Labour’s biggest problem was not losing Leavers, it was losing Remainersby Peter Kellner / December 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
Here are five take-aways, beyond the bleeding obvious, from last week’s election.
If you discount London, Britain’s major cities will send more Scottish nationalists than Conservatives to Westminster.
It’s worth noting where the Tories made little headway, not just where they made lots. The great majority of their gains were in small and medium-sized towns. Britain has 18 cities outside London with three or more constituencies. In total, they elect 73 MPs. In the new parliament, 53 will be Labour, 11 SNP, eight Conservative and one Liberal Democrat. There will still be no Tory MPs from Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.
Nor did the Tories advance in London. They gained two seats and lost two, and still have just 21 of the capital’s 73 MPs. When the Conservatives last won a big national victory in 1987, they had more than two-thirds of London’s MPs.
Labour’s heartland voters were deserting the party long before Brexit.
Labour was already on the slide before Jeremy Corbyn became party leader and the UK voted to leave the EU. Consider some of the heartland seats that Labour lost last week. Between 2005 and 2015, Labour’s vote share fell by 14 percentage points in Bolsover, 12 in Sedgefield, 10 in Don Valley, nine in Bishop Auckland and eight in Rother Valley.
In the north east and east midlands, the two regions where Labour’s support has fallen most since 2005, three-quarters of the 8.1 point fall had taken place by 2015 in the north east—and all of the 7.3 point drop in the east midlands, where Labour’s vote share was virtually the same in 2015 and 2019. Labour’s sharp but, in the event, temporary rise in support in 2017 meant that last week’s results generated some huge 2017-19 swings. They obscured Labour’s long-term decline in its heartlands.
The Conservatives’ victory among the working class was greater than among the middle class.
This was not the first election in which more working class voters backed the Tories rather than Labour. They did so in 1983—the year of Margaret Thatcher’s landslide victory—and in 2017. But the gap was just two points in both elections. This time there was 15-point gulf: Conservative 48 per cent, Labour 33 per…