. “ignorant drivel from that know-nothing Remainer, David Walsh – who hasn’t noticed the de-industrialisation of our old Labour heartlands over the last thirty years” Not sure how that applied to me wen I had my pay off from our local steelworks. But then……

      2. David – You are a bit naive in thinking that the ‘class warriors’ here have any grasp of the actuality of class and its experience in the real world.

        It’s like comparing Barbara Cartland to Marx..

    5. The uncritical EU admirer, David Walsh, whining that , by implication, his claimed past redundancy from a Northern steel plant must give him an understanding of the relationship between EU membership and the economic impoverishment of the North of England. Walsh musn’t know that it is precisely EU rules which make it impossible for any EU state governments to provide financial assistance to basic industries precisely like steel – because of its State Aids rules . The Freedom of capital movement enshrined in the Single Market rules , combined with the State Aids rules , and the ban on preferential internal national sourcing of supplies and materials, ensure no UK government, Labour or Tory, or any other, could pursue a strategy to re-build the UK manufacturing base by the essential strategies of home-based supply from key local industries, or via financial assistance to rebuild those key industries, like steel – combined with state ownership of them too.

      I repeat, David Walsh – you are an ignoramus on any aspect of the EU or UK economic history. Only freedom from the neoliberal EU straightjacket would give a future Left-leaning government the power to implement the likes of the 2017 or 20129 Labour Manifestos.

      1. I think that in terms of a contest over knowledge of EC and EU legislation over state aid for steel, I would be the winner. Consider this; European governments can provide State-Aid to steel producers. Ostensibly however, it must be qualified for a specific reason beyond simply supporting an industry. Normally, these would relate to environmental or public health concerns, or the investment in R&D, which would be lost with the closure of a works. I would cite public health as a legitimate concern following large scale unemployment hitting defined communities.

        There are many examples of European steel businesses receiving State-Aid.

        In early 2015, the Italian Government temporarily renationalised the Ilva Steel works in Taranto, Southern Italy. The Italian government cited the unabated toxic emissions and very poor environmental standards, which had led to unusually high rates of cancer in the area around the plant.

        Currently the French government are providing state-aid to the Arcelor Mittal plant at Florange, in Lorraine, to support their ongoing R&D work, this follows on from a long running industrial dispute over the closing of two blast furnaces. This State-Aid comes to a total of €20-50 million over 4 years, with a further 33 million been raised in public-private investment.

        In 2010, before the May election (which saw a change in Government), the UK Labour Brown administration was willing to provide Sheffield steel producer Foragemasters with an £80m loan to develop new tecnologies as part of a supply chain for nuclear reactors.

        Your call, I feel

  2. The basis of your opinion seems to be total devotion to the capitalist system before whose mysterious dynamics all must tremble in fear.
    Socialists believe otherwise: that the people can and should control the economy.
    What you call a ‘moral interest’ is nothing more than your patronising view that you know better than other voters and, having failed to convince them of your rectitude, it was necessary to suspend democracy because you know better.
    As Cromwell suggested you should consider the possibility that you-and the ideologists of class rule- might be mistaken.
    Can you explain why your vote should count for more than the average Teessider?

  3. The situation is probably worse than that.
    Core voters exist in all constituencies.

    Take a constituency like Wolverhampton S-W.
    It is a constituency with a lot of Conservative voters and a lot of core Labour voters. And that is what gives it its marginal status.

  4. The anger in the North should be a warning that to ignore community s anywhere by our party has a price.To parachute candidates into constituencys and use the locals has voting fodder for the right wing moderates to play politics was always going to start a lashback the same as Scotland..We could talk about ignoring a democratic vote,but I believe it goes much deeper than just brexit and the position of a Labour party that turns its back on working class people.I have said before that I still find it difficult to see how people could give their vote to a overgrown clown like johnson for whatever reason,but obviously not that many in the North hate the Tory establishment like me.The leadership election will seal the fate of the Labour party and I can guarantee that a knight will go down like a lead balloon in my old Milltown of BOLTON

  5. Yes to snowflake 2nd referendummies
    Yes to ignorant, white, racist brexidiots
    FFS tell us something we dont know, all it needed then is the s4brains FPTP electoral system,
    The fuckwits who voted for Uncle Festa and the cheap and nasty Tory party Eton mess know their ancestors are spinning in their graves,
    First generation that wont be missed when they pass
    They would have won a Labour Brexit 2nd referendum 80/20

      1. Methinks there’s a particularly large element of sardonicism within doug’s post, signpost.

        And even if not, he has a point.

