Bond between Labour Party, its core support is broken - GulfToday

Bond between Labour Party, its core support is broken

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Phil Wilson, The Independent

Labour’s problem is twofold. Firstly, the people may favour a different direction for the country, but they don’t believe Labour is the right vehicle to travel the journey.

They doubt the competence of the party to put the car on the road and plan the route, giving the electorate every encouragement to travel with the Conservatives.

Secondly, the time has passed for an odd tweak to the engine or a change of tyres for the Labour Party. Instead, a comprehensive redesign is needed because everything has changed. The electoral faultlines Labour needs to traverse have completely realigned.

The terrain has evolved from the traditional class-based geography once home to Labour. When I was growing up in a mining community in Sedgefield in the northeast of England, the coal industry was still monolithic.

Most of the men in the village worked down one of the local collieries and everyone lived a similar way of life. You voted Labour because the community voted Labour.

Although the last colliery in Sedgefield closed almost half a century ago in 1973, making my dad redundant in the process, those days still linger on in the Labour psyche.  Even now, Labour claims to be the political wing of a broader Labour movement, yet only one in 10 working people in the private sector are in a trade union — more a monument than a movement. A Labour party fuelled by nostalgia will make no headway.

Postwar Labour governments may have provided the fundamentals of a decent society — a universal health service, a welfare state and comprehensive education — but the electorate has moved on.

They want more. From time to time Labour can keep up, but more often than not the party falls behind the Conservatives because the party fails to answer adequately the question asked by the electorate: “Which party is best placed to maintain my standard of living?” The question has changed from who can provide the basics to who can preserve “my lifestyle”.

In 1992, the Labour vote in red wall seats was 22 percentage points higher than the national average. By 2019, that Labour advantage had collapsed to only three points, making the red wall description irrelevant.

The communities, work patterns and the aspirations of those living in constituencies like Sedgefield have all changed. As the Deltapoll report for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said: “Labour’s problems are not so much red wall problems as everywhere problems.” The party’s once bold red core vote has changed to more subtle shading. This offers the party an opportunity to redefine itself. All this depends, however, on how confident the artist is when it comes to putting brush to canvas.

When Labour understands this, the party ends up in government. When it doesn’t, and Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership turbocharged the process, Labour keeps losing. Keir Starmer is well aware of the problem and is wrestling with the conundrum, but remodelling takes time and the Labour brand is well and truly tarnished.  The Tories have become the party of high taxes, low growth and ultra-low integrity, but as Starmer said in his conference speech, “the more we expose the inadequacy of this government the more it presses the question back on us: if they are so bad, what does it say about us?”

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