MPs 'need to get out on doorsteps'
Labour needs to get outside the "Westminster bubble" and start reconnecting with day-to-day concerns of voters on the doorstep, a senior backbencher has warned.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee, expressed concern at the growing number of MPs who had little or no experience of working outside politics and who struggled to understand the lives of those they were supposed to represent.
Although she did not mention Ed Miliband by name, her comments echo recent criticisms of the Labour leader who has spent almost his entire career in politics and who has been accused of being out-of-touch with voters.
Concerns that the party has become increasingly remote from working class voters who were traditionally the bedrock of its support, were compounded by the "snobbish" tweet posted by former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry featuring a photograph of a house festooned with England flags and a white van parked outside.
Speaking to the Progress think tank at Westminster, Mr Hodge said: "I do think that the professionalisation of politics has driven a wedge between us and those we seek to serve.
"This growing band of MPs who have little experience of life outside politics makes us different from our voters and makes it more difficult to really understand others' lives.
"If you've not done much outside politics, you think that what happens in the Westminster bubble is all that matters. So the focus is on who is up and who is down, how everybody performed at PMQs and what the sketch writers are saying.
"I don't think my constituents in Barking and Dagenham give a toss about those things."
Mrs Hodge, who successfully fought off a challenge by the far right BNP in her east London constituency at the last general election, also criticised the "top down" approach where the party centrally tried to dictate what was happening on the ground in individual constituencies.
"This week we may be told by the powers that be that we are going to campaign on the NHS, next week on the cost of living and the following on small businesses, " she said.
"It's a top-down approach to politics that is simply not relevant to most voters, in their homes, in their streets or in their neighbourhoods.
"You simply cannot reconnect in this way with a press release from the Labour Party or a soundbite on television or in the paper. It's not rocket science.
"Rumours, gossip and obsessing about personality will get us nowhere, and it is exactly the sort of behaviour voters hate. MPs need to get out of the tea room and onto the doorstep."