Labour lost because voters believed it was anti-austerity

5th August, 2015 7:02 am

cruddas

Today the Independent Inquiry into why Labour lost announces the first of its findings. We set up the Inquiry because we wanted an objective, empirical analysis of why Labour lost in May. Our aim is to help Labour understand its defeat and so begin to reconnect with the electorate and rebuild its politics. It will require accepting some hard truths.

The first hard truth is that the Tories didn’t win despite austerity, they won because of it. Voters did not reject Labour because they saw it as austerity lite. Voters rejected Labour because they perceived the Party as anti-austerity lite. 58% agree that, ‘we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority’. Just 16% disagree. Almost all Tories and a majority of Lib Dems and Ukip voters agree.

Amongst working class C2DE voters 54% agree and 15% disagree. Labour voters are evenly divided; 32% agree compared to 34% who disagree.

In case people doubt the validity of this finding, we also asked people to agree or disagree with a number of other statements relating to the economy. 43 per cent agree that, ‘I am most likely to vote for the political party that redistributes wealth from rich to poor’, against 22% who do not. And 44% agree (37% amongst Labour voters) that, ‘ I am most likely to vote for the political party that puts my financial interests first’, against 17% (27% amongst Labour voters) who do not.

The electorate voted for fiscal responsibility. But as the statement on wealth distribution reveals the electorate also holds radical opinions on the economy. 60 per cent agree with the statement, ‘the economic system in this country unfairly favours powerful interests’. This rises to 73% amongst UKIP voters and 78% amongst Labour voters.

cruddas independent inquiry 3

 

Labour did not recognise the way the electorate is both economically radical and fiscally conservative. Labour’s failure to understand the electorate works both ways. Just 14 per cent of voters think that Labour has the right principles and the right policies. Amongst Labour voters this rises to only 41 per cent. And 31 per cent of voters simply don’t know what Labour stands for.

The Tories won because voters believed they will cut the deficit, even though a majority understand that the economic system is unfair. The Tories message on the deficit was clear, Labour’s was not. The Tories are trusted to manage the country’s finances, Labour is not.

The idea of an anti-austerity alliance with the SNP is unacceptable to a majority of English and Welsh voters. 60% agree that they ‘would be very concerned if the SNP were ever in government’ compared to 15% who disagree.’ A majority of Conservative, Lib Dem and Ukip voters agree, as do 40% of Labour voters.

cruddas independent inquiry 2

Labour’s defeat in Scotland does not set a precedent for its leftward shift in England. The SNPs anti-austerity politics simply increased the risk that Labour represented to English voters.The response to the SNP amongst Welsh and English voters reflects the increasingly federal nature of the UK, and the growing political salience of a politics of identity and belonging. 63% say that their English or Welsh identity is important to them.

Scotland poses a dilemma for Labour. It has a different political tradition and its voters are more progressive and collectivist minded than in England. The English tend to be more individualistic and have a more ‘small c’ conservative disposition. Labour will need to develop a more federal politics to accommodate the paradoxes of radical and conservative dispositions and our national cultural differences.

The message I take from our poll findings is that the electorate in England and Wales is both economically radical and fiscally conservative. But first comes fiscal responsibility, then economic reform. On the basis of the data, the public appear to think anti-austerity is a vote loser – we cannot ignore that. We can seek to change the views of the public, but it’s best not to ignore them.

Jon Cruddas is the MP for Dagenham and Rainham and former Policy Coordinator of the Labour Party

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]

Latest

  • Comment Featured Stagnant wages and the scourge of child poverty show Britain’s economic model is bust – Lilian Greenwood’s report from Labour for the Common Good

    Stagnant wages and the scourge of child poverty show Britain’s economic model is bust – Lilian Greenwood’s report from Labour for the Common Good

    British wages have been stagnant for over a decade. The share of wealth owned by labour, as opposed to capital, is in long-term decline. Median household income peaked somewhere around 2003. The five richest families in this country now own more wealth than the poorest twelve million. The typical earnings of millenials are around £2,800 a year lower than the generation before them at a similar stage of their lives. Nearly 4 million children are growing up in poverty. Last […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Tories open up 16 point poll lead over divided Labour

    Tories open up 16 point poll lead over divided Labour

    Labour is trailing the Conservatives by 16 percentage points according to a new ICM poll. The party is polling at 27 per cent of the vote, compared with the Conservatives at 43 per cent. The poll, coming less than two weeks into Theresa May’s premiership, has increased speculation of the Government calling an early general election in order to give May a mandate from the public. The figures are the lowest since 2009 – in the peak of the financial […]

    Read more →
  • Comment 500 Labour councillors: Why we are backing Owen Smith to continue the fight against austerity

    500 Labour councillors: Why we are backing Owen Smith to continue the fight against austerity

    In a month’s time, we will be casting our votes for Owen Smith as Leader because we believe this is the only path forward to a Labour Government and putting a stop to the immense damage the Tories are doing to our communities and our nation. We have closely watched the debate in our Party in recent weeks and are deeply impressed with how Owen has done. He has driven home the message that the fight Labour must lead is […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn and Smith will kick-off debates with first hustings in Wales

    Corbyn and Smith will kick-off debates with first hustings in Wales

    Members will see Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith go up against each other in the first leadership hustings on Thursday 4 August. Iain McNicol, Labour general-secretary, confirmed Corbyn and Smith will be grilled on their policy positions at the evening event. Members can submit questions to be discussed in front of an audience in Cardiff. The event is the first of a series debates between the contenders, each of which will be streamed online for members to watch. There will also be events […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Labour donor due in court in bid to kick Corbyn off the ballot paper

    Labour donor due in court in bid to kick Corbyn off the ballot paper

    Jeremy Corbyn could call for the Labour leadership contest to be put on hold if he loses a crucial court case today and is kicked off the ballot paper. The party’s decision to allow Corbyn a place in the vote without requiring a fresh round of MP nominations is due to be challenged in the High Court this morning. Labour donor Michael Foster believes the party has “misapplied” the rules over whether a sitting leader is automatically included on the ballot […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit