Exclusive Uncut poll: Over 1 in 4 2010 Lab voters have been lost. Here’s what can be done to win them back

by Atul Hatwal

Forget “too far, too fast.” With less than two years until the next election, Labour has chosen its new line of attack: the cost of living crisis.

We might have a nascent recovery, but for most people, life keeps getting tougher as prices continue to rise much faster than wages.

It’s powerful, but Labour needs to be careful.

Exclusive YouGov polling conducted for Uncut reveals that almost as many people blame the last Labour government for today’s cost of living crisis as they do the Tories. 66% of respondents said they blamed the Labour government either a little or a lot for the problem while 71% blamed the Tories.

Even among Labour supporters, 37% blamed the last government. Simply attacking the Tories and saying the words “cost of living crisis” will not be enough for Labour.

Worse still, the polling shows that since the last election over a quarter of 2010 Labour voters (26%) have decided not to vote Labour in 2015.

Although the party’s poll rating is buoyed at the moment by new support, the danger is that this could be soft – voting is a habit and a quarter of Labour’s voters are on the way to breaking theirs’. The erosion of Labour’s opinion poll lead over the past year is indicative of what could happen in the run up to the next election.

Out of Labour’s lost 2010 voters, almost 1 in 5 are now supporting the Conservatives (18%) and 1 in 10 (10%) the Lib Dems. Add-in those who’ve switched to UKIP and over a third of these lost voters have shifted to parties to the right of today’s Labour party.

In contrast, just 1 in 20 have moved left to the Greens, with most of the rest (41%) undecided.

The political need is pressing. Labour needs to show wavering supporters and potential switchers how life would be better with Ed Miliband in Number 10. Actions, or in this case, policies, speak louder than words.

The announcement of Labour’s intention to repeal the bedroom tax will have lifted activist spirits. This government policy is incompetent (clearly there was never going to be enough accommodation for people to move to) and generates arrears and misery in abundance. It is the right thing to do, but whether it is the right commitment to roll-out first, is another matter.

Labour is already blamed for excessive welfare spending (as Uncut reported last week, 54% of those who think welfare spending is too high blame the last Labour government, just 5% the current government, a margin of 10 to 1) and the Tories are rubbing their hands in glee at labeling Labour as the “welfare party.”

Labour needs a broader offer, where policies like repeal of the bedroom tax sit within a prospectus that shows how everyone will benefit from a Labour government.

Next week at Labour conference, Uncut will launch a book, “Labour’s manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why” that gives a fully costed, centrist vision of a progressive Labour alternative.

In it, Uncut sets out the five steps Labour need to take for Ed Miliband to become the new occupant in Number 10 on 8th May 2015.

First, Ed Miliband needs to become a prime-minister-in-waiting.

It is difficult for opposition leaders to define themselves and the trappings of office give prime ministers a natural advantage. But there is one clear route open to opposition leaders to show their leaderly credentials: the manner in which they run their own party.

Ed Miliband must reveal the steel that the public expect in their leaders. Driving through reform of the union link will demonstrate strength in party management, independence from the party’s vested interests and can recast him as prime ministerial material.

Second, Labour must regain its economic credibility.

YouGov polling finds a consistent majority consider the government’s cuts necessary – a support rating never less than the mid-50s since the poll began at the start of 2011.

Equally, the lead that David Cameron and George Osborne enjoy over Ed Miliband and Ed Balls on trust to run the economy in ICM polls has widened to double digits over 2013. This is all in spite of the reality that Osborne is failing to close the deficit.

The broad stokes in which politics is painted mean that, almost no matter what happens to public finances, Osborne will be winning if he can say: “You will borrow more than me. Your excessive borrowing caused this mess.“

The key is to stop Osborne winning by rendering this claim irrefutably incorrect. And the only way to do that is unequivocally accept the Tories’ overall spending totals and deficit reduction plan without any general rise in income tax or VAT.

But there’s no point just aping Tory plans. Step three involves identifying how we can fund a radical Labour alternative.

This means difficult choices: making deeper cuts in certain areas to free funds to spend elsewhere, and raising specific new revenue from new taxes in others.

For example, the ring fences around education and health should be brought down. They exacerbate the depth of cuts in other public services and inhibit even the small-scale efficiencies which are possible in almost every organisation.

This isn’t an easy option, especially for Labour, but it is a tough choice that is backed by the public. In YouGov’s polling for Uncut, 49% of the public agreed with making some cuts to schools and NHS budgets to protect spending in other departments with 37% opposed. Even 37% of Labour supporters and 41% of trade unionists backed this approach.

Labour further needs to demonstrate it’s serious about making savings by reducing the size of government. The Uncut approach calls for the scrapping of five government departments: Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Culture Media and Sport (merged into BIS) and International Development (with core development funding transferred to the FCO).

This would free funds for public priorities and send a clear political message that a Labour government would be ruthless in restricting the excessive growth of government spending.

New revenue sources need to be generated too. Taxing the bad, with measures like a new windfall tax on utilities’ excess profits, will generate funds for the good in Labour’s programme.

In all we’ve identified £34bn of funds to finance step four: a distinctive series of commitments that will cut voters’ cost of living and help address the long term challenges the country faces.

The programme includes

  • Free universal, pre-school childcare for working families to reduce barriers to employment and cut family bills (cost:£10.3bn)
  • A £50 rise in personal allowances for all tax payers to boost spending (cost: £0.3bn)
  • 1m new jobs targeted in the areas that need them most with a revived, regionalised Future Jobs Fund (cost: £8bn)
  • 1m new homes in the areas people want them most, with a new house-building programme (cost:£12bn)
  • Lower energy bills with £1,000 of energy efficiency improvements for over 3m homes (cost: £3.2bn)
  • 8,000 new immigration officers to tackle illegal immigration and rebuild public trust in the integrity of the immigration system (cost: £0.2bn)

This platform would deliver bottom line cash savings to households, proving that Labour is on their side. It would redraw the dividing lines in British politics, moving the political conversation on from debt to Labour’s positive agenda.

But having the right policy alone is not enough. The fifth step to power for Labour is to get serious about delivery.

The only thing worse than losing the next election for Labour would be to win, and then fail. The fate of president Hollande in France is salutary lesson on the perils of over-promising and under-delivering.

To address this danger, we call for a delivery audit of manifesto policies so we only commit to what can be implemented. A transition team needs to be established before the election to plan for delivery of Labour’s flagship policies, enabling the new government to be ready to act on day one.

And this team should move into government to manage and monitor successful delivery of a programme that will redefine perceptions of Labour for the next generation.

These steps are not easy. True leadership, rebuilding lost economic credibility, painting a new vision for Britain, and ensuring the promises can be delivered; not one of these is a trivial task. Every month that passes time gets tighter and the challenge greater.

But if the party acts with urgency and commitment the future can still be won and we will yet see Labour return to power in 2015.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Labour Uncut. “Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why” is launched at the PragRad fringe at Labour conference on Monday 23rd September

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8 Responses to “Exclusive Uncut poll: Over 1 in 4 2010 Lab voters have been lost. Here’s what can be done to win them back”

  1. paul barker says:

    To boil your 5 points down to 3 –
    Politely ask The Unions to take their money & go
    Cuts to Education
    Cuts to The NHS.
    Its certainly a brave program, good luck will selling it to The Party.

  2. “the ring fences around education and health should be brought down.”

    This is very easy to say, but *extremely* hard to do. I will wait until I see your manifesto to see what voodoo you are intending to use, but I suspect all you will say is “cut the NHS budget and let the NHS work out what to do” which will be an irresponsible thing to say. The fact is, the NHS cannot sustain more cuts (hospitals have had a 1.5% cut three years in a row, so Cameron’s ringfence is a lie).

    And, it is premature to say such a thing now. The state of the NHS now bears no resemblance to what it will be like in 2015. The NHS so far has only suffered two years of Osborne’s cuts: Darling’s last budget allocation for the NHS lasted until April 2011. This financial year is the first under CCGs, but they are still affected by the tail-end of the PCT era, so next year will essentially be the first where CCGs have set budgets and then run with them. The signs are not good. GPs are starting to abandon CCG roles because they realise that the allocations are not sufficient to raise quality. Rationing is starting to appear and to try and avoid denying care, CCGs are starting to de-skill healthcare, so the work that under Labour was carried out by hospital doctors or GPs, if CCG plans go through, will be done by nurses, and work done previously by nurses done by healthcare assistants. By 2015 we will see that the numbers of skilled clinicians losing their jobs will be high and patients will start to wonder why they are no longer able to see a hospital doctor. We are already seeing doctors emigrating, and because there are a lot of GPs retiring soon there will be a shortage of GPs in a few years time. This government has done nothing to alleviate this problem, in fact, by tripling the fees of students (remember, medical students have FIVE years of fees) the government have made matters worse. (Cameron’s claims to have employed more doctors in the NHS is a lie – these doctors were planned for, and trained under the last Labour government.) Since CCGs are de-commissioning work in hospitals, it will mean that in the run-up to the 2015 election we will see hospital doctors being sacked. I predict that in 2015 the political agenda will heavily influenced by what is happening in the NHS, and remember, the most heavy users of the NHS are also the people most likely to vote: the over 60s.

    If you intend to bring in any form of co-pay – ANY FORM – then you will lose hundreds of thousands of votes. The free-at-the-point-of-use principle (however eroded as it is now) must be maintained if Labour wants to retain the votes it has. Since there will be a need for more doctors and nurses in 2015 then with no other form of income, you will have no option other than to raise the NHS budget. Co-pay is not the way to do it.

