We now know where Labour’s five million lost votes went, but the party doesn’t seem to like the answer

by Rob Marchant

As any economist will tell you, we live in a world of incomplete information. A change in information can serve as a shock, and change the economic landscape all by itself.

But this is also true of politics. Changes in information can also change the political landscape, and Labour has just experienced one of what ought to be seismic proportions: it now knows which voters it has lost.

However, surprisingly, this fact went almost unreported in the press: in fact, in the broadsheet press it was initially only reported by the Telegraph; on the left, barely a whisper.

So there are two stories here: the event itself; and the lack of attention it has received.

Why is this event so important? Well, during the last half-parliament, conventional wisdoms as to why Labour lost the last election have built up, fallen and built up again. On the left and on the right of the party, we have all had our theories but, as so often in politics, based more on intuition than hard facts. A rigorous post-mortem has been noticeable by its absence.

Until now.

On Monday last week, YouGov pollster Peter Kellner released a detailed polling study of the now-celebrated five million votes lost between 1997 and 2010. And the results might be really rather surprising to Labour’s high command.

The piece bears reading in full for its lucidity and its clear basis in numerical fact, where the temptation for anyone not thinking about the subject too hard, or not used to crunching numbers, is to oversimplify.

For example, the set of people who did vote Labour was not the same, either; 3.5m of the original 13.5m did not vote Labour in 2010 for the simple reason that they had died in the intervening thirteen years.

But the main conclusion is inescapable: the votes need to be looked for in the centre, not to the left. The shock, emperor-has-no-clothes finding is that it’s not the “new politics”; it’s politics as usual.

Of the voters Labour needs to convince, four read a right-wing paper for every one who reads a left-wing paper. And the left-wing defectors from Labour are outnumbered by right-wing defectors by a margin of six-to-one.

Six. To one. As Kellner says, “these are big differences which cannot be wished away”.

All this does not mean that the pan-Labour five million votes organisation, launched in July, now lacks a purpose; we still need to re-engage with and mobilise those lost voters. But the question of where to look for them is now answered, unless there is about to be another detailed poll which draws out entirely different facts about the same voters.

The second story is odd, but eerily familiar: why has the left-leaning commentariat seemingly ignored the only hard, factual evidence it has been provided with to date?

Among the bigger blogs, there was a response piece by the decent Don Paskini over at Liberal Conspiracy, but it started from the dubious premise that, since Labour was already high in the polls, we didn’t need to worry about these lost voters.

But mostly silence, where the results scream to be heard: which leads one to think that the unpalatable truths unveiled are simply easier to ignore than to answer. How else can it not be news that Labour finally has figures on where it went wrong, after a two-year wait? Information that is critical to winning the next election?

The review of possible policy strategies for Labour is not perfect, as Hopi Sen points out: some of the policy positions which Kellner indicates might be popular with the lost voters may be undesirable, or even disastrous. But that does not mean we need to go out and adopt them all and, most importantly, as Sen also notes, this absolutely does not detract from the clear message of the numbers: stop looking left for votes, it’s the centre you need to win.

There will also surely be those who will somehow find that the figures or the methodology of Kellner is flawed. But Kellner is a respected pollster, whose YouGov regularly provides polling data for all parts of the political spectrum. So, being rational, sensible people, we are left with two possible explanations for the hard facts we are suddenly, awkwardly, confronted with.

The first explanation is as follows: the YouGov analysis is flawed because (delete as applicable: polling methodology flawed/you can never trust polling/random ad hominem about Peter Kellner). The real votes Labour needs are to the left, not in the centre, because a once-in-a-lifetime paradigm shift has happened and the global financial crisis has changed everything. As long as the polls hold up, we don’t need any more votes, anyway. We don’t yet have any numerical evidence of the whereabouts of the missing votes but, listen, we really have a good feeling about this.

The second explanation is this: the voters we need to win are in the centre, where they have always been. We now have solid, empirical proof of this. Even if this wasn’t our strategy before, it should be from now on.

