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Why did Labour lose?

Labour failed to get aspiration or to reach people in and only appealed to one section of the electorate, says Jon Cruddas.

The third message from our Independent Review is that Labour was sunk by a tsunami of aspirant voters,  and pollsters could not see it coming.

You can find our first Inquiry message here and our second here.

Our poll used a YouGov panel of 3000 English and Welsh voters and incorporated 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.

We conducted two polls in England and Wales, one in November 2014 and one after the May election. Each had representative samples of 3000 people,

By comparing the two polls  we can see the shift between how voters in each values group said they would vote in November 2014 and how they now tell us they actually voted in the election.

In our November poll Labour was six per cent ahead, in line with other national polls at the time. But in our poll of how people voted in the general election in England and Wales the Tories are eight per cent ahead, again in line with the general election result in England and Wales.

Over the period between the two polls Labour was weakest amongst socially conservative Settlers and strongest amongst liberal progressive Pioneers. It held its ground among both values groups.

The Tories improved their position among both Pioneers and Settlers but at the expense of the smaller parties. At the election Labour remained ahead among Pioneers (5 per cent) but among Settlers it ended up significantly behind the Tories (16 per cent).

However it was the pragmatic-minded Prospectors who dealt Labour its devastating electoral defeat. In our poll in November 2014 Labour was 6 per cent ahead of the Tories in this values group. By the election it was fully 19 per cent behind. Prospectors who had said they would vote Labour or who had considered voting Labour swung behind the Tories, who secured a phenomenal 50 per cent of all voters from this values group. 

These aspirant voters responded to the Tory messages on a strong economy, low taxes, and sound finances. They abandoned Labour because it lacked economic credibility and gave the perception that it would be profligate in government. Pragmatic minded Prospector voters, concerned about their financial prospects, secured the Conservatives an unexpected victory.

Pollsters did not see this coming. Pragmatic minded voters typically have little interest in politics. But those who were feeling the pinch before the election were angry that their life is a struggle. If asked who they would vote for many may have been inclined to say Labour when they had not fully confronted the choice between Labour and the Conservatives.  But the harsh reality for Labour was that in the polling booth its economic credibility looked threadbare and it posed an untenable risk for too many aspirant voters.

Our third Inquiry message reinforces the electoral rule that a party has to be trusted on the economy to be electable. And it again highlights the problem of Labour’s growing cultural exclusivity. The heat maps below provide graphic illustrations of this trend. You can read the maps using the descriptions of the Values group above.

Despite its weaknesses among Settlers, Labour’s pre-election support shows a reasonable spread among Prospectors and Pioneers. 

Labour support November 2014

But the election result shows the consequence of where Labour’s support currently sits in the voter population, as its support among Prospectors retrenches.   

Labour support at the general election

It reveals the extraordinary contraction in Labour’s electoral appeal to what is effectively one cultural segment of the population. In contrast the Tories managed to position themselves in a more balanced way across the voter population, winning over the centre ground where values are softer, doing well among Settlers and dominating among Prospectors.

Conservative support in the 2015 general election 

The Tories lack support amongst liberal progressives but their policies on a living wage, on childcare provision and on the NHS are designed to reach out to this group.

Their rhetoric on being a party of the workers is designed to solidify their support among Prospectors, and lock Labour out of this aspirant group.

In contrast Labour is becoming dangerously out of touch with the electorate and as of now appears unwilling to recognise its predicament. Labour’s historical task is to represent the interests of working people in government. It means listening to the people, trusting their judgment, letting them decide the destiny of their country. And it means recognising when we got it wrong and learning from our failure.

 

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

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear