Thus the problem for Labour last December: voters in Greater London and the big cities generally stayed with the party, but middling size towns and post-industrial areas in the Midlands and North did not. No Holding Back has listened to party members, former members, trades union members, and yes, those who deserted the party last year.
Some of the feedback may make for grim reading for those in the upper echelons of the party. But the authors know all about the effect that Labour’s stance over Brexit had on those areas where they lost seats. Ian Lavery saw his 10,000 plus majority in Wansbeck fall below 1,000; Jon Trickett saw a similar majority in Hemsworth drop to below 1,200; and Laura Smith lost Crewe and Nantwich, despite a committed and enthusiastic campaign.
Authors: Ian Lavery MP ...
And they tackle head-on the issue that cost Labour badly in 2019: Brexit, described as “the elephant in the room”. “Every single area we visited mentioned how Labour’s stance on Brexit in 2019 was a key reason why working people moved away from the Labour Party”.
Voters may have been sold a pup by the Tories and their press pals. But it is little use telling them that they are wrong to buy that pup. That looks like the comfortably off patronising those at the bottom of the pile. It also results in polling feedback which shows no more than 14% of Leave voters prepared to trust their vote to Labour. Despite his ineptitude, Boris Johnson’s favourability rating in the North is better than Keir Starmer’s.
... Cllr Laura Smith ...
In response to the question “Does Labour have a problem outside the big cities?” the response was around 90% “Yes”. In response to the question “Does the Labour Party need to reconnect with the trade union movement?” the response was over 85% “Yes”.
And although Labour’s overall poll numbers have improved of late, there is a growing sense of frustration among party and trade union members that there is little visibility of any fight being taken to the Tories, with one telling comment “I expected Keir to put up more of a fight for workers. Our government is not properly being held to account by the opposition. Footballers are doing more than Keir”. So is there a solution, a way out?
... and Jon Trickett MP
The short answer is that there are no quick and easy solutions. But there is emphasis on community organising, rebuilding membership in those areas where seats were lost, on talking to people and involving them, on understanding them and their problems.
There should be fewer instances of candidates parachuted in from outside, and if potential candidates find it financially challenging to stand, there should be the means of supporting them. MPs could form partnerships with candidates to enable them to learn before being suddenly pitched in to a campaign. Those are just some of the recommendations.
Also, perhaps the party should consider admitting it got the 2019 campaign badly wrong. That means the current leadership has to take its share of the blame. It needs to listen to those Red Wall areas and make them feel they matter. Then the journey home can begin.
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