Labour’s Lost Labour Voters

The only study to directly ask ex-Labour voters why they voted for other parties in 2015

Read the full report here:

Listening to Labour’s Lost Labour Voters_bbm research July 2015

By Gez Sagar

Nine months on from the 2015 General Election, long enough for a human being to go from conception to birth, and Labour’s thoughts on why David Cameron beat Ed Miliband are still in gestation.

There were signs of Labour pains when opinion reader Deborah Mattinson went public with her annoyance that the post-election research she was commissioned to carry out for the Party hadn’t been published.

Deborah’s work wasn’t mentioned in Labour’s official Learning The Lessons From Defeat report, although a list of contributors at the end included ‘Polling organisations’ with the MPs, party staff, candidates and councillors who had their say.

Here at bbm, we don’t know if our own research was taken into account because we didn’t get a reply or acknowledgement when we sent it in to Margaret Beckett, who had the grisly job of carrying out the inquest*.

We do know that our qualititative research carried out in the weeks after the election remains the only study to directly ask ex-Labour voters why this time they voted for other parties, when the reasons were fresh in their minds. The ten groups of voters we met were specifically recruited because they voted for Gordon Brown’s Labour in 2010 but felt they couldn’t vote for Ed Miliband’s Labour in 2015.

When we published the report in July, the Observer’s coverage attracted the most online comments any article on UK politics had done before or since (as far as we can tell: they closed comments at 5,252).

We still think the views of the voters we spoke to hold the answers to what Labour needs to do to regain public trust and become an election-winning force again.

Because our report was published in the middle of Labour’s leadership election debates, we decided not to write out a prescription for the party or claim we had all the answers.

Instead, we hoped the leadership candidates would provide some answers themselves. So we used the research as the basis for five questions they could be asked:

  1. What is Labour’s purpose now?
  2. