Sunday, 14 May 2017

A Note on the Labour Vote

Some welcome news for a change. Well, welcome-ish. The Tories have a lead in the polls that no superlative can accurately capture. Yet something interesting is happening to the Labour vote. It's firming up. That's right, the highest polling since before last year's referendum shambles and in advance of what Saint Ed got two years back. Of course, we know that there's only one poll that matters and there's a bit of time to go yet, but it's positive. Labour may be way behind, it's still on course for defeat, but it's not tanking. The vote isn't disintegrating.

How to explain this rally in the polls? After all, Jeremy's personal ratings are stuck in the doldrums, even if there's been modest put perceptible shifts here too. Getting by in campaigning exile while enduring marking hell, I am going to hazard three guesses not at all informed by the doorstep.

The first is Labour's schizoid campaign is working. Readers will recall how Labour is throwing down twin tracks. That travelled by the leader repeating his summer leadership campaigns, but on steroids. And the train packed with everyone else, of practically every sitting MP running their own local election campaign for local people. Don't like Jezza? That's fine, we're not going to win anyway so keep your friendly neighbourhood Labour MP at Westminster. Second, this election has seen a tsunami of policy, and practically every day Labour has led the media's talking points with eye catching policies. The bank holidays, the minimum wage, the tuition fee abolition, 10,000 extra coppers, the Robin Hood tax, the freezing of tax for people on incomes under £80k. People aren't keen on the waiter, but polling has consistently shown substantial support for his policy menu. Meanwhile, the Tories studied refusal to say anything other than trite and tiresome soundbites amplifies the reach of these pledges. Enough to get people planning to vote Tory take another look at Labour? Maybe not, but given our hyper localism, it might be enough to encourage them to support their nice sitting MP.

Thirdly, there's the recomposition of the Labour vote, which has accompanied the effective rebirth of the Labour Party. As we saw in the Stoke by-election, Jeremy was a bit of a polarising figure. He was a push factor for some voters, but a big pull for others. And that, at last, might be working its way through the considerations of millions of people. Remember, for the under 40s Labour leads the Tories. Unfortunately, the largely Tory older voter is more likely to turn out than their children and grandchildren, but the more younger people are mobilised - be it by Labour's messaging, Jezza's person, or the sheer horror of a decadent and damaging Tory party getting a thumping majority - the Tory margin of victory gets smaller. Perhaps the shift in the polls is reflecting the fact that younger voters are going to turn up in greater numbers than was the case in 2015. If they do and May is denied the landslide she craves, then politics is going to get very interesting.

13 comments:

John Robinson said...

I hope we can recall Chris Williamson to his Derby Labour North seat. And after the Brexit surprise, i still think that Labour have a chance, albeit a slim one!

Boffy said...

I'm not surprised. I said that would happen last year. Corbyn's LP is bound to first see Labour areas consolidating whilst all of the less core Labour areas were likely to peel away under pressure of Tory media scare stories. That's a necessary process of rebuilding, a bit like you need to strip off all the shaky bits of a building before you try to rebuild on a solid foundation, or like a football team being refashioned. It doesn't happen quickly.

But, we should remember that in the 1980's, Kinnock came in in 1983, and set about destroying the party, so as to shift it to the right in a frantic and fruitless hope of keeping hold of the more flaky votes that Thatcher should only temporarily have bought with the Right to Buy stuff. Yet, after four years of destroying the party and shifting right, he only managed to reduce Thatcher's majority from 140 to 100, by 1987

That was at a time when the Tories had put the country through a year of the Miners Strike, seven years of more or less 1930's style Depression, the Poll Tax and much more general misery. A decent demarcated Labour Party even like that of Wilson's in the 1960's, should have been able to win in 1987, especially as the SDP split was no longer taking votes away as it had done in 1983.

But, Kinnock stayed on, and continued to destroy the party, and sending it even further to the right, only to lose yet again in 1992. "Well, Alright!"

So, its clear that Corbyn needs to stay on whatever happens in this election because the task of shifting the party back even to the centre left of Wilson, will take some time to reverse the damaging shift to the right it suffered as a result of Kinnock/Smith, Blair and Brown.

We need to rebuild and reposition at a grass roots level, will given that Kinnock and his heirs spent nearly 30 years shifting it to the right will not happen overnight.

John Edwards said...

You could also mention the two council by elections last week where the Labour vote share was up 5% reversing the trend of decline since the referendum

Speedy said...

"Kinnock came in in 1983, and set about destroying the party"

Translation - tried to make it electable.

"Yet, after four years of destroying the party and shifting right, he only managed to reduce Thatcher's majority from 140 to 100, by 1987"

It doesn't occur to you that the damage was so profound it would take many years to repair? Leading to a three term Labour government.

"So, its clear that Corbyn needs to stay on whatever happens in this election"

Of course, it is crystal clear if you want to push Labour back to 1983. You are a fascinating example of placing the cart before the horse - build it and they will come - instead of reflecting the actual roots of the Labour movement which is in working class interest, beginning with getting into power.

Do you realise that you are a "useful idiot" of the right? The Tory Party should be paying you.

Mark Livingston said...

Defy Tom Watson. Vote Labour.

Jonathan said...

This reminds me of Phil's claims that the collapse of the Tories is just around the corner. Curiously they haven't come true. If he's not careful he'll end up another Eoin Clarke

Phil said...

