Labour faces annihilation in the north

27 Sep 2016

Most things in the media since June 23rd have been grim viewing for those associated with the Labour party, but poll results of Labour leave voters are especially alarming.


A new survey conducted by YouGov polled 2015 Labour voters who also voted against the party line by voting leave three months ago. And, it’s not good.


Actually, among those surveyed 48% say they still back the party. But digging a little deeper into the poll throws up a lot that should seriously concern Labour HQ. In that first set of numbers 24% say they don’t know who they currently support. Perhaps the most worrying is that in response to the question ‘If there was a general election tomorrow’ Labour trails the Tories by 9%.

It appears that from the campaign and its aftermath, the greatest split within the Labour party isn’t between its Corbynite left and the ‘Blairite’ right, but between its old right and its new right. That is, between the economically neoliberal, metropolitan, London centric and Europhilic part of the Parliamentary party, and its Northern heartlands.


Indeed, the referendum seemed such a rude awakening that even some of the most ardent supporters of Britain’s membership of the EU such as Chuka Umunna and Stephen Kinnock, who are now seriously saying that controls on free movement need to take a priority in negotiations between Theresa May and the EU.


The reasons behind this seem fairly straightforward. Given the party’s current prospects in another in Scotland, Labour faces electoral oblivion if it is also deserted by vast swathes of its core voters in the north of England. 


This is not helped by Corbyn, who allegedly refused to allow the party to talk about immigration in the referendum campaign. Despite the contention of his acolytes, he is incredibly unlikely to woo back UKIP voters or those who have defected on account of the party’s laissez-faire attitude to immigration.


Luckily for Labour,  Nigel Farage’s assertion the party was ‘parking its tanks on Labour’s lawn’ appears hollower following the election of Diane James as the new leader, who names Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher, the latter of whom is hardly fondly remembered in Labour’s Northern seats, as her political heroes.


Contrast that with the potential disaster Labour could have faced if it was challenged by a Paul Nuttall led UKIP.


However, the fact that it could trail the Conservatives by as many as nine points among as many as 25% of its 2015 electorate makes this news especially dire for the Labour party. Labour seriously needs to develop a coherent policy towards Brexit that works both for the potential deserters in its northern constituencies, as well one that satisfies the overwhelmingly pro-EU attitude of its MPs – a dichotomy that highlights just how perilous a position the party is currently in.

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