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Labour risks being blinded by its own – partial – success

The party's biggest gains were in areas where it didn’t need them.

Fulfilling his quasi-constitutional role, John Curtice and his 2017 general election exit poll sent shockwaves through Westminster.

While the blood pressure of candidates, pollsters and journalists rose, the Labour party had reason to celebrate.

Despite failing in its ultimate goal – to win - it goes without saying that the Labour Party had a relatively good election. It performed well above expectations, by all accounts ran a good campaign and gained seats from the Conservatives. The party’s jubilation, however, should not hide the fact that Labour failed to address underlying issues which prevent it from re-entering government.

Labour’s biggest gains were in areas where it didn’t need them. Reflecting Ed Miliband’s performance in 2015, this year the party managed to stack up votes in areas where they made no difference.

To have won the election decisively, Labour needed to win more than 100 new seats, including at least 92 from the Conservatives. Labour won only 28 seats from them.

And these seats are not guaranteed to be Labour again, and therefore do not mark a decisive improvement in Labour’s performance. Of the 100 seats with the greatest improvements in Labour’s vote share since 2015, only seven were in seats gained from the Conservatives, compared to 10 of the top 100 gains in 2015.

Despite being a consciously traditional left-wing platform, Labour’s problem with attracting its core vote, the working class, continued.

Skilled manual and clerical workers split between the Tories and Labour, and only unskilled manual workers and higher management workers were more obviously aligned to either of the big parties.

A lot of Labour’s success came from constituencies with high proportions of graduates and from increases in turnout in ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan areas.

Despite Ukip’s almost complete electoral collapse in the past two years, Labour only managed to secure around a fifth of 2015 Ukip voters, with the lion’s share going to the Conservatives.

If Labour fails to recapture this audience, and instead continues to be successful primarily with graduates, its chances of forming the next government will be hollowed out.

It is patently obvious, and widely accepted, that age has overtaken class as the main divide in contemporary British politics.

Labour’s outperforming of expectation largely appears to be due to increased turnout among the young, including those in their thirties, while the Conservatives have retained the support of the retired and soon to be retired.

While Labour benefited from the votes of those aged 30-44, the party cannot be complacent about its newfound success outside of the 18-24 age bracket. ComRes research has shown that adults in the middle of society’s age range are most likely to favour a new centre-ground political party (53 per cent of 35-44 year olds are in favour of this). Labour runs the risk that this age bracket may be taken from under their nose by a dynamic and renewed Liberal Democrat party.

Equally, despite what is universally described as a muddled and embarrassing U-turn on social care funding, Labour missed its great opportunity to outflank Theresa May and the Conservatives among older voters.

Despite pledges on social care and the state pension triple-lock, Labour did not manage to cut through with this key voting bloc. Labour’s message to this group clearly needs to reach beyond retail policy offers and inspire trust among retirees.

Of course, a two-point swing is nothing to be sniffed at. But, lest we forget, this is less than the swing Neil Kinnock managed in 1992, which still left him disappointed in his pursuit of the keys to 10 Downing Street.

The successes of 8 June threaten to blind the party into complacency, and embedding a "one last heave approach" which fails to take into account the underlying issues which it needs to address. With another election within 12 months on the cards, Labour must move fast to address these issues or face crushing disappointment when John Curtice’s next exit poll drops. 

Dan Holden leads on political research at ComRes. He tweets @DanSHolden.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.