You'll have to remind me of those occasions where I said collapse was imminent.

Mike Berry said...

The change in the polls could well be statistical noise within the margin or error. Even if it's not it can't reflect younger people being more likely to vote because polling weightenings are static.

David Parry said...

'It doesn't occur to you that the damage was so profound it would take many years to repair? Leading to a three term Labour government.'

It wasn't Labour who made themselves electable in 1997; it was the Tories who'd made themselves unelectable.

'Of course, it is crystal clear if you want to push Labour back to 1983. You are a fascinating example of placing the cart before the horse - build it and they will come - instead of reflecting the actual roots of the Labour movement which is in working class interest, beginning with getting into power.'

Progressive change doesn't happen simply through the action of benign politicians, but as a consequence of an actual or perceived possible challenge to those in power from below.

Anonymous said...

Labour have had a decent couple of weeks. The leaked manifesto contained some good stuff that struck a chord with much of the electorate. Focusing on policy was always going to be a better bet than trying to challenge on leadership. Alas, defence and foreign affairs have reared their head and its here Corbyn is terribly vulnerable to Tory attack. Appointing Murray to a role in the campaign is mind boggling crass and gives the Tories another stick to beat us with. Does anyone think how appointments like this will play out in the media?

Getting up around 30% is a fair effort given how bad we have been. That this could possibly lead to a further closing of the gap must be open to doubt. So far May is doing just enough, knowing that she is viewed as far more capable and trustworthy than the Labour leader. The Tories dont have to go hell for leather and seem content to coast. Unless there is a serious hitch someone along the line, I cannot see them faltering and a handsome victory seems likely.

Our task is to try and ensure we have as many Labour MP's standing as possible after the vote. It really is down to damage limitation, as it has been from the outset of the campaign.

Steve

Lidl_Janus said...

"You'll have to remind me of those occasions where I said collapse was imminent."

I don't think those exact words have been used - but a search of this blog does show that you've been referring to a general crisis in the Tory party since at least November 2012. The crux of this seems to be based on the idea that declining membership is slowly crippling them, especially combined with ageing demographics.

Honestly, I think this is being disproven, at least in the medium term (can't really talk about the 'short term' when it's already been almost five years). The thing is, the Tories don't really need a loud, enthusiastic fanbase - they need 632 candidates for general elections, and ten million people to have enough (very) broad sympathy to vote for them (i.e. "they're the best of a bad bunch" - real quote I saw today, incidentally). One or both of these things might vanish for good at some point, but until it does I think we have to assume the Conservatives will always be a going concern.

Blissex said...

«Don't like Jezza? That's fine, we're not going to win anyway so keep your friendly neighbourhood Labour MP at Westminster.»

That is based on the usual assumption common in the "politics bubble" that leaders and the press matter a lot, or that MPs represent their voters in Parliament rather than representing their party to the voters. Consider these wise quotes:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22555659
“Interviews with 1,128 people found that 22% of people could name their own MP, compared with 38% in 2011. [ ... ] 57% of people did not correctly identify the fact that Britons elect members to the European Parliament.”

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/05/the-problem-of-ignorant-voters.html
“Sean Kemp says: “The vast majority of people don’t pay any attention to the general election whatsoever” (2’30” in). Yougov, for example, have found that only 15% of voters have heard the Tory slogan “strong and stable” even though its endless repetition has driven many of us potty.”

My impression is that the well deserved Labour recovery is due to the masses somehow figuring out by instinct that the Conservatives are out to screw them, and that Labour is no longer dominated by their less determined alikes, and that Labour is once again the party that represents renters everywhere and owners in the north, as well as those few southern owners who realize that safe jobs, good pensions, a working NHS are much better than house price booms.

«Enough to get people planning to vote Tory take another look at Labour?»

The bulk of people considering voting Tory have one of two vote moving issues: house prices in the south, or english nationalism. House prices in the south have done well, so they will reward the governments, and the Conservatives have magically disappeared and been replaced by the English Nationalists lead by T May, and "Leave" voters consider J Corbyn and Labour a "Remain" party still (after all the same percentage of Labour voters voted for "Remain" as of SNP voters) even if the party position has changed to soft-exit.


«Maybe not, but given our hyper localism, it might be enough to encourage them to support their nice sitting MP.»

I wish it were so, but the idea of potential tory voters loving their Labour MP so much they would for his party regardless seems to be extremely optimistic. Unless the MP promises them he will join the Neoliberal and Expeditionary Party being proposed by the Progress Tendency entrysts.

Phil said...

Tory decline is a tendency. One of the objectives of analysing things is to capture them in their movement, of trying to get a sense of where they're heading by analysing the forces in play. Over the course of the last four years, that "ethic" has informed my analysis of British politics. And I would say I've got it right more often than not. From 2013, for instance, the analysis of UKIP here conceptualised them as a party born of Tory decline and one that was effectively born with a pronounced declinist tendency. Lo and behold, guess who was right while the pundits were hyping the threat it posed Labour seats.

Also, from the very first post discussing Tory decline, I argued that it can be reversed. Such a scenario was specified here in the week before the EU referendum. And lo.

I've written a piece on the recomposition of the Tories for elsewhere. When/if it appears, I'll let readers know.