Labour is wise to target the Mumsnet vote

Attack ad highlights Tory plans to cut tax credits.

Unable to match the Conservatives' billboard blitz, Labour has taken to Mumsnet in an effort to woo female voters away from David Cameron. The attack ad (see screen grabs, below) targets Tory plans to scale back child tax credits and warns mothers that they'll "get less than they bargained for" if they vote Conservative.

George Osborne promised in his party conference speech to save £400m by scrapping "tax credits to families with incomes over £50,000". But the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week calculated that such a cut would save only £45m. For Osborne to save £400m, the IFS worked out, he would need to lower the threshold to £31,000, not £50,000.

Mumsnet 1

Labour's decision to target female voters through the campaign is a canny move. It was the defection of women from the Tories that handed power to Labour in 1997, and that secured the party's re-election in 2001 and 2005.

Mumsnet 2

At the last election, 38 per cent of women voted for Labour, compared to 34 per cent of men. Without female voters, Labour's majority in 2005 would have been 23 seats, rather than the 66 it actually won. Women are one of the key groups yet to be won over by Cameron: a recent ComRes poll gave Labour a 4-point lead among female voters.

Mumsnet 3

As the economy begins to recover, the Tories' plan to curb middle-class welfare could well turn out to be a vote loser. Expect Labour to use this line of attack repeatedly in the election campaign.

Mumsnet 4

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.