Which of these is the most convincing, the first or the second?

In short, when someone offers us hard, scientific evidence for the first time in two years on a subject on which our electoral life depends, rejecting it is a high-risk strategy. It’s like someone offering you penicillin to treat your infected leg, and you answering “no, look, don’t worry, I’ve a few herbal remedies in the cupboard which I’m sure’ll do the trick”.

And – here’s the rub – the Tories are dying for us to go after the first answer. There you go, Michael Ashcroft, we’ve decided to go for your dream electoral scenario. No, no charge.

The principle of Occam’s razor states that, among competing solutions, the one which makes the fewest assumptions should be selected. Once we start making increasing, and more tenuous, numbers of “if”s, it’s usually because we’re reaching for a solution which fits our preconceptions, rather than the facts.

It may conceivably be that the leadership team had already accepted Kellner’s conclusions by the time of Miliband’s conference speech, and hence the One Nation tagline, which happily fits with it. But the reception, or lack of it, the study has had so far does not bode well for this conclusion and, even if it were so, political strategies and slogans are very different animals. As Kellner says of abandoning that centre ground that, nowadays, most voters inhabit:

“Every Labour policy between now and 2015 must pass the ‘one nation’ test. Any whiff of the politics of social contest-pitching ‘our’ people against ‘their’ people-would do immense harm.”

In other words, Miliband must take the One Nation slogan he has adopted and forge from it a true strategy of the centre, or face electoral defeat. The figures are as stark as that.

Sometimes the simplest answers are overlooked precisely because they seem too simple. But now we no longer have an excuse. We can accept the principle of Occam’s razor; or we can continue to grapple with it, casting around for explanations which we find more comfortable.

Until, that is, we find that it is rather sharp.

Update: 1801 01/11/12 References to pieces by Patrick Wintour and Luke Akehurst have been deleted

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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27 Responses to “We now know where Labour’s five million lost votes went, but the party doesn’t seem to like the answer”

  1. Nick says:

    3.5m of the original 13.5m did not vote Labour in 2010 for the simple reason that they had died in the intervening thirteen years.

    =============

    That’s the NHS for you.

    =============

    Why not do the honest thing? Allow the electorate a say? Give them a direct vote on the issues.

    So if you want to raise tax, at least be honest and give the electorate a direct vote. If they vote yes, you get to raise tax. If they vote no, at least you haven’t acted as a fascist dictator and imposed on them against the democratic majority.

    The real problem however remains. You and other governments have run up debts you can’t repay, because the tax payer hasn’t got the money and never will. 13 times geared.

  2. donpaskini says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for this – good article.

    My point wasn’t that we don’t need to worry about what Kellner calls the ‘defectors’, but that we need to understand more about where possible trade offs might be.

    According to Kellner’s analysis, 1.7 million people have switched from Lib Dem to Labour since the last election. This is enough to put us on 42% of the vote, enough for a majority of 114 on a uniform national swing (according to figures from UK Polling Report). So even if we don’t win over any more support, we would win a landslide if we were able to hold what we have.

    That said, there are a number of reasons why we might expect some of the people who currently support us to change their mind before the next election, and hence it is certainly worth thinking about how to win over additional support.

    However, what we don’t know, and Kellner’s figures don’t tell us, is how we can keep the people who have switched to us while also appealing to the people who haven’t switched to us but who might be persuadable.

    For example, if we pledge to match the Tories on deficit reduction, would that persuade defectors of our economic credibility, or would it antagonise the people who switched to us from the Lib Dems in protest about the cuts, while leading the defectors to conclude that ?

    At best, we could win over a substantial proportion of the defectors while keeping the left-leaning voters, at worst, we alienate the left-wing voters and fail to persuade many of the defectors to support us either. That’s where we need to do further research.

