‘We’ve lost the trust of working people.’ Those were the words of Labour leader Keir Starmer in early May, neatly summing up the reason his party lost the Hartlepool by-election as well as many of the local elections across the country. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood promptly quit the front bench, complaining that the party has been captured by ’a London-based bourgeoisie’. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair joined in the chorus of despair, saying that the party is being ‘defined by the ”woke” Left’. Labour, it is clear, is now completely out of touch with its traditional voters – older, working-class people without degrees, who live in small towns and industrial heartlands and want to see a more robust defence of their country, its history and culture. They feel Boris Johnson and the Tories better understand their values and concerns. Without the support of these voters Labour can never win power again.
That’s the argument of the Labour bashers but are they speaking too soon? The Conservative Party may be ahead in the polls, but they are still benefiting from the Brexit bounce and vaccination exhilaration, which will inevitably wane as the pandemic passes and economic realities start to bite. And let’s not forget that demographics are in Labour’s favour. Most 18 to 24-year-olds supported Labour in the last general election. Over time, this cohort of university-educated, progressively minded urban renters will expand. The Tories, whose main appeal is to property-owning, older voters have little to offer them. The task may not be easy, but if Labour can articulate a new ethical socialism that unites the traditional working-classes with the more idealistic young, it can surely win again.
Is Labour for the scrap heap or can it surge again?
Speakers subject to change.