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8 June 2011

Voters want Blue Labour

New polling shows that voters are socially conservative but sceptical of the market.

By George Eaton

Details of Labour’s marathon policy review are beginning to leak out to the media and today’s Guardian includes a fascinating account of the party’s polling findings. Liam Byrne, who is leading the review, presented a summary of the findings, based on 20,000 submissions from the public, to the shadow cabinet on Tuesday. Here are some of his key conclusions:

– Voters “want to cut crime and anti-social behaviour, reform welfare, and reduce immigration”.

– On international policy, voters expressed the view that “we should be helping our own people first particularly in time of economic difficulty'”. They are also mainly Eurosceptic.

– Voters are concerned about cuts to frontline services, particularly the police.

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– There is strong support for reform of the banking system “with a vast majority mentioning the unfairness of the bankers’ bonuses”.

– The public are opposed to increases in tuition fees and support increased funding for youth services.

The Guardian concludes that voters want a “tough responsibilities agenda, similar to that of New Labour” but, to my mind, the findings suggest that they want something closer to Maurice Glasman’s “Blue Labour” vision. Like Glasman, voters believe that Labour should have gone further on welfare reform (James Purnell, a key Glasman ally, has called for a revival of the contributory principle) but also that it should have done more to regulate the market.

The public also share the peer’s scepticism about mass immigration and his opposition to lavish bank bonuses. In a recent interview with the Times (£), Glasman suggested that “we’ve got to engage with a very serious discussion with the EU on the free movement of labour and why that is not a positive good.” Concern over higher tuition fees (introduced by New Labour, after all) also suggests that voters are in no mood for reheated Blairism.

One could point out that much of this agenda is also covered by Philip Blond’s “Red Toryism” but David Cameron’s failure to adopt a critical stance towards the market presents Ed Miliband with a huge political opportunity. It is one he must take.