He's toxic, Labour are slipping under. Photo: Getty Images
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Labour are becoming a toxic brand, warns Jon Cruddas

The latest findings from our inquiry make bleak reading, says Jon Cruddas. 

The fifth message from our independent review polling is that Labour is becoming the toxic brand.

Our polling is based on a representative sample of 3000 English and Welsh voters using the YouGov panel and analysed by the Campaign Company. We asked voters a question about their voting preference. Did they, ‘always vote’ for a particular political party, ‘sometimes vote for it’, ‘consider voting for it’ or, ‘never vote for it’.

In 2011, the Campaign Company used the same YouGov panel to ask

almost 2500 voters the same set of options for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.  Our 2015 survey differed only in having a slightly larger sample and in including Ukip.

To determine the toxicity score for each party we measured the proportion of the electorate that say they will “never vote” for a particular party.

In 2011, the Conservative Party was clearly more toxic than Labour.  Despite Labour’s defeat in the 2010 general election only 31 per cent of voters said they would never vote Labour while 40 per cent said they would never vote Conservative. Today the toxicity gap between the two parties has all but disappeared. 36 per cent of the electorate say they will never vote Labour and 38 per cent say they will never vote Conservative.

Labour is now as toxic in the South  - the South East (outside London), South West and East Anglia – as the Tories are in the North. 42 per cent of voters in the South say they will never vote Labour and 43 per cent of voters in the North say they will never vote Conservative. The full significance of this for Labour lies in the fact that it must win 27 seats in the South to gain a majority of one on a uniform national swing.

The regional dimension to Labour’s toxicity is compounded among the over 60s – the age group most likely to vote.  45 per cent say they will never vote Labour and just 30 per cent say they will never vote Conservative. Unless Labour detoxifies its brand with the grey vote it will find it all but impossible to win a majority again.

To get a deeper analysis of Labour’s toxicity amongst voters our polling incorporates the Values Modes analysis. This divides the population into three main values groups based on dominant motivations.

The first group are the Pioneers who currently make up 34 per cent of voters. They are spread evenly through different age groups. Pioneers are socially liberal and more altruistic than most voters. They are at home in metropolitan modernity and its universalist values. As the name suggests they value openness, creativity, self fulfilment and self determination. They are more likely to vote according to their personal ideals and principles such as caring and justice. They tend to be better off and to have been to university. They now make up a large majority of the Labour Party membership.

The second group are Prospectors. These voters are acquisitive and aspirational. Their priorities are to improve their social status and material wealth. They value a good time, the trappings of success and the esteem of others. They typically have little or no interest in politics. They vote pragmatically for which ever party they think will improve their financial circumstances. They also want to back winners. Their transactional approach to voting means they form a high proportion of non voters and switch voters. They tend to be younger and currently make up 37 per cent of voters.

The third group are the Settlers who are socially conservative and are concerned with home, family and national security. They value safety, a sense of belonging, their own cultural identity and the continuity of their way of life. They want to avoid risk. Tradition, rules and social order are important to them. They tend to be amongst the older age groups and currently make up 29 per cent of voters.

These value groups function like archetypes. They frame the complexities of cultural traits and patterns of behaviour while avoiding fixing voters into simplistic unchanging categories based on income, demographics or other visible attributes. Each individual has elements of all three values and their proportions shift and alter throughout our life course. The polling is designed to capture the dominant motivation that shapes an individuals voting intention.

Between 2011 and 2015 Labour’s toxicity score among altruistic Pioneers remained stable, down one per cent from 28 per cent to 27 per cent. But among aspirant Prospectors it increased by 11 per cent, from 28 per cent to 39 per cent. Among socially conservative Settlers it increased by 8 per cent, from 35 per cent to 43 per cent. Labour is now more toxic among socially conservative voters than the Conservatives on 37 per cent and Ukip on 35 per cent.

 Toxicity score by values group –  % of voters who say they will never vote Labour or Conservative

 

All electorate

Altruistic voters (Pioneers)

Aspirant voters

(Prospectors)

Socially conservative voters (Settlers)

2011 Conservative toxicity

40

45

34

40

2011 Labour toxicity

31

28

28

35

2015 Conservative toxicity

38

44

30

35

2015 Labour toxicity

36

27

39

43

Current toxicity gap (Conservative minus Labour)

2

17

-9

-8

 

The main cause of Labour’s toxicity amongst socially conservative voters is their perception of its ‘open door’ approach to immigration. Our second inquiry message revealed that since 2005 these voters are the most likely to have deserted Labour. Our polling suggests that UKIP has benefitted most from the collapse of their support. Labour’s current toxicity score amongst these voters suggests that many of them will be hard to win back.

Amongst aspirant voters the main cause of Labour’s toxicity, and one shared by socially conservative Settlers, is its lack of credibility on the economy. As our third inquiry message revealed it was the pragmatic-minded Prospectors, concerned about their financial prospects, who dealt Labour its devastating electoral defeat. They abandoned Labour because it gave the perception that it would be profligate in government.

Both Prospectors and Settlers believe Labour is a ‘soft touch’ on welfare spending. As our fourth inquiry message argues Labour has marched decisively away from the views of voters on welfare in each of the last two general elections, but particularly in May, 2015. 65 per cent of the 2015 electorate agree (strongly or tend to agree) that ‘our welfare system is too generous to people who aren’t prepared to work hard for a living’ compared to 18 per cent who disagree (strongly or tend to disagree).

Amongst Labour’s 2005 voters 54 per cent agree with the statement compared to 27 per cent who disagree. By 2015 there has been a significant shift in attitude. 40 per cent of 2015 Labour voters agree with the statement compared to 37 per cent who disagree.

 

Our fifth message confirms once again the extraordinary contraction in Labour’s electoral appeal to what is effectively one cultural segment of the population – those who tend to be socially liberal, progressive minded and higher educated. It is a trend that is linked to the Labour brand becoming increasingly toxic amongst voters.

 

You can find the first four of our Inquiry messages here, here, here, and here.

Jon Cruddas is Labour's policy review coordinator and MP for Dagenham

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.