New analysis of parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales has revealed that Labour’s support has been rising for years in big cities but has dropped in the most working class seats. Strongly working class constituencies are no longer the Labour party’s ‘heartlands’ in terms of votes.
New qualitative research also exposes growing hostility and division between Labour voters, and reveals that the growing parts of Labour’s core support are also likely to be the least loyal.
For the Many?, a new Fabian Society report, warns the fragility in Labour’s coalition could cost Labour the next election. The report finds:
· Big city seats are Labour’s new heartlands. Labour won every hub city seat outside of London in 2017, the first time this sort of shut out has ever happened.
· Labour support has fallen in the most working class constituencies. Although these seats are considerably more Labour leaning than average, they are no longer the places where Labour secures its highest share of the vote.
· Labour’s Brexit ‘remain’ surge has been overstated. The most remain leaning seats started to move to Labour well before the referendum, suggesting demographic factors are more crucial than the EU vote itself.
· Labour is now the party of professionals. The seats with the highest proportion of professionals are remarkably now more Labour leaning than the national average.
· There is hostility and tension at the heart of Labour’s core support. In depth interviews with Labour voters reveal a bubbling tension between different types of Labour supporter.
· Labour’s newest champions could be the least loyal. Voters from the ‘new’ part of Labour’s support base are less likely to demonstrate emotional loyalty to the Labour party. Labour’s traditional working class voters have a deep emotional and cultural connection to the Labour party despite often feeling let down.
By spending a day in the life of six Labour voters For the Many? offers an in depth analysis of the complexities and contradictions that threaten Labour’s electoral coalition. (See notes for pen portaits of the six voters, who are a microcosm of Labour’s support base.)
For the Many? proposes six ways to strengthen and unite Labour’s base, including: resisting the politics of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and offering the whole country a path through today’s turbulence; highlighting the values that Labour voters share; and being more positive about past Labour achievements.
Report co-author and Fabian Society deputy general secretary Olivia Bailey said:
“This research reveals how fragile Labour’s coalition has become over a decade and more.
“To stay on track to win the next election, Labour must build on its progress in affluent and city seats as well as take action to arrest its decline in working class areas.
“This means building an offer which speaks to the shared values of Labour supporters, rather than playing to the differences.”
Report co-author Lewis Baston said:
“Labour racked up huge majorities in many urban constituencies in the 2017 election. But in working class seats Labour majorities were wearing thin.
“Preserving and extending the impressively broad coalition of people who voted Labour in 2017 requires the party to keep finding policies and themes that unite its old and new supporters.”
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Notes to editors
1. For The Many? is available here.
2. For inquiries, please contact media and communications manager, Rabyah Khan on firstname.lastname@example.org | 07888861096
3. For The Many? focuses solely on Labour’s supporters in England and Wales, and all figures throughout this report relate only to England and Wales unless otherwise stated.
4. Our analysis is based on seven groupings of parliamentary constituencies that reflect key components of Labour’s support base. These categories are:
· The 63 seats with the highest proportion of working class voters
· The 50 seats which have increased in ethnic diversity most rapidly
· The 50 seats with the highest proportion of young adults aged 18 to 29
· The 50 seats with the highest proportion of people with professional occupations
· The 50 seats with the highest estimated support for remain
· The 40 seats in the nine hub cities outside London
· The 24 seats which sit in what we have called ‘middle london’
5. We spent a ‘day in the life’ of six Labour voters, throughout Autumn 2017. We have changed the names and identifying details of each voter, but they are real people:
David is 35 and works as a lawyer in London. He is a pragmatic Labour supporter who doesn’t vote Labour out of loyalty but is hostile to the Conservatives. He aims to be true to his values, find politicians who are in tune with his life, and prevent a Tory government. David was born in Ireland and Brexit is his biggest political concern.
Devon is a 41-year-old black-cab driver from South London and is the son of black Caribbean immigrants. He has a strong emotional attachment to the Labour party, which was forged in his childhood and is connected to his experiences of racism and oppression.
George is a 24-year-old student from Bristol. He wanted to convince us he makes rational political choices, but his politics are actually instinctive and emotional. He wants society to be fairer and more equal. Supporting the Labour party is one way he can help make that happen, but it is not the only party or cause he’d consider.
Mary is a 78-year-old retiree who lives in rural Derbyshire. She is very detached from national politics and her concerns centre on the streets in her immediate surroundings. As her age has advanced, and as she’s lost loved ones, her world has narrowed. She says she’ll always vote Labour, but she no longer feels that the Labour party is in her corner.
Michael is 63 and lives in Stoke on Trent. Earlier in life he worked in the potteries but he now works in social care and has done for many years. He’s very reflective, and most of his observations are accompanied by a sense of decline. The “values have gone down and respect has gone down”, as has the area he lives in and his own health. He feels betrayed by the Labour party.
Yasmin is a 54-year-old special needs teacher who lives in a prosperous suburb in Greater Manchester. Her support for the Labour party is linked to her emotional identification with her working-class family roots, and the sense of right and wrong that she believes flows from that. Despite her economic transition to the middle class, she still sees Labour as on her side.
6. For The Many? was jointly authored by Olivia Bailey (deputy general secretary, Fabian Society) and Lewis Baston.
7. The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.