Labour: Expert discusses ‘Red Wall’ seats
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In her first House of Commons appearance since moving to the new role shadowing the Cabinet Office, Ms Rayner’s move to strike the Conservatives appeared to fail. She accused ministers and advisers of treating “the public purse as a personal cashpoint”. Ms Rayner told MPs: “When ministers and advisers use the public purse as a personal cashpoint, the public has a right to know.”
She was countered by Penny Mordaunt, the paymaster general, who claimed Ms Rayner’s attempts at accusing ministers of being “somehow on the take” represented a misguided attempt to curry public favour.
Ms Mordaunt hit back: “I’m afraid this is why the Labour line of attack is not getting traction.
“It’s not getting traction with the public because it is not plausible. It is based not on fact but on speculation, innuendo and smear.
“The public care about scrutiny. They do. They are about accountability and transparency, and standards in public life. What they see through, though, is the performance the right honourable lady has given today.”
Labour is attempting to re-engage with Britons, mostly in England and Scotland, after its drubbing in May’s local elections.
The party’s previously unbreakable Red Wall took another battering after it lost the Hartlepool by-election to the Tories – the first time since its creation in 1974.
But the party’s intense attempts at rebuilding its traditional voter base could yet prove futile, according to a new YouGov poll.
Getting opinions from Red Wall residents, the poll found that the swathe of seats engage in politics more transactionally than culturally.
This means the Red Wall, like many places across the UK, could now be a swing seat region.
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Patrick English, the poll’s research manager, speaking to The Times’ Red Box podcast said he agreed that voters no longer voted Labour because of historical and cultural ties.
He said: “When we look at the original definition of that sort of Red Wall or the conceptions around it, if you looked at all these seats which probably might have, perhaps should have, been voting Conservative more often than they do given their social demographic, that was kind of the core idea; and that they perhaps should have been swing seats, or closer to swing seats but they weren’t.
“Now, it looks like they are.
“Now, they’re behaving more like most other seats around the country where you have a good diversity of people and opinions and a good representation of people that should be voting Labour and should be voting Conservative.
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“We all know politics and particular voting behaviour is very habitual, and there was a kind of habit or culture of these communities voting Labour because of generational things, identity things.
“Once you break a habit in that sense it can be very hard to then snap back into it.”
Vitally, he added: “That veil or cultural thing where people vote Labour has now been taken away, so the party now has to compete for them.”
It could mean that Labour’s focus on what it believes are core to winning back the Red Wall – displaying national pride, being patriotic, devolving powers – might be in vain if the Red Wall now behaves like other seats.
Many note that Labour has no credible chance of winning power without this stronghold.
Some in the party, like the MP John Cruddas, have suggested begrudgingly that Labour’s only way forward is to focus on young, urban, and metropolitan voters.
Yet, Professor Richard Wyn Jones argued that these groups of people are not enough to secure an election victory.
The political scientist told Express.co.uk: “You just don’t win enough seats with these groups, and so they have to find another way to engage with other bits of the electorate, that’s just basic mathematics.”
Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member, agreed that the party needed to take a broad church approach.
He said retaining the voters newly acquired from former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure is important, but the focus must come on gaining the trust of the blue collar worker.
Mr Embery told Express.co.uk: “We need that layer of middle class, urban liberals in the party.
“But it’s always been a coalition, it’s always been Hampstead and Hartlepool.
“The problem now is that the pendulum has swung too far towards Hampstead and away from Hartlepool.”
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