Labour failing to appeal to poor and working class voters, says report

Posted On: 
14th May 2016

Jeremy Corbyn is failing to win back the poor and working class voters Labour needs if it is to win the next general election, according to a new report.

Labour under-performed in working class areas in the local elections
PA Imges

Analysis of last week's local election results by the Fabian Society said Labour's best results were in wealthier metropolitan areas or those in university towns.

The report, by political expert Lewis Baston, also warned that the party's worst performance came in "smaller working class towns which have become increasingly car-owning, home-owning and aspirational" - a key group who traditionally decide election results.

Labour NEC candidate says winning 2020 election 'should not be the priority'

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour has defied predictions and 'hung on'

Sadiq Khan warns Jeremy Corbyn: 'There is no such thing as glorious defeat'

Labour lost 28 seats in the English local elections, a better performance than many were predicting - but far short of the large gains opposition parties tend to make at this stage of the electoral cycle.

Once results in all the elections held across the UK on 5 May were taken into account, Labour's vote share was 31%, just ahead of the Conservatives on 30%.

But Mr Baston's report said: "There is absolutely nothing to be complacent about. In the last half-century, no opposition party that has been more or less level in the local elections a year into the parliament has gone on to win the general election.

"Turnout in most Labour wards remained poor, often declining since 2012 in the safest areas. There is no sign that the party is mobilising poor and working class electors any better than it has for years.

"Labour’s best results were in metropolitan areas, university cities and in some high-growth towns in the south such as Swindon and Milton Keynes which have started to be affected by the political changes that have transformed London.

"Labour’s worst results relative to 2012 were mostly in the Midlands, particularly smaller working class towns which have become increasingly car-owning, home-owning and aspirational, like Nuneaton and Rugby. The results in suburban areas of northern cities such as Bury North and Pudsey were also disappointing."

The report added: "Adding up local results by parliamentary constituency, Labour would still be short of an overall majority even if its best results were repeated everywhere. The gains, however, were patchy with about one target in three being missed."

Andrew Harrop, the Fabian general secretary, said: “The results may not have been a disaster for Labour, but there is no sign that Jeremy Corbyn will do any better than Ed Miliband in winning the sorts of seats which Labour needs to govern.”

The analysis contradicts the views of Mr Corbyn and his supporters, who have insisted the election results provide Labour with a platform to go on and win in 2020.

Speaking the day after the elections, the Labour leader said: “All across England last night we were getting predictions that Labour was going to lose councils. We didn’t, we hung on and we grew support in a lot of places.”

Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott said: "I think we've done well to have done as well as we've done overall, increasing our share of the vote… if you look to seats in the south we’ve held steady. We are on track to win in 2020."