  3. Paul says:

    Rob

    The main reason Though Cowards Flinch has not reponded to the Kellner piece, other than via the odd gratuitoulsy abusive tweet, is that it’s so poor in terms of its research validity

    However, there’s a clear attempt to make this piece the cornerstone of the Labour right’s attempts to shift policy to the right, in the same way that In the Black Labour’s 4 pages of poltically naive and economically illiterate utterings were seized upon, I will do my duty.

    A piece rebutting Kellner’s methodology will be up at either TCF or New Statesman tomorrow, or both. Or Friday. Sometime soon anyway.

  4. Amber Star says:

    I doubt that Peter Kellner would call polling “hard, scientific evidence”. Polls are a snapshot of how people respond to short questions posed at a particular point in time.

    Sure, the polls & focus groups by YG & Populus (for Ashcroft) are interesting but let’s not get over excited & think that Labour should rush to be where the voters are at this moment in time.

    Let’s pause to consider the Better Together campaign. Scotland leaving the UK could be considered more significant than which Party will run Westminster for a few years. When the ‘No’ campaign began, the polls were almost neck & neck. As people have been given more information, there has been a fairly dramatic swing towards ‘No’. Will it stay that way until 2014? It’s impossible to say… because polls aren’t really “hard, scientific evidence”; people can change their minds.

    And if polls were “hard scientific evidence”, then Labour do have more than enough support to win a majority in Westminster as it stands. Except, as Rob says, we shouldn’t rely on that because… well, as Rob says, it probably isn’t “hard evidence”; people could change their minds.

  5. Mike Homfray says:

    You’re not still taking this badly-conceived, inaccurate ‘research’ seriously, surely?

    No-one else is.

  6. clempalme says:

    Rob

    While I agree with many points in this article, it seems as if you’re indulging in a bit of ostrich-like behaviour yourself!

    Kellner’s analysis found that 2.0 million of Labour’s lost votes went to the Lib Dems, and 1.3 million to the Conservatives

    Clearly the Party needs to get both back

  7. Robert says:

    I agree with Don Paskini. To be honest, if Labour follows Rob’s advice it will lose my vote for a start. Blair cured me of my vote Labour if a donkey stands tendency.

  8. Henrik says:

    The comrades above have the right of it. Move left! Hard left! Become the vanguard party!

    You’ll all feel much better and you won’t be troubled by any of the hassle which accompanies winning an election – and the Tories can get on with, you know, governing.

  9. @Nick: hmm, so I see you have a problem with representative democracy and want to move to the Swiss model of having a referendum every time they want to raise parking rates in Zurich. Think you’re on a pretty marginal position there.

    @Don: think I agree with you up to the end of your third para. There are a lot of people we might expect to change their mind before the election – i.e. the current poll lead is probably soft, as mid-term leads often are. I am probably a bit stronger on this part than you, but with you till there. My point is that the research is showing that the right-leaning outnumber the left-leaning by six to one. It’s an obvious corollary that, in harsh electoral terms, it is much better to lose to the left and gain to the right than gain to the left and lose to the right. However if the argument is more of a “but will the party lose its soul?” that’s a different debate altogether. Btw I think your Armageddon argument – that we might lose to the left AND lose to the right is wrong-headed, because if you say it’s too risky to move at all from where we are, then you’re opting for standing still, i.e. no political strategy at all, ever.

    @Paul: TCF vs YouGov – look forward to it!

    @AmberStar: “let’s not get over excited & think that Labour should rush to be where the voters are at this moment in time” – ah, heaven forfend that we would want to be where the voters are, eh?

    Seriously, I think you’ve missed entirely the point of the research – it’s not about where we are now, it’s about where we *lost* votes historically. In that sense, it is nothing to do with the common-or-garden poll, which I’d agree is a snapshot. This is a thorough piece of research on where the votes went – rather than trying to dismiss it airily, which bit do you not agree with?

    @clempalme: you’re quite right that that’s what Kellner said. But the vital point he made is that the Lib Dems (i.e. those to the left of the target demographic) we’ve largely already won back, or at least those we’re ever going to.

