Plagues have been cast upon the houses of Britain’s pollsters in the last week, but they have the right to redeem themselves. Survation has certainly given its worth in the last few days by making itself very useful to Labour politics. After a useful early survey of voter views on Labour’s leadership candidates, Survation has now produced a diagnosis of where Labour’s vote crumbled. The conclusions are very important
‘Aspiration’, a return to the ‘radical centre’, to retake the fabled ‘centre ground’. All these plastic, superficial but adored truisms of Labour’s right have been trotted out in the last week. Talk of appeals to ‘aspirational voters’, as if the less well off didn’t want to better their lot, middle England and small business owners have been fired into the airways by Labour’s anti-Ed brigade. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the lessons Labour were taking from the election were to direct an appeal toward a largely southern and middle class home owners. The polling firm Survation has given us important evidence as to Labour’s problem. It is predominantly non-southern, working class, and distinctly purple looking.
“…had those [voters] that moved to UKIP kept their vote share “take” evenly between Labour and the Conservatives respectively at least half a dozen seats in the North and Midlands, including Ed Ball’s Morley and Outwood seat, would have been held. However by taking disproportionately from Labour in these places, UKIP directly contributed to the Conservative victories, defences and gains”
Survation simply rest upon the results of the elections. With minimal extension or extrapolation a clear conclusion is left. In seats in the midlands and the North UKIP cut into Labour’s vote big time – and not in the way, as we saw early in Sunderland results, that weren’t decisive. UKIP did decisively cut into Labour’s vote in several seats in, now former, heartlands. Survation’s topographic (new word?) demonstrates how this panned out in regional perspective.
‘Clear cut’ examples include these seats below.
Bolton West – CON GAIN by 801 votes over Labour. UKIP 7428 votes.
Bury North – CON HOLD by 378 votes over Labour. UKIP 5595 votes.
Morley and Outwood. CON GAIN from LAB/Co-op. 422 votes over Labour. UKIP 7951 votes
Derby North. CON GAIN from LAB. 41 votes over Labour. UKIP 6532 votes.
Telford – CON GAIN 730 votes over LAB. UKIP 7330 votes.
Weaver Vale – CON HOLD by 806 votes over LAB. UKIP 4507 Votes
Other results which appear to have followed this pattern include several in Yorkshire, including Keighley, and Warwickshire North and the two Swindons in the Midlands. A large number of others can be pointed to. Survation themselves point to number of others, with only one being a metropolitan seat (Croydon Central). If Labour’s metropolitan ‘aspirationers’ think still appealing to Blair’s middle England is the only path for its success they better have a good answer to this.
Many really do have to ask different questions. Was the problem more with Ed Miliband than it was with his politics and policies? Does the idea aspiration not extend to those less well-off who didn’t turn up and vote? Do we not realise that small business owners, that certain figures want to appeal to, are in fact far more conservative in their partisan leanings than your average CEO? How can this form part of a winning coalition? Is the Blairism of 1997, for all its flaws had much more social democratic pedigree than its 2005 incarnation, being rather misunderstood, not to mention the context it was set within (even new labour stood on a platform of investment, not cuts)? The right questions need to be asked first, before conclusions are made. Have a holiday, then look at the numbers, then getting talking to people.
UKIP, the unions, DevoNorth and Blue Labour
Labour doesn’t merely have a Scottish problem, that will require likely require a Scottish-led solution, but a very separate English heartlands problem.
Many had the foresight to foresee the threat of UKIP to Labour in the North and the Midlands, but of these some of these produced some sorry solutions. Lord Glasman was trotted out on the BBC’s Today programme on Friday trying to revive a Blue Labour brand that was finished that moment he thought talking the EDL was a good idea. BluLab may have been correct in asserting that Labour need to reassess the EU question, as it not the social democratic utopia Jacques Delors once sought to forge. But on migration we’ve learnt nothing from BluLab. Those mugs can testify to that.
Concentrating on the values of work, wages and empowerment are what has traction in these areas of the country, but there’s a way of doing it. The Conservatives see this too, which is why Cameron’s first cabinet meeting was placed under the banner of working for ‘working people’. The Tories are also seizing the DevoNorth agenda. The Northern Powerhouse play of George Osborne is directly hitting Labour hard in two respects: one, it hits Labour in its former heartlands and two, on the subject of devolution that was once the province of New Labour. The DevoNorth agenda has been up an running ever since the polls in Scotland closed last September, yet Labour cannot speak to it. In places like Yorkshire, Labour never pick local candidates for seats that are crying out to be represented by their own. Yvette Cooper, Ed Balls, Rachel Reeves, Barry Sheerman, Sarah Champion, Mary Creagh – None born any where close to Yorkshire.
This matters. It is madness to deny it.
Local government has been drained of meaningful functional purpose, the EU is seen (rightly or wrongly) as a drain on democratic power, and trade unions seen as too weak to represent people. And now their ‘representativeness’ are not particularly representative. Seizing devolution as part of a broader economic empowerment agenda offers Labour a route to reseizing its heartlands and avoiding the Blairite and UKIP-aping alternatives that have little evidence supporting their success.