Corbyn is not responsible for Labour losing touch with the working class, but it is essential that action is taken now to resolve the problemby Craig Berry / October 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
Before the 2017 election, Labour had held Mansfield for 95 years. This is not to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is solely or even principally to blame for this particular loss. But there is no doubt that the Corbyn surge has changed the complexion of Labour’s electoral base.
Brexit is a crucial part of this story—but not the whole picture. Mansfield’s support for leaving the EU in June 2016 was 70 per cent. But this archetypal ‘left behind’ town has been moving away from Labour for a very long time. Its directly-elected mayoralty has been held by right-leaning ‘independent’ candidates since the post’s creation in 2002. Conservatives have also, generally speaking, been catching up to Labour at general elections there since 1997.
The constituency has one of the highest concentrations of working-class voters in England. 60 per cent of the residents of the local authority area are categorised as social grades C2 (skilled manual workers) or DE (semi-skilled, unskilled and unemployed), compared to an English average of 46 per cent.
While the details are complex, then, we can see Labour’s loss of Mansfield as part of a long run national trend of working class voters deserting the Labour Party. IpsosMori voting data shows C2 support steadily declining from around 50 per cent in 1997 to 30 per cent in 2010, and DE support declining from around 60 per cent to around 40 per cent over the same period.
At the same time, working-class support for the Conservative Party has risen steadily across recent elections, now almost matching its early 1980s peak. As such, the Conservative Party now leads Labour among C2 voters by 4 percentage points, rising from an even share with Labour in 2015. And the Conservative Party has closed the gap among DE voters to 9 percentage points, having been 15 points behind in 2015.
Labour picked up working-class vote share too (benefiting from a collapse of working-class support for the SNP and the Green Party), but its surge was based mainly on a remarkable uptick in support among AB and C1 voters (managerial and professional workers). Incredibly, the spread of support by class is now fairly even for both main parties.
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The silver lining that Labour figures have persistently pointed to…