Report: Greens, Liberals and Plaid will benefit if Labour tacks right on crime and immigration

How does Labour surpass its 2017 vote share?

Keir Starmer

A report into Labour’s 2019 election defeat has warned that Labour will lose young, liberal, left-wing voters if it tries to win back ‘Red Wall’ seats by getting ‘tough’ on crime or immigration.

The Labour Together report said that Labour did particularly badly in 2019 with lower-paid people, older people and people outside big cities. This led to the loss of many seats in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ in England’s North and Midlands.

The report says the party could try and win these voters and seats back by combining left-wing economic policies with a strong emphasis on controls on immigration and less social liberalism.

The report’s authors said this strategy “could yield a higher vote share than in 2019, but would likely lead to losing a significant number of socially liberal voters to the Greens, the Lib Dems and/or the Nationalists, leaving Labour well below its 2017 vote share, with lots of younger voters abstaining too.”

A similar strategy outlined by the report would combine a move to the centre on economic issues with mild social liberalism tempered by a “tough-on-crime” posture.

But the report says this strategy is likely to lose some left-wing and younger voters to the Greens, Liberal Democrats and/or nationalists. It would also lead to a result better than 2019 but worse than 2017.

Voters are increasingly ready to switch between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru, the report said.

The report presented data from the British Election Study which shows that Green and particularly Liberal Democrat voters are more economically right-wing than Labour’s 2019 voters – but voters for all three parties are similarly socially liberal.

Instead of either of these strategies, the report recommends a third one for Keir Starmer’s Labour – although it accepts it is difficult to pull off.

This strategy is: “A strategy that builds greater public support for a big change economic agenda, that is seen as credible and morally essential, rooted in people’s real lives and communities.”

“This economic agenda would need to sit alongside a robust story of community and national pride, while bridging social and cultural divisions.”

“The message of change would aim to enthuse and mobilise existing support and younger voters while at the same time being grounded in community, place and family, to speak to former “leave-minded” Labour voters.”

“The bridging approach across divides would need to neutralise cultural and social tensions. Such a strategy could achieve more than 40% vote share, but would require an exceptional leadership team able to navigate building and winning trust of this very diverse voter coalition.”

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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