Labour MP highlights Basingstoke in campaign to appeal to southern voters (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Labour MP highlights Basingstoke in campaign to appeal to southern voters
IF YOU’RE on the 6.54am train from Basingstoke, then Labour politicians have you in their sights.
John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, has penned an internal review into how the party can attract voters beyond its core northern support.
The recommendations in the report include that senior Labour MPs should stop talking about a North-South divide, and use more anecdotes about Southern voters in their speeches.
Mr Denham told The Times: “If someone in the Labour Party talks about rail fares, a southern voter may not think they were talking about them, on the 6.54 from Basingstoke.
“There are towns around London where the average wage may be above the national average, but because the costs of housing and transport are so high, the living standards are below the national average.
“Part of what we are doing is making sure we are clearly rooting what we say with the lives of people in the South.”
Mr Denham is one of just 10 Labour MPs in the South and outside London, compared to 210 in the Midlands, North, Scotland and Wales.
The Basingstoke constituency has traditionally been a Conservative seat. At the last election in 2010, Conservative MP Maria Miller beat Liberal Democrat candidate John Shaw by more than 10,000 cotes, while Labour candidate Funda Pepperell came third.
Mr Denham said the party should make a “very explicit appeal” to southern voters, and added that talking about a North-South divide makes voters feel the party represented the North.
He said: “A classic mistake for the party for a long time was using that sort of language, and then wondering why people in the South didn’t think we were talking about them.”
The 6.54am train from Basingstoke is a real departure time, and it calls at stations such as Hook and Winchfield on its way to London Waterloo.