    @Henrik: I see you are being your usual, slightly ironic self…! Sadly you’re entirely right on this.

  10. John p Reid says:

    Don, your last paragrpah makes sense, if you exclude at best’, it’s a possibility what you say , but it’s certainlynot a good one, and it isn’t at best what could happen

    Mike judging by the amount ofpeople who’ve read thisand similar ,people are taking this seious

    Amber- but polls lead can fall easily

    robert holding on to oe left wing vote, but losing the centre ground, isn’t worth trying

  11. patrick wintour says:

    i may well have missed your point, but i think there were two recent pieces of Kellner published polling – one in Prospect to which you are referring largely about the centre, and another in Progress that the mag kindly gave to me to write up. That was about the attitudes of working class voters to issues such as immigration aid and welfare. I was writing up the Progress so with luck did not miss the point of that work.

  12. donpaskini says:

    “My point is that the research is showing that the right-leaning outnumber the left-leaning by six to one. It’s an obvious corollary that, in harsh electoral terms, it is much better to lose to the left and gain to the right than gain to the left and lose to the right.”

    That corollary is based on the assumption that it is equally easy to win the support of centre/right voters who are currently uncommitted as of left voters who are currently uncommitted. There is no evidence provided, either by you or Kellner, for this assumption.

    In harsh electoral terms, if we gain 200,000 votes from amongst the ranks of the uncommitted centre/right voters, but lose half of the people that Kellner says are ‘loyalists’ but who voted Lib Dem/other in 2010, then we’re going from an election winning level of support to a potentially election losing one. (Though it is all more complex than that as depends where the different types of voter are concentrated etc.)

    “if you say it’s too risky to move at all from where we are, then you’re opting for standing still, i.e. no political strategy at all, ever.”

    That’s not at all what I’m arguing. I’m arguing that we need further research to inform our political strategy (a) where we can appeal to both loyalists and defectors, (b) how we can most effectively appeal to uncommitted voters without alienating people who are currently planning to do so. Kellner’s paper should be the start of the debate, not an attempt to end it in order to secure an internal win for the faction he supports. For example, what are these ‘centre ground’ policies which are going to win over the 3 million?

  13. uglyfatbloke says:

    A lot of people left Labour because of Brown and Blair’s economic incompetence. They will largely be won back by the even greater incompetence of Cameron and Osborne rather than anything that is dreamt up by the two Eds.
    Lots of people stopped voting labour because of the wars and many more stopped because of the abject failure to prosecute the 400+ MPs and god-alone knows how many peers that had been stealing money in the expenses fiddle. Those voters are not coming back any time soon.
    There is another factor which the media , the pollsters – and the party too for that matter – studiously avoid. At least a million people (and probably rather more) stopped supporting Labour because the Daily Mail told Gordon Brown to persecute cannabis-smokers. Those voters are not coming back…not sooner…not later…not ever. Fortunately they are not going to vote tory either, but they may well vote Green and that has implications for many marginal seats.
    The implications are that much more challenging if the Greens can persuade the two to three million smokers that don’t bother to vote at all that it’s worth their while getting down to the polls and sticking their X on the paper.

  14. Robert says:

    I am also curious to know about these ‘centre ground’ policies. My worry is that they will be somewhere to the right of the coalition, which is taking New Labour to its logical conclusion in my view.

  15. Robert says:

    Henrik, I am somewhat bemused to be though of as part of the hard left vanguard. I am a left-liberal who seriously thought about joining the SDP in the 1980s. My views are quite close to people like Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy and Shirley Williams. Quite typical actually of the people who have returned to Labour since 2010.

  16. Henrik says:

    @Robert – I think our comments may have crossed each other while awaiting moderation. You are clearly a paragon of left-liberal virtue and by no means a raving Bolshevik and I had no intention of tarring you with that particular brush.

