Can Labour actually win back the Red Wall?

The Starmer project is focusing on enticing socially conservative older voters who’ve drifted from the party; a project that may well amount to folly.

Starmerism is yet to genuinely assert itself as a political force, but from what we know so far, Keir Starmer’s strategy since taking the job of LOTO has been to target most interventions at older, often home owning, socially conservative older voters, who make up the backbone of Labour’s historical electoral coalition but have drifted, with Brexit being the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back; see 2019.

Can these voters be won back? They certainly may well ditch the Tories if they continue as a car crash for the next 3 and a half years, but they could easily just shift to the Brexit/Reform party, or indeed Lawrence Fox’s Reclaim party. Labour doesn’t own those votes and the question of aligning the interests of those voters with liberal and diverse younger voters in cities facing economic instability and social conservatives who aren’t bearing the brunt of that economic pain being older and more secure is tricky. And remember: this is generalities, it isn’t that reflective of the real and deeply complex composition of people’s lives, most people in the Red/Blue Wall aren’t a direct depiction of so called Workington Man.

The argument that I’m relatively sympathetic to is that Labour is in terminal decline with this demographic of voters and has essentially lost them; save some catastrophe that drives overwhelming swathes of people to Labour (and if COVID isn’t doing it what will?). This view is backed up by the fact leave voting northern voters haven’t shifted towards Starmer’s Labour whatsoever. An average of the polling right now would put Labour in worse shape than that 2017 result in seats and vote share. The people being drawn to Starmer are *surprise surprise* 2019 Lib Dem voters who Corbyn turned off after the factional rhetoric and manoeuvres of the People’s Vote camp.

The electoral outlook for Labour in England especially is bleak; neoliberal politics, austerity, and Brexit have all shafted Labour’s standing and somehow emboldened the worse party. Things can chance, but I’m not a Starmtrooper just yet. Could anyone else do a better job electorally? Remains to be seen, but those small yet consistent Labour leads 2017–19 under Corbyn look pretty good eh?



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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.