As it happens, there are numbers - not consulted in Janan's piece - that bear out this analysis, but only to a degree. Published by The Graun last week, the party has attracted disproportionate numbers of home-owning inner city yuppie/hipster-types. They account for something like four per cent of the general population, while they're a mahoosive 11.2% of our party's membership. 10% of members are in "prestige positions", as against nine per cent of the population. Meanwhile, rural workers and the less well-off are underrepresented. So for one, talk of a middle class take over is somewhat overstated. It's an issue, certainly, but represents a little over one-in-five members and, anecdotally, appears to be geographically concentrated in the big cities. My own sunny Stoke constituency party remains as working class as it was back before the membership surge, for example. And while we're at it, show me a party that is more demographically balanced than the Labour Party. Many low paid workers in the Tories, do you think? Are numbers of students in the LibDems proportionate? Is UKIP rammed with working class supporters?
Ah, well yes, if you follow the narrative. Apparently, it is white working class voters who are most susceptible to UKIP's dubious charms. Locally here in North Staffordshire, the purples have given us most grief in solidly working class districts that were at one time Labour-loyal. Silverdale in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Abbey Hulton and Bentilee - the last two former bases of the late and unlamented BNP - have returned kipper councillors, or came within a whisker of doing so. Yet the studies looking at UKIP support tell another story. Prior to last May, the British Election Survey found working class voters were only a little more likely to support UKIP. Of more significance was the disproportionate support of middle class professionals and small business people. As anyone with a dim awareness of radical right and fascist parties in Western Europe will tell you, such a composition is par the course for parties of UKIP's character. And, yes, the same was true of the BNP's core support as well. Of course, what the NRS measure of social class used to bolster these kinds of analyses neglect to mention is that the 'E' class at the bottom of the scale - itinerant workers, the unemployed, etc. - have traditionally been the fodder of reactionary movements, as even Marx noted in his day. Lumping in the lumpens, who are also present in disproportionate numbers, lends the radical right a working class appearance when, in fact, it's the middling, small business, and declassed elements who predominate.
This isn't to say Labour should be chillaxed about such things. Neglecting UKIP in the context of a Tory campaign characterised by nationalist fear-mongering was fatal for Labour, and the jury remains out on whether sufficient numbers of working class voters can be won back by Jeremy's leadership. But Janan should beware smugging his way through the situation Labour finds itself in. In the first place, he betrays no understanding of different gradations and substantive experience of class. The idea working class jobs are confined to manual occupations is complete nonsense. Changing technology, the deskilling of occupations, the rise of part-time working, and the spread of temporary and zero hour contracts has effectively proletarianised what were traditionally regarded as middle class occupations. This 'new working class', if you like, is inchoate, disorganised, and largely atomised. But it's big and it's growing, and sooner or later the multiple frustrations it faces will find political expression. I hope it will be by recruiting millions of these people to the labour movement. Yet there is a chance the Tories could exploit their insecurities and ride them back into Downing Street. Or anti-politics and "apathy" could rule the day. Or Jeremy Corbyn's message about equality and life chances could cut its way through. It's possible.
The second problem for Janan is his revisionism. He argues that New Labour was no middle class take over of the party (though the demographic composition of the PLP accelerated in this direction during the Blair years). He says "by hardening its line on crime and defence, by cloaking it unsqueamishly in the British flag, by taking school standards and welfare abuse seriously, Tony Blair returned a party captured by the whims of the Brahmin left to actual working people." That's funny, because at the time (what a wonderful thing memory is), all of these moves were justified by the need to pitch to the middle ground, which has always been code for nice middle class people in nice middle class marginals. The other problem with Janan's assertion is whatever one thinks of Blair's strategy and policies, a number of previously Labour-loyal working class voters started flirting with and then voting for alternatives. Labour got wiped out in Scotland in 2015, but the ruin dates back much earlier. The BNP and UKIP grew strongly under St Tony too. The political consequences of tough talk on immigration and of repeating scrounger narratives was to prepare the ground for right wing parties with simple populist "policies" we could never hope to compete with.
The truth of the matter is Labour has never been a working class party, as such. It was founded to represent the interests of people who have to sell their labour power for a living in the British political system. It's a proletarian party, which is a key difference. That category is vast, ranging from well-remunerated professionals with qualifications spilling out of their hats to "traditional" workers to the low paid and the destitute. It is now as it was then an alliance between different categories of occupation, and the party's strength lies in these links it has to these organised interests of the vast majority of working people, blue collar and white collar. Sure, Jeremy's leadership presents the party with a series of tough challenges, but if his leadership continue to hammer home issues that can speak to our people, it's not without opportunities either.