    As to folk returning to Labour, best of luck with that. Just wait until the election campaign in 2015 and the uncomfortable skewering by the Tories of Comrades Balls and Milliband for their personal involvement in the disastrous circumstances in which we find ourselves, to say nothing of the hugely constructive interventions we can expect from the comrades in the Unions, desperate to pull the Labour Party sharply to the left on account of that’s what the electorate truly desires.

  17. Charlie Mansell says:

    This is a good debate over strategy that the party needs to have now.

    Firstly some of those former Lib Dem voters will go back to the Libs Dems – especially in the 60+ seats they will be targeting mainly with sitting ‘hard-working local MP’s’ with in two third of cases a tactical message. This will probably take our vote under 40% even from current polling, even if it does not impact on our potential seat totals. Thus we should assume our current polling figure is overstated, even if polling is more accurate than 1992. Excluding one Euro result in 1989, in no election since 1979 have the Lib Dems polled less than 15% (1979 adjusted for them only cotesting 580 or so seats), so one should use the ICM polling figure for them as that is likely to be more accurate in any case.

    Secondly there are two strategies debated here.

    1. The very narrow Labour win possibly in coalition with the Lib Dems (Vince, Tim Farron and Simon Hughes in charge with Clegg and Alexander and Laws marginalised). I suspect some Labour activists would be more ideologically comfortable with this as they assume the Lib Dems civil liberties and internationalism would temper Labour in this sort of narrow majority or coalition.

    2. A wider Labour victory won through gaining back former Labour voters (as Kellner suggests) who had voted Tory in north-west, midlands and some south east marginals. This would get in and seeking to address those regained Labour voters might possibly see some Labour activists depart as well as over a period some of those former Lib Dem voters drift back to the Lib Dems in urban seats as they did during 1997-2010. Maintaining that voting coalition will, as always, be a test for the leadership.

    To perhaps use a current US analogy 1. is more Obama squeaking in with a small majority (as I think he will) in the 2012 election and 2. is more Clinton’s big tent in both 1992 and 1996.

    Both strategies have various benefits and disbenefits to different people in the party as I tried to outline. I would naturally tend to go for option 2 as it goes for a wider electoral coalition and it has more chance of achieving a bigger majority. From a risk management point of view, 1 will be more risky as it appeals to a narrower segment of the electorate.

    Maximising our vote with a widely understood message that reaches to all groups always seems to be sensible to me from a campaigning perspective. One nation is a good concept for this but we need to explain what this means to more urban former Lib Dems as well as to former Labour voters who voted Tory in 2010 living in places like Cannock Chase, Chester and Stevenage. There will be different elements of One Nation that will appeal in different ways – from clearly establishing perceptions of fairness to all, through to tackling specific issues of social justice.

    As Kellner’s research shows a significant chunk of our vote in 2010 and even now is made up still of cultural traditionalists. Thus seeking to reach out to more of them as well as holding on to the recently gained more cosmopolitan liberal voters is something that amplifies the existing Labour coalition and makes our One Nation approach a reality to tackle the deep long-term problems we will inherit when we do win. The third main segment of the electorate, the aspirational ‘strivers’ Cameron is currently pitching for, tend in any case to make up their minds late as naturally one of their aspirations is to want to be seen to on the ‘winning side’, so a crucial element of our strategy has to be to maintain our poll lead in order to win over those late deciders. This tends to be forgotten by activists certain of their own political views, who may find it harder to comprehend the voters who do not act in any way like that.

    But let’s continue to have that debate on these electoral strategies and see more research, showing how the Lib Dem and Tory vote evolved since 1997 as well as breaking down some of the data regionally, which YouGov’s large samples should be able to do

  18. Amber Star says:

    @ Rob Marchant

    Seriously, I think you’ve missed entirely the point of the research – it’s not about where we are now, it’s about where we *lost* votes historically. In that sense, it is nothing to do with the common-or-garden poll, which I’d agree is a snapshot. This is a thorough piece of research on where the votes went – rather than trying to dismiss it airily, which bit do you not agree with?
    ———————
    Seriously, I think I haven’t missed the point at all – where we *lost* votes historically is only relevant to the extent that informs our choices now.

