Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw on south-west politics

” ..Ben Bradshaw, one the Labour Party’s few MPs in the south of England, is convinced the only route back to power is to win back people who are “not die hard Tories”.

Many Jeremy Corbyn backers believe rather than appealing to “soft” Conservatives, the party can regain office by winning back disillusioned Labour supporters, Green Party voters and millions of people who don’t vote.

But Mr Bradshaw, Culture Secretary under Gordon Brown, argues “miraculously persuading persistent non-voters to vote is not based on any political or psephological evidence”.

The Exeter, Devon MP will tomorrow host a fringe event at the Labour party conference in Brighton called Southern Discomfort, underlining how the party cannot ignore the south of England.

He will say Labour is “suffering from worse Southern Discomfort” than at “any time in our recent history”, and only “fantastic organisation” in places like Oxford East and Exeter have helped avoid a deficit as heavy as 1983.

But he will continue:

“In most of those constituencies where we needed to beat the Tories we went backwards and the challenge is now greater than it was after 1983. We should also not assume things can’t get worse.

“As Lewis Baston has pointed out in his recent analysis for Progress, the South is moving north – in that employment and demographic patterns that are common in the south are becoming more common across the country and if the Tories push through their boundary changes, relatively more seats will be created in southern England outside London.

“It is vital we have a clear headed understanding of why we lost the election based on the evidence, rather than emotion or conjecture.”

He will point out the Fabian Society, ex-Labour policy chief John Cruddas and the TUC have all done “in depth analysis” and “their conclusions are clear and the same”.

“We lost because we suffered from massive deficits on economic trust and leadership. This is what the new leadership must address.

“Four of the five voters Labour must win back in England and Wales to have any chance of forming the next Government voted Conservative on May 7th.

“These are not die hard Tories, but people who have voted Labour in recent history. Our Party and our new leadership must appeal to them.”

He adds the claim that Labour can win “by picking up a few more voters from the Greens on the left and miraculously persuading persistent non voters to vote is not based on any political or psephological evidence. Nor is it supported by our experience”.

He goes on:

“Anyone who has done any campaigning knows that the problem with non voters is – they don’t vote. Great ground campaigning can motivate a small number to on the margins, but most non voters have never voted and never will.

“To base an electoral strategy in them is wishful thinking. Far more productive and the only way for Labour to win is to persuade people who do vote to vote for us. That’s the challenge facing the new leadership. It’s not rocket science. We’ve shown in places like Exeter and Hove how it’s done. Let’s get on and do it.”

Source: Huffington Post UK

2 thoughts on “Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw on south-west politics

  1. Ben Bradshaw’s analysis is tendentious, mainly because he overstates the invariability of voter turnout. From 1955 to 1997, the turnout at general elections was always between 70 and 80 per cent, with an average of 75.4 per cent. It fell to a low point of 59.4 per cent in 2001 and 61.4 per cent in 2005, but rose to 65.1 per cent in 2010 and 66.1 per cent in 2015. If the upward trend continues towards the pre-2001 average, there may be scope for substantial Labour gains in 2020.

    It seems unlikely that any increase in turnout would benefit all parties equally. The reasons why large numbers of potential Labour voters failed to turn out in May have been well rehearsed and we shall certainly hope the Party does not make the same mistakes next time. It is harder to see why those inclined to vote Tory last May might have decided not to vote. The election appeared likely to be and, in fact, was a close one. The Tories only just scraped home. What turned out to be a disaster for Labour could very easily have been a much bigger disaster for the Tories, and Tory voters were well aware of the importance of using their votes.

    Ben should not overstate the Tory triumph or the extent of our defeat. Labour got fewer seats this time because they lost Scotland to the SNP. The Tories got more seats because the voters gave up on the Lib Dems. Apart from that, not much changed.

    The Tories got the votes of only 24.4 per cent of the electorate. Those who did not vote either Conservative or Labour comprised 21.6 per cent who voted for other parties and 33.9 per cent who did not vote at all. It seems odd to argue that Labour’s hope of a majority depends on taking four-fifths of the votes it needs from among the quarter of the electorate who chose to vote for our main opponents, rather than from among the more-than-half who did not. The SNP and the Greens mostly think of themselves as being to the left of Labour. If Cameron’s referendum ploy is even partly successful, immigration will not be such an issue in 2020. He may be shooting UKIP’s fox to Labour’s advantage, more than the Tories’.

    It is likely to be harder to take votes from the Conservatives because their popularity is already so low. Their share of 24.4 per cent is already below their normal level of support. The average Conservative share from 1979 to 2010 was 26.6 per cent. The potential gains for Labour from trimming towards the Tories are therefore likely to be very limited. A further 9.5 per cent swing against them in 2020 would reduce their share of the electorate to its lowest level for any general election during the period 1979-2010, apart from 2001. If Labour does take votes from the Tories in 2020, it is more likely to be because Tory policies have become even less popular, than because Labour policies have become more Tory.

    Labour has two possible objectives for 2020. The less difficult one is to get the Tories out. It will be much harder to get an overall Labour majority. So far as the daily lives of the British public are concerned, the former aim is probably more important that the latter. So far as the SNP in particular, but the Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP also, are concerned, persuading their voters to switch to Labour is a valid aim, but it is equally important not to alienate them from Labour. Policies directed at keeping the minor parties onside may be quite different from a policy of trimming towards the Tories,

    Instead of trimming towards the Tories, Labour might do better to adopt policies appealing to Lib Dem, SNP and Green voters, and challenging the apathy and disgruntlement of the non-voters. Some of Osborne’s austerity measures, such as childcare, tuition fees, legal aid and court fees, and social care for the elderly, will hit important sections of the middle class. A wide range of people will have to start thinking about the dwindling prospects for themselves, their children and grandchildren. The Party should be looking out for them. It’s noteworthy that Labour did well in constituencies where there were a lot of students.


  2. I’ve lived in Exmouth for 48 years , coming to Rolle College from Labour SW Lancashire.
    I have never voted Labour because here in East Devon it’s a lost cause , I wish that is weren’t!
    I have always voted , and for the candidate most likely to defeat the incumbent, either Sir Peter bloody Emery or Hugo bloody Swire.
    Sadly the offerings put up over the years have been sadly lacking , in my opinion , apart from Claire Wright.
    I don’t have a solution to the perpetual safe Tory seat , one would only hope to convince the electorate that there is more to this life than thinking about themselves, a hard wired Tory tradition!


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