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

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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