    Peter Kellner says we have currently have it pretty much in the bag then goes on to say:
    “Nevertheless, the total number of remaining defectors stands at three million. That’s still a large group; indeed, it’s ten per cent of the 30m people who are likely to vote at the next election. If Labour can win even half of them back, it will give the party A CUSHION against any revival of fortunes for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.”

    After that promising start, instead of examining how Labour can lock in the left-leaning voters who’ve already come home to Labour, Peter Kellner appears to get carried away, obsessing about A CUSHION!

    He walks through the subdivisions of that 3M in mind numbing detail; mentions 3 daft, populist policies that wouldn’t pass an economic impact analysis then writes a load of unsupported waffle saying roughly: working men’s clubs are gone; I wish we could vote for Blair again; don’t triangulate; conservative lefties hate welfare but support higher state pensions & the winter fuel allowance; Iraq sucked but Tony, I loved yoooo. Let’s be honest, after the first couple of paragraphs it descended into drivel.

    So, let me say with gravitas (as opposed to airily): Let’s lock in our natural vote (those who at least register a minus on the L/R scale!). Let’s really care about the things they care about. Let’s give them a Party they can like, not just a least worst option. And then they’ll convince others to vote Labour. That’s where our cushion will come from, Rob; not from daft policies which appeal to ‘white van’ conservatives.

  19. nathan says:

    Why do people assume that 97 should be the Baseline ? I dont think once in a genersation landslides should be the model.
    I’d be more interested in where the 2005 vote switched

    Without a breakdown of where theses voters are in terms of seats etc I’m with Don and paul etc on this. Surely maintaining the support and increasing the certainty to vote of the 42% that are currently saying they will vote labour is more important.

    This is mainstream campaigning strategy isnt it ?- use contact creator to identify your ‘labour promise’ ,identify your labour solid vote – then move out into the uncertains , then the ‘squeeze’ vote. putting resources into tory switchers is what you do when you you’ve ‘on your side’ ed everyone else to death. If you can do it great – but its the icing on the cake .

  20. John p Reid says:

    amber, rob made valid points and your view we’re ahead in the opinion polls doesn’t relly hold much weight,

    i think Charlie mansell somes up the problem

  21. @Don: you make an interesting point about “difficulty” of convincing voters. While we might debate what that means, we could perhaps think about effort (financial, strategic focus or whatever) required to attract them. However, even if it turned out more difficult to attract them from the centre: it sure won’t be six times more difficult.

    I’d agree that we need to find ways to keep loyalists too and that there should be more debate about this (the piece was really about the defectors). But I start to part company when you talk about “the faction he supports”, referring to Kellner. That’s a clear ad hominem: you are saying that because he is who he is, we shouldn’t believe him: or rather, that he is twisting what is hard polling evidence to suit his own political views.

    While I don’t deny he has his own political views, I don’t think he’s going to falsify stark numbers like 6:1 right to left identifiers or 4:1 right-wing paper/left-wing paper just to make it fit with his views.

    @Robert: as you’ll see from the piece, I have deliberately avoided getting into policies at this point. This is just about our lost voters. But I agree, it’s an important question.

  22. Metatone says:

    Now hold on Rob – you don’t get to wave off “difficulty” like that. There are reasons to believe it will be at least 6 times more difficult to bring back the “lost” voters – possibly more.

    1) Psychology – recanting involves high psychological cost – this is well established

    2) If we are to use one of the metrics you put up – newspaper choice – then getting information to these voters means not only creating policies that right-leaning newspapers like, but persuading said right-newspapers to report on them favourably. We know what that required in the past – bending the knee to Murdoch and Paul Dacre. There are significant costs attached to both of those.