    1. ”Starmer: Unclear but some praise for Sander’s campaign”

      That figures. Bernie didn’t win S.Carolina so slimy’s hedging his bets.

  6. The ignoring of the North except for its exploitation has been going on since the Roman Empire chose Londinium for its local capital.
    “All roads lead to Rome” applies to any capital city.
    Southern England has had a weather advantage since the Ice Age.
    Whether that will continue is anyone’s guess, but it’s an advantage the North can’t compete with for now.
    Mines, mills & heavy industry relied on geographic factors and workers being expoited by rich industrialists – as soon as those factors were nullified by progress and cheap foreign labour the rich lost interest in the North and moved themselves and their money to where it was warmer and the lights were brighter.
    There’s been neglect by all political parties but the decline of the North would have happened anyway – because capital doesn’t do gratitude, nostalgia, fairness, friendship, respect, charity or humanity – just exploitation and profit.

    1. For those few here who’ll misinterpret the above – I’m saying that only socialism can fix the Heartlands and the world, because capitalism never will.

  7. In 1979 when I left the North East for work, major contractors directly employed a large number of their workforce
    Within a couple of years, the vast majority were sub contractors,
    During one large concrete pour, 50 extra labourers were brought in from Southend, the foreman signed their cards Singh A, Singh B, then Singh AA, Singh BB, fast forward to Brexit
    Get Brexit done to stop cheap foreign labour undercutting English workers,
    So in 2019 GE, fuckwits vote for the party that destroyed the unions, industries and communities that supported them
    Sardonic moi

  8. I’m afraid the ignoramuses Lavery and Tricket have *no idea* of what “working class” means and seem to assess class matters in sociological terms, rather than in terms of property relations and relationship with the means of production. Retired ex-manual workers are *not* part of the working class: NHS workers, Deliveroo riders and cleaners *are*. Too much of this reactionary Brexiteer “class” stuff is based upon marketing industry sub-sociology and not enough on Marxism.

    1. There’s also this reactionary isolationist crap about Northern Vs Southern, as if there’s no working class in the South, no poverty in London (crazy idea, seeing that some London boroughs rank in the poorest in the country), no working class history there. During the Blair years, not only were the working class in the North ignored, but that same class in the South was also ignored.

      I do agree that the industrial heartlands were ignored and that their problems were swept away by the centrists, but some of that can be applied also to workers in other regions. Basically, Blair was symptomatic of the party turning away from the working class as a whole and seeking this “middle England” dream. It was crap, false and only served to damage class solidarity, accentuating regional differences within the working classes, sowing division and racism.

      Still, let’s keep on with this dividing the working class between arbitrary boundaries, forgetting workers of the world unite. That suits the ruling class, whether in the North or South or around the world…

  9. I felt betrayed by new Labour,I voted once for Blair taken for a fool,never voted Labour again, not until Jeremy became leader.
    Now I am betrayed again, I haven’t much faith in the current crop at all, Lavery could have possibly saved us from this lot of traitors.
    Even in my hometown we felt politically homeless.

    We should never return to anything that resembles the right,only a socialist party for me.

  10. The 99% versus the 1% (really the 99.8% v. The 0.02%) is the ONLY battle in town.

    Of course neo-liberal ‘centrists’ – whether of the Blair, the Cameron or the libdem variety – do not want this to concede this. If it were, neo-liberal, hardly-regulated capitalism would be seen as the enabler of the 1% (0.02%) and ferociously anti-social and anti-democratic.

    The chicken coup, faux accusations of anti-Semitism, four years of Labour-generated smears against its leader are the proof of the Labour RW’s fear and hatred of moderate, sensible democratic socialism.

    BUT what is completely unacceptable is that the RW labourites with their chicken coup and their faux anti-Semitism are more neo-liberal than Labour. They are neither fraternal nor worthy of Labour Party membership. A broad church is not a church-hating bunch of atheists.

    We need them to know this and voluntarily leave. But they won’t.

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