THE patina of gloom that’s lately settled upon the UK Labour movement lifted a little on Thursday and provided hope of something brighter. At last, an authentic working-class voice could be heard proclaiming authentic Labour values in the face of the party’s recent tilt to supine acquiescence in Britain’s neo-liberal project.

Gary Smith, recently elected as UK leader of the influential GMB Trade Union, chose not to mess about as he railed against the failing stewardship of Glasgow City Council which has left large inner-city areas tawdry and soiled.

Interviewed in the Daily Record, Mr Smith – raised in the steadfastly working-class Granton area of Edinburgh – spoke out against the ‘hypocrisy’ of Glasgow hosting the Cop26 Climate Change Conference later this year.

“Working-class communities around Glasgow have been abandoned by the council,” he said. “We’ve got filthy streets and kids going to school hungry, and here we are welcoming the world to talk about this big, new future. I’m deeply uncomfortable with that. We don’t even have a publicly-owned, clean public transport system in Glasgow.”

All of this, he added would justify strike action if local members opted for it.

With every visit to the centre of Glasgow and its working-class neighbourhoods in the east, south and north of the city evidence of neglect is clear for anyone who can smell and see. The response from the council was predictably childish and trite and hinted at Mr Smith’s Edinburgh upbringing.

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There’s a reason why the boutique left in Scotland and the UK are exulting at the prospect of all that climate posturing in November and demanding meat-free menus. It permits them to affect solemnity and to talk of “legacies” and “future generations”.

Conveniently, these “future generations” are unable to hold present-day politicians to account for promising action while permitting global interests to annexe vast swathes of the natural world.

A stark example of this is proceeding in Glasgow’s back garden even as the Climate Discipleship are booking the Learjets. As Nicola Sturgeon picks over her alfalfa crepes in November in Glasgow her Government and its main development agency, Scottish Enterprise, will be gift-wrapping bits of the real estate around Loch Lomond as vanity projects for billionaires and business opportunities for theme-park operators.

As Gary Smith was daring to talk about trade unions, the working-class and strike action – forbidden terminology in the Sir Keir Starmer era – in West Yorkshire Labour were scraping home at the Batley and Spen by-election. Sir Keir’s acolytes thronged the morning news bulletins to talk of a Labour recovery. Some recovery. Following the Hartlepool catastrophe Labour had just made a marginal seat even tighter and ripe for the taking by the Tories in 2024.

In the space of a few weeks a maverick incomer, George Galloway had managed to rally the constituency’s Asian community sufficiently to secure more than 8,000 votes, 22% of the turnout. Sir Keir’s chief apologists affected disgust at reports of “loud shouting” and “egg-throwing” during this thorny contest. Yet, no one was asking why an ethnic constituency, steeped in Labour tradition, had risked returning a Tory to register a protest about being marginalised by their party’s slavish devotion to the Israeli Government’s human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

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If Labour is not to be assimilated into a broad free-market coalition of neo-liberalism, a better outcome would have seen the party defeated at Batley and Spen. This would have signalled a merciful end to Sir Keir’s feckless and barren 15 months as Labour leader. During this time he has barely registered as a Labour politician at all, let alone a leader. When your only contribution of note is to weep under questioning by Piers Morgan it’s maybe time to quit and start playing with your investment portfolio.

Earlier this week, a report by Sir Michael Marmot, one of England’s most-respected public health experts, laid bare the raw facts of Covid inequality in England’s poorest communities. In Greater Manchester the death rate was 25% higher than the national average in the year to March.

He described as “jaw-dropping” the resultant decline in life expectancy and the accompanying rise in social and health inequalities. Sir Michael cited “avoidable socio-economic inequities” and “ethnic disadvantage” as the main drivers of this social apocalypse. These had been aggravated by Covid and the impact of lengthy lockdowns following years of spending cuts.

This narrative should have been framing Labour’s opposition to Boris Johnson’s government during Sir Keir’s plodding leadership. Along with the corrupt malpractices and persistent law-breaking of the Tory cabinet it provided several opportunities for a competent Labour leader to make a significant dent in the Tories’ polling. Instead, Johnson’s numbers have actually climbed as Sir Keir has slumbered at every open goal.

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Those working-class voters who have abandoned Labour in huge numbers have also been pushed to the margins of discourse on the designer Left. The political elites at Westminster and Holyrood have begun to conduct their conversations in a language designed to exclude them: a contrived, self-indulgent and narcissistic patois around gender and the climate emergency which absolves the users of doing anything meaningful in the here and now about multi-deprivation.

When authentic working-class people try to respond they are dismissed and cancelled as ignorant bigots for not being up-to-date in the nuances of sexual identity and global warming. They have seen their communities ravaged by Thatcherism and the slow but implacable erosion of their workplace rights in those industries that still offer them employment.

In places like Greater Manchester and Glasgow where most of them live they have been priced out of the housing market and forced to participate in an employment race to the bottom where trade union protection is forbidden and zero-hours contracts are granted on a fire-and-rehire basis.

In the face of this, the Labour Party has been asleep and acquiescent. In Scotland, it’s led by a privately-educated millionaire dentist whose family fortune was reinforced by avoiding payment of the Living Wage. Its UK leader, another multi-millionaire, thinks that talking about patriotism and the armed forces are the key to lifting people out of poverty.

The Batley and Spen by-election wasn’t a triumph for the Labour Party; it simply signalled its inevitable, ultimate demise.

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