Monday, 2 December 2019

Labour’s core demographics are dissolving before our eyes

Image result for demographic imagesWhile the election is still, like 2017, messy in terms of the multi-party split and further complicated by Brexit, the issues at stake are at least simple. For a start, no-one is remotely pretending that this election is about overall policy of the two parties.

No, it is about two things: a. Brexit and b. who is felt to be the least unsuitable leader, given the direness of both the main ones There is really nothing else. Hence, the ridiculous, magic-money-tree manifestos of the two main parties, which will be even more roundly ignored than usual.

So, what’s new about this election?

The first thing we might observe is the virtual collapse of Labour’s Leave vote.

Some Labour MPs may well be sincere believers that Brexit will be good for the country, or that they are morally obliged to implement it because of a (supposedly “non-binding”) referendum. There are surely other MPs who campaign for it, simply because they fear they will lose their jobs.

But, in Leave areas, they will mostly lose them anyway.

Exhibit A: the analysis by former staffer Kevin Cunningham on Labour seats, which showed that the biggest drop in the country has been in Bassetlaw (John Mann, now resigned) and Don Valley (Caroline Flint, standing again, but under terrible pressure).

Whatever their motivations, Labour cannot compete with the Tories for the pro-Brexit vote – why would any Leaver vote for a party transparently trying to ride both horses at once, when they can have an unequivocally Brexit party in the Tories? Hence, the bailing from Parliament of Mann, De Piero and Hoey, the going independent of Field and the grave danger to Flint and others still standing for Labour.

But they are not the only group of core Labour voters being squeezed. The leaching comes from three groups in all:
  • Said Labour Leavers, especially in former industrial heartlands, who want full-fat Brexit and will now vote Tory or another Leave party;
  • People horrified by the racism encouraged by the leadership, and who will vote Tory or Lib Dem as a result;
  • Remainers who have realised the leadership is essentially pro-Brexit and will now vote Lib Dem or Green, perhaps even where that will let the Tories in.
We might also note that it is hardly worth talking about Labour in Scotland, where the vote is already at rock bottom, and whose mostly Remain voters have a strong, pro-Remain party to vote for. If they are pro-Indy2, they will vote SNP. If they are against, they will fear Corbyn will do a deal with Sturgeon to form a Westminster government, and so vote either Lib Dem or Tory. Finally, if they are Leavers, the same applies as in England and they will generally vote against Labour.

This leaves the only people left to vote Labour:
  • Dyed-in-the-wool Corbynites, of which there are really not so many outside the party itself), and
  • Remainer tactical voters in 15 or so Tory-Labour marginals, who are furthermore prepared to hold their noses on anti-Semitism – this is not a large group, either.
And, er, that’s it.

If Labour’s vote is in the end saved by anything, paradoxically, it will be people believing it can’t win. Conversely, the more voters believe that Corbyn could be prime minister, the more they will avoid Labour (luckily for Labour, a Corbyn majority government is possible only in fairyland).

It is a godforsaken election. But if there is one crumb of comfort for those wanting the party to survive, it is the strong probability of a Corbyn defenestration in the event that the election is lost.

At that point it will be the last-chance saloon: for Labour to choose a half-decent leader and recover, or not. Another Corbynite leader will almost certainly be the end – the untreated cancer of anti-Semitism alone will see to that.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

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