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26 September 2018

Jeremy Corbyn is pitching Labour at Tory Leavers. But will his plan backfire?

The risk is losing the party’s 2017 voters, without making any significant gains elsewhere.

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Corbyn will bring Labour conference to a close with a speech in which he pledges a host of new clean energy jobs in areas hit hardest by deindustrialisation, or in other words, low-carbon jobs for Brexit voters.

It’s all part of the Labour leadership’s plan to do one better at the next election by squarely pitching themselves at people who voted to Leave. That’s the golden thread of the party’s plans and approach, influencing everything from what the policies are to the way they are sold.

One of the things that they’ve done well at this conference is amass a set of policies that essentially give off the same impression: taking from the rich to give to essentially everyone else, picking fights with the big banks and the industrial lobbies.

In policy terms, too, there is a step change from the 2017 manifesto, which was essentially a better argued version of Ed Miliband’s plus some nationalisation. Labour ends conference in a significantly more radical place than it started.

Labour may not have started the culture war but they certainly benefited from it at the last election. Now they essentially want to bring that to an end, bank their gains among social liberals, graduates and the middle classes and win over voters with an economic offer. The party will hope that the result will be a combination of their 2017 voters and the Leavers who are currently keeping the Conservatives in office. But the risk is that if the cultural divides that were so important at the referendum and the last election don’t abate, the party may become a less attractive home for its 2017 voters without making any significant gains elsewhere.

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