On the 23rd February, Labour’s lost its safe seat in Copeland. Whilst the seat had been gradually losing labour votes over the years, this was the first-time Labour had lost the seat since 1935. It also marks the first time a party in opposition has managed to lose a by-election in 35 years. Indeed, the recent opinion polling which places Labour down 26 per cent compared to the Tories 44 per cent clearly show that Labour is in a dismal state. This begs the question, how has Labour gotten to this stage? To me the answer is fairly simple. Labour continually distances itself from the concerns of the very area of society it claims to represent. The working class.
‘To me the answer is fairly simple. Labour continually distances itself from the concerns of the very area of society it claims to represent. The working class.’
Concerns over immigration and the general sense of being ignored by Westminster form the crux of working-class concern. No issue rivals this. When we look at smaller local newspapers and reports, these concerns become clear as day. In Copeland, its Mayor Mike Starkie, who voted to leave the EU stated, “The general perception here would be that people in Westminster don’t care about places like this”. He went on to describe how undercutting of wages has undermined support for the party stating, “We’ve got to be able to attract bright people from all over. Somebody from Poland shouldn’t get an advantage over a better-qualified Brazilian just because they’re from Poland”. Concerns like this were also echoed in Stoke. A report by the Stoke Sentinel provided snapshots of leave voters and the concerns they had. Donna McKenzie a stoke resident who
voted Brexit stated, “If you don’t vote for change, then you don’t get change. Vote Leave and it can only stay the same or get better”. Another Stoke resident, John Mayer stated, “We’ve been forgotten about and this was a way of reminding them that we’re still here.” It is this overwhelming sense of being ignored by Westminster, especially over issues relating to immigration that has led to Labour’s increasingly rotten circumstances.
So why then are the Tories, the most establishmentarian party there is, gaining support in these areas? This is because they appear to be the only party that has both the willingness to listen to these people, whilst also having the capacity to address these issues. Crucially, without tearing itself apart in the process. Whilst only one MP in the Tory party voted to against the Brexit bill, Labour had 52. But more worryingly than that, out of these 52 MP’s, 9 voted against their own constituencies who voted to leave. Such disunity and blatant ignorance on behalf of politicians leads many to believe that Labour lacks any form of cohesion or willingness to perform their most basic role of representing their constituencies. This inevitably leads to a lack of trust and
further deepens the reputation of Labour as incompetent and untrustworthy.
It is true that Labour especially under Corbyn have been the victims of a targeted media campaign, which has massively undermined credibility, with criticism often being exclusive to labour and no other party. But we also can’t deny the fact that the party itself has facilitated this. Mostly as a direct result of distancing itself from its traditional voting bloc, as well as just making stupid mistakes. Whether it be pretending to not find a
seat on a train even though he was surrounded by them or, more embarrassingly, not turning up to the most important vote in recent years, because of a “migraine” …
The Tories on the other hand have benefited from a far more favourable reputation to the working classes in recent years. They are the only major party with a modicum of stability and integrity. They are unanimously in favour of Brexit. And they are taking a far harsher stance on immigration. But whether or not these
perceptions are actually grounded in the reality is irrelevant. Even if the Tories are implementing one of the harshest periods of austerity we have seen in recent years, their perception of listening to the working classes overcomes the reality. If Labour really wants to bring itself back to the working classes, then it must begin to talk about immigration openly and honestly, without resorting to calling those who are critical of its as racist xenophobes, as has become far too common place.
This renders the question of whether or not Corbyn is responsible for this disaster. Corbyn has been a huge factor in Labour misfortunate, but simply replacing him will change nothing. If Clive Lewis for instance (the most likely Labour MP to win in a re-election) were to replace him, he would struggle to gain the same
membership support Corbyn has, by virtue of the fact that he would replace the members “champion”. Corbyn’s replacement will also do absolutely nothing to help the issue of a lack of stability within the party. Having a third re-election, would begin to normalise Labours instability. The result, handing electoral victory on a Silver spoon for the Tories come 2020.
‘Having a third re-election, would begin to normalise Labours instability.’
It is true that Corbyn is part of the problem. But he is not the exclusive cause. The cause, started years ago. The dismissal of working class opinion regarding immigration and the EU has become the Achilles heel of the party. If it wants to have any hope of rekindling support from its traditional base, it must begin to listen to those it has deliberately neglected. If not, they will continue to lose working class votes to the Tories and UKIP. And Ifor one, can’t blame them.