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Labour cannot take election win for granted – thinktank

Labour cannot take election win for granted – thinktank
3 min read

Labour should not count on winning the next general election, despite the convincing dent they managed to put in the Conservative majority, a left-wing thinktank has warned.

The report by Compass, a thinktank set up by politicians unhappy with Labour’s direction under Tony Blair, warned against the belief that one more push was needed to take Number 10.

Compass found Labour voters were made up of a fragile coalition that could fracture as soon as the party takes a more concrete stance on the UK’s exit from the EU.

The report, by Matthew Sowemimo, pointed to low expectations and voter mobilisation as the reasons for Labour’s success earlier this year.

Despite dismal poll ratings in the run up to June’s general election, Labour won 30 seats, taking their total to 262 MPs.

However, Mr Sowemimo says Labour could face difficulties winning new seats as it becomes “the party of cosmopolitan cities” and working-class support declines.

“The decline of class-based voting and the unprecedented volatility shown during the course of the 2017 campaign indicates that the party leadership can take nothing for granted as it prepares for the next general election,” the report says.

“Furthermore, it gained pro- and anti-Brexit voters – that trick may not be repeatable whenever the next election is called.”

Most of Labour’s gains were made in metropolitan seats, including Brighton Kemptown and Bristol North West, seats with high student populations, such as Canterbury and constituencies with a high number of ethnic minorities.

Mr Sowemimo pointed to two seats in Southampton as a telling example of the potential conflict in voter beliefs Labour faces.

Labour’s share of the vote rose by 17% in Southampton Test, which has large student and ethnic minority communities, but lost Southampton Itchen, a predominantly white working-class constituency.

“Labour has experienced a further decline in working-class voters and is still performing poorly in towns, rather than cities,” the report says.

“So Labour lost Copeland again, while winning Canterbury. Labour failed to win the general election because of the loss of these working-class voters, particularly in the Midlands and the north-west.”

The report says there are few votes left for Labour to claim among non-voters or leftwing voters. It says 60% of people who did not vote in the 2015 general election voted Labour in 2017.

“Voter volatility is now high: 20%, or over 6,500,000, voted tactically on 8 June 2017, and party identification is at an all-time low. People move to and from parties with much greater ease,” the report says.

“One risk is that Labour’s leadership acts as if those in the centre have nowhere to go and takes their support for granted, just as the Blair leadership took the left for granted – politics abhors vacuums, as we have seen. A rejuvenated Liberal Democrat party or a new party could target this ground successfully.”

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