Labour must break “cycle of cynicism” to win back former voters, report says

Elliot Chappell
© Twitter/@Keir_Starmer

A new report has advised the Labour Party to focus on the themes of “good jobs, security and value for money” in order to break the “cycle of cynicism” and win back the trust of former Labour voters.

The document, published this evening by the Renaissance group, calls on Keir Starmer to “continue in the vein of Labour conference”, in reference to the party leader’s speech in Brighton, and to “take strong and principled positions on major issues”.

After interviewing voters who voted Conservative in 2019 but backed Labour in 2015 or 2017, researchers identified three key challenges for Labour: party identity (making it clearer); economy (trust on public finances); and country (requiring an “uplifting” plan).

The report argues that the lack of trust in politicians has combined with confusion about Labour’s core identity to create a “cycle of cynicism”. It outlines four priority areas, dubbed “pillars for success”, for the party to focus on:

  • “Labour should relentlessly promote its core identity as the party of working people – and of ‘good jobs you can raise a family on’;
  • “Labour must show how each penny it invests will provide value for money, by saving money for frontline services in the long-term;
  • “Labour must demonstrate it is committed to building a ‘more resilient Britain that can stand more firmly on its own two feet’; and
  • “Labour must campaign for “safer communities and high streets”.

Labour figures led by Stephen Kinnock MP launched Renaissance earlier this year, vowing to help the party “make a serious effort to reconnect” with voters it has lost rather than “retreat to its comfort zone and drift to irrelevance”.

Renaissance has made the case that Labour should rebuild its support in seats lost to the Conservatives, as opposed to pursuing a ‘Blue Wall’ strategy that would target Tory seats in the South of England. Its report makes five main recommendations:

  • “Repeat, repeat, repeat – and be consistent;
  • “Be bold: continue in the vein of Labour conference and take strong and principled positions on major issues;
  • “Critique the Conservatives through a communitarian lens – and focus on future battles;
  • “Point to Labour’s successes to show what Labour in office can achieve; and
  • “Navigate ‘culture war’ distractions by focusing on the future, and deliverables.”

“While politicians in general are not trusted, it’s particularly difficult for Labour to get a hearing because in contrast to the Tories our 11 years in opposition have deprived us of opportunities to show what we stand for by delivering change in government,” Kinnock said.

“In addition, Labour’s core identity as the natural home for working people has not always been at the front of our communications, meaning that voters haven’t always understood Labour’s wider intentions. Keir’s is rightly addressing this issue by relentlessly emphasising that Labour is the party of work and good jobs.”

The Renaissance chair also said today that it was “reassuring” to see Labour put value for money at the heart of the party’s investment proposals. Rachel Reeves announced at conference that Labour would establish a new ‘office for value for money’.

The advisory board of Renaissance comprises Ruth Smeeth, Gurinder Singh Josan, Michael Payne, Rachel Eden, Charlotte Holloway, Kate Dearden, Paul Lindley, Hugh Goldbourne and Paula Surridge, plus MPs Justin Madders, Yvette Cooper and Carolyn Harris.

“Modern politics has become far too disconnected from people and places. Keir Starmer is re-establishing Labour as the natural party of working families, and Renaissance’s report shows why this is so important,” Carolyn Harris said.

“As a former dinner lady who became an MP in order to fight deep injustices like gambling addiction and child funeral costs, I am pleased that Renaissance is working directly with voters – starting with the first set of 60 conversations behind this report.”

Researchers spoke to 60 voters from South Yorkshire, Stoke, the Black Country, North Wales, Peterborough and Plymouth across eight two-hour conversations. 30 of them voted Leave in the EU referendum and 27 voted Remain.

Shadow minister Justin Madders said the research showed how Labour can “offer a compelling alternative to a Conservative government utterly devoid of the vision and ideas for improving opportunities for communities in the North”.

The publication of the report follows Labour’s summer campaigns, including the ‘new deal for working people’ and one on ‘safer communities’ with a focus on ending violence against women and girls and investing in areas with high levels of antisocial behaviour.

The paper also comes after Rachel Reeves set out Labour’s plan to “make, sell and buy more in Britain”, unveiling proposals to raise standards, award more public contracts to British businesses and create “jobs of the future” in the UK.

“Keir Starmer’s conference speech showed that he is serious about winning back support from former Labour voters and our report sets out how the party can take Starmer’s core messages and communicate them effectively,” Joe Jervis said.

The director of Renaissance added: “Our report suggests that Labour can benefit from telling a positive, patriotic and compelling national story about the need for a more resilient Britain that can stand more firmly on its own two feet in an increasingly uncertain and turbulent world.”

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