    3) There is actually a real problem with copying Tory policy, it’s only a base stakes event, it doesn’t persuade anyone to come back to you, just lets them consider you. You then need to pick out even more rightward policies to get them onboard. This is costly.

  23. Alasdair says:

    Interesting discussion here. I have to first say, I expect Rob’s argument above is basically right: to win a secure majority in the next election, Labour needs to appeal to centrist and rightwing voters more than it needs to appeal to leftwing ones. Many of the latter have already rejoined Labour after defecting in 2005 or 2010, and ultimately if the coalition continues to the next election, they can be relied upon to vote Labour in the absence of an alternative. I say that as one of those lefty voters myself. We can be taken for granted; it’s the centre ground that needs to be won over.

    Having said all that, I would be careful about inferring too much from Peter Kellner’s data. In particular, I would be cautious about classifying voters as ‘leftwing’ or ‘rightwing’ simply from the newspaper they read. Yes, for the Guardian, Telegraph and Mail, this is probably appropriate. But the Sun has 2 million readers, and it would be a mistake to lump them all in the ‘rightwing’ category. Yes, the ‘defectors’ identify themselves as having mainly rightwing instincts; but even more than that, their most distinguishing feature is a lack of political affiliation and cynicism about politics in general.

    I think that’s really the most important point to be taken from this data. Those ‘defectors’, who Labour needs to win back, broadly lack faith in all parties and don’t feel any party represents them. That means winning them over may not be as easy as this blog post suggests. From this perspective, claiming the centre ground is a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, condition to win a majority. The real question should be: how can Labour regain the trust of those who have lost all trust in politics?

  24. @Charlie: Good to hear from you, and thanks for making such a detailed contribution to the debate! Yes, I think your two possible strategies pretty much sums up the two sides of the debate. However, this begs the question: given the wide margin of error in such things, why on earth would you willingly choose option 1, and risk cutting it so close to the wire that you end up losing?

    I think the Obama comparison is right, except in one important respect: I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have chosen the current neck-and-neck scenario willingly, by deliberately choosing a political positioning which loses potential voters. My summing up of option one would be “let’s not get too many votes, as I fear for our left-wing purity”. Which is madness.

  25. @Metatone: 1. is certainly true, and rather reinforces the argument of the piece. On 2., I think most people have acknowledged that the relationship between all govts and Murdoch press was unhealthy, but the whole ball-game has now changed. Dacre I don’t remember ever being a Labour fan, apart from briefly when they wanted to stir up trouble between Blairites and Brownites. But nowhere does the piece suggest we should be “bending the knee”. Kellner’s comments about newspaper preferences were about having an indicator of political allegiance, not playing to the media gallery. That’s an overreach. 3. doesn’t seem to make any sense – you’re saying we can only get elected by being to the right of the Tories.

    @PatrickWintour: you’re quite right, of course – now fixed.

    @Alasdair: some good points. I don’t think we are classifying all voters according to their newspaper. But the starkness of the figures are what stands out here. It’s a pretty clear message. If it were more evenly matched, I might say you have a point. Besides, he’s a professional pollster, not a layman.

  26. Robert says:

    Charlie, I actually agree more with your option 1. My view is that Labour should aim to split the Lib Dem Party by bringing left of centre Lib Dems into a left wing alliance. In the 2020 election, Labour would not put up candidates against Lib Dem, Green and Nationalist MPs that usually voted with Labour.

    Electoral pacts were very common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which suggests to me that politicians then actually understood the first past the post voting system.

  27. James T says:

    This debate highlights the shortcomings of electoral, party politics. We are back to the conundrum; what is the point of having policies, integrity, solutions, ideology if you can’t win? And, on the other hand, what is the point of winning if you haven’t got policies, integrity, solutions or ideology?

    If Labour turn back into New Labour in order to win, and crucially, fails (once again) to address the gaping inequalities that are growing week by week – what is the point of the Labour party? Labour is in danger of losing its raison d’etre. This is a fundamental quandry the Tories never have to face.

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