Yesterday (2 April) Labour Together, a campaigning think tank made up of Labour frontbenchers, policy experts and political strategists, published a report that charted Labour’s path to electoral success.
The report sets out the two key voters that will be integral to Labour’s path to victory: the “Workington man” and the “Stevenage woman”. In 2019 the Conservatives won over both groups comfortably. Now, they are on course to vote Labour.
They describe the Workington man as a “social conservative, who leans to the left on the economy, he is a proud patriot, voted Brexit in 2016, but had – until 2019 – been a consistent Labour voter”. He is what many consider to be the archetypal Red Wall voter.
The Stevenage woman – “young, hard-working, but struggling to get by, she feels that national politics makes little difference to her life and her town” – is a different prospect. She is a more traditionally conservative voter but is often politically disengaged and needs an incentive to vote. The report describes her as a “balancer”. She does not want radical change, but she wants to see a tangible difference to her daily life.
Starmer’s five missions target these voters. Taking a hard-line stance on crime and immigration would appeal to the concerns of the Workington man, while prioritising economic growth, NHS reform and early years education should inspire the Stevenage woman.
But voters are human, and though some may fit a specific profile, many do not. You can extrapolate some policy takeaways, but if Starmer wants to win the election he will have to build trust. If Labour must move to the right to secure the keys to No 10, the difficulty will be being perceived as more reliable than the Conservatives.
The other concern is how this approach will go down with Labour’s core voter base. The report denies it would “imperil the Labour Party’s core support” and claims that Starmer is winning more left-wing voters than Corbyn ever did. Labour will point to its commitment to a green economy and rail renationalisation as evidence of its left-leaning credentials.
Labour is hoping that people will choose to vote with their pockets, and as such are prioritising pragmatism. But the difficulty will be uniting both the party and voter base on adversarial culture war issues or balancing a green economy. At present, the party and its voter base are united by the prospect of victory. But with Labour in government, or as people start feeling better off, the left may feel emboldened to start demanding more from the party’s leader.