Class, language and localism in the Labour leadership race | Letters

Guardian readers share their views on the contest and its candidates

In the recent statements by candidates for the leadership of the Labour party there are two expressions that deserve attention: “community” and “the working class”. Most of the candidates invoke these groupings without, it seems, giving much thought to their meaning. Communities are not the glorious locations of consensus and mutual support that they are presented as. Often they were, and are, locations of exclusion and prejudice, even coercion.

“The working class” is a term that might have been appropriate for manual (usually male) workers, but quite what it means in the complex contemporary labour market is much more problematic. The protests about the 1% were perhaps rather more accurate, since they did point to extreme forms of social inequality and the fact that the vast majority of us do have to work in order to support ourselves. By all means identify inequality within paid work, but not with divisive, and redundant, labels.

A Labour party that wishes to attract voters might take the time to consider both its language and the social make-up of the country that it wishes to govern.
Mary Evans
Patrixbourne, Kent

• As a 75-year-old who joined the Labour party 60 years ago I have to say Clive Lewis was one of three candidates with whom I could identify in the leadership campaign. Now only Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips are left. Both offer the opportunity to build a broader coalition with localism and pluralism as the party’s future bedrock. Back in 1960, the then treasurer of Wembley South CLP, a wonderful person called Ray Dent, told me: “Never forget the party exists to elect MPs. The rest we do on our own.” This is at the heart of Labour’s failure. I have also been a community activist all my life and I did my time as a councillor between 1971 and 1985.

These days I’m a foot soldier, delivering. My 21-year-old student grandson has already stood as a Labour candidate and is an activist. The generational divide is of our making, as is our failure to win power. The last thing we need is more of the same. Clive Lewis not making the cut is a sad day for Labour.
Robert Howard
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

• “Do you remember a prime minister with a regional accent?” asks Jess Phillips (Interview, 11 January). She may be too young to remember Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald, or even Harold Wilson, but does the name of Gordon Brown ring a bell?
Peter Griffith
Droitwich, Worcestershire

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