speech by Jeremy Corbyn, responding to demands that he more actively backs the
campaign to remain in the European Union is described by Frank Field MP as ‘the
second longest suicide note in Labour’s history – the longest being Michael
Foot’s 1983 manifesto. It is a suicide note because Jeremy’s new pro-EU stance
will drive another huge tranche of Labour voters over to UKIP as the only way
they have of gaining a clear representation of their views on Europe.’
Speaking at Vote
Leave, Frank also says: ‘The last thing Jeremy needs to do is to undermine
further the traditional Labour vote, much of which wishes to leave the European
Union. For the Party leader more actively to campaign for the Remain campaign
will push even more Labour voters into the arms of UKIP.
referendum is of course about the future of our country. But for those of us on
the centre-left of politics it is also about the future of the Labour Party: a
secondary issue, I grant you, compared to what happens to the long-term
wellbeing of our nation, but a very important issue nevertheless.
‘There needs to
be an impressive showing of the Labour case to leave the European Union if the
referendum is to be won. But there is also an almost equally important reason
for such a showing which centres on keeping the Labour vote together and from
which an appeal can be made for victory in the 2020 election.
‘The level of
immigration is already a major issue for traditional Labour supporters, and
never more so for those in lower paid jobs.
‘Our open door
policy, which began under Tony Blair, has pushed down wages at the bottom of
the labour market. It has increased the queues for health services and even
more so for homes. And it prevents ever more parents from gaining a school of
their choice for their children.
‘I will return
to the EU effects on each of these forces closing down the choices open for the
least privileged in our society on another occasion.
‘Today I want to
look at the likely impact of the EU referendum on Labour’s ability to continue
as an effective opposition and for this opposition status to be used as a
launch pad to government.
trends are at work here. A succession of Labour leaderships have appeared to
have fallen increasingly out of love with representing traditional Labour
voters, as they sought to ensure that Labour appealed to those parts of the
electorate usually untouched by the Party’s appeal. The process began under Mr
Blair and continued under Gordon Brown. Triangulation, or as it turned out to
be self-strangulation, was the order of the day as the views and interests of
an emerging upper-middle class increasingly captured the Labour Party.
surprisingly therefore all too many of these traditional Labour voters have
been looking for a new political home. And all too many of them have now found
one in UKIP. There’s no point in Labour MPs whingeing about UKIP. UKIP has only
risen in support and become a deadly threat to Labour to the degree that a
Labour leadership, supported by all too many Labour MPs, allowed the Party to desert
the bedrock of its long-term support and particularly over immigration.
‘That erosion of
our base was all too apparent to those politicians who were prepared to use
their eyes and ears in their own constituencies. The despair and anger of
Labour, and one time Labour, voters is easy enough to pick up. It only requires
knocking on doors and then listening to voters’ concerns. A different
experience, I grant you, from telling voters they are wrong.
heyday of Mr Blair’s 1997 election victory:
- the Labour vote has fallen by 4.2 million;
- abstention’s share has risen by 2.7 million; and
- the UKIP vote has increased by 3.7 million.
‘Not all of the
abstentions come from Labour voters and not all disgruntled voters who are
allying themselves with UKIP come from the Labour fold. But as a very minimum
we can say that over the past decade the Labour leadership has been the primary
recruiting sergeant for what are now millions more UKIP voters.
important, however, to recall just how significant the Labour haemorrhage has
been to UKIP. What began as a trickle is now a mighty flood. In the 2010
general election UKIP had only managed to recruit 138,000 voters who previously
had voted Labour.
position now with the position in 2015. Nearly a million (931,000) Labour
voters deserted their traditional party and put crosses against UKIP
candidates. Almost a quarter of UKIP’s vote in 2015 came from voters who in the
2005 general election had voted Labour.
could be continuing, particularly as the line the Labour leadership is taking
on the EU will increase the erosion of our traditional vote.
overwhelming plus I thought we would get from Jeremy’s leadership was a continuation
of the root and branch opposition to the EU he has expressed from the day he
entered Parliament in 1983. It is up to Jeremy to explain why he is now
supporting the Remain campaign at the cost of representing traditional Labour
‘We will get our
first inkling of where the Corbyn leadership is taking us from the results of
the local government elections on 5th May. London’s result will be
important of course, but London is an island unto itself. We should have won
the mayoral election last time in London. And on the 2015 general election
results, poor as they were, we should win London handsomely. In 2015 the Tories
won 34.9% of the London vote while Labour piled up 43.7%.
‘The real test
will come from the local government results where voters over the whole country
will have a chance to pass judgement not on how well their local authorities
are being run, although that is what in theory the local elections are about,
but on each party’s performance nationally. There are two major tests for Labour.
'All too much of Labour’s vote in Scotland has
stampeded towards the Scottish National Party. All other parties – including
UKIP – have been crushed in this mega political migration. Will Labour make
enough of a recovery to come second? Or, alternatively, will the Tories of all
parties in Scotland, poleaxe Labour into third place by themselves coming
second in the popular vote to the SNP? Whatever the results in Scotland, Labour
voters will not be adding to UKIP’s stockpile of support.
'Not so in Wales where there is a much clearer
three-way contest between Labour, Plaid Cymru and UKIP. Voting for the Welsh
Assembly will reveal, if and to what extent, UKIP is eating into Labour’s Welsh
vote. The first clear signs of how UKIP is or is not continuing to cut into our
vote will come when the Welsh results are declared.
‘The May local
election result will tell Labour how well, if at all, it is recovering from one
of its worst general election results in its history. The European referendum
holds out an untold danger if another swathe of Labour voters depart to UKIP
who they see registering more effectively their own sense of national wellbeing
and destiny. Whatever the referendum result, June 23rd holds huge danger
for Labour remaining the contender for power.
‘Jeremy needs to
respond to the danger that confronts the longer term future of the Labour Party
as a party contending for government. Appeasing the Euro-fanatics in Labour’s
ranks will not buy peace in Westminster. It will however help deliver a new
wave of support for UKIP. And UKIP is already second in 44 Labour seats. Watch