    Finally, ask yourself why, considering that public satisfaction with the NHS was the highest its ever been at the 2010 election, yet there was a clear indication that Cameron intended to privatise much of it, why did Cameron still get more MPs than Labour? It was because Cameron neutralised the NHS as an issue at the election with his simple statement that he would ringfence the NHS budget. Labour didn’t issue such a statement, even though the Darling budget effectively said the same (albeit for two years, not for a whole parliament as Cameron promised). Learn from Cameron and promise to ringfence the NHS budget.

  3. Tom Freeman says:

    “over a quarter of 2010 Labour voters (26%) have decided not to vote Labour in 2015”

    That’s a striking number, and a contrast with YouGov’s latest regular polling, which gives Labour a loss of 16% of its 2010 voters. What exactly was the question your poll asked? Will you be posting the full data tables?

  4. Felix says:

    “voting is a habit and a quarter of Labour’s voters are on the way to breaking theirs”

    Except your polling doesn’t show how long a habit voting Labour was for those 1 in 4 2010 voters, so yet again, Uncut and Atul Hatwal torture the numbers to make them fit their preconceived bias. Which is what makes Uncut one of the most unreliable political blogs going, together with the most arrogant.

  5. Tafia says:

    We had a full county council election here on Anglesey this May just gone, and not long after we had an Assembly by-Election. The turn-out in both was exceptionally good, (not the usual 30% these things normally attract). The Labour vote collapsed and everyone saw a swing towards them – even the tories and Lib Dems. Plaid saw huge swings in their favour. Currently it is a Labour seat at Westminster but people are already betting that they will lose it to Plaid in 2015.

    People are pissed off with Labour and are not going to vote for them just because they aren’t the tories. They don’t listen, they say very little of any interest to their core.

    Two examples from his speech yesterday – most of the families that have child care problems are in low paid jobs in supermarkets, retail etc etc and work earlies, lates and weekends. Opening schools from 8 till 6 will not help them in any way shape or form so they aren’t interested. in his pledge as it does not help them. it needs to be 6am till 10pm, 7 days a week including holidays – then it’s of use to them. Likewise the bedroom tax. Scrapping it in 2015 will make little difference. Most of the people it is going to affect are already being hit hard and will have been forced to move long before then – it’s purely a cosmetic statement that doesn’t mean much.

    And f***wit Labour MPs who think earning 60K isn’t rich should be taken round the back and humanely despatched with a rounders bat to the skull. That statement actually offended scores of people I know, most of whom could be considered to be ‘core’. Insulting and offending your core by making ridiculous statements like that is unbelievable.

  6. Gareth Young says:

    Labour are still seen as the anti-English party who inflicted policies on England using Scottish MPs, even though Scottish Labour wouldn’t countenance those policies in Scotland.

    The unfinished business of devolution needs to be taken care of. The English need to be consulted just as the other nations of the UK were.

  7. Tafia says:

    Gareth, the welsh were not consulted about devolution – the inhabitants of Wales were – which includes a lot more besides the welsh. Likewise with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    So what you really mean isn’t thet the English should be consulted, but rather the voters resident in England irrespective of origins.

  8. uglyfatbloke says:

    When Labour (and the Glib-Dumbs) were in office at Holyrood they really did very little that was distinctive to what was done in England and Wales and there was a major electoral price paid accordingly. To understand how badly Labour was wounded at the last Scottish GE it’s worth remembering that the Holyrood electoral system was specifically designed (as Jack McConnell told us at the time) to prevent the gnats from ever becoming he largest party so nobody ever expected that they could win an outright majority.
    Looking at UK-wide polling is very misleading because it really has very little connection with how our electoral system works. Ed could enjoy a major swing from the Tories and the Glibs, but still not win the election because the gnats might easily make 20 gains from Labour as well as sweeping up most of the Glib-Dumb seats in Scotland (though Labour will gain at least one of those).
    On the plus side, the gnats will never join a coalition with the Tories, but they might be prepared to give confidence and supply in exchange for Full Fiscal Autonomy or something very close to it. On the down side, the ‘potato labour’ MPs from the W. of Scotland (mostly) would go ballistic if Ed made a deal with the gnats…there again, after the next GE there may not be enough ‘potato labour’ MPs for that to really matter very much.
    Of course that might still all be irrelevant. The referendum is not yet won and lost by a long chalk. Every ‘Better Together’ gambit has turned out to be questionable at best or just plain wrong. The gnats really have n’t started to campaign yet, and they are pretty competent at that. Also, as we get closer to the official campaign period the BBC will have to take an impartial stance and that is going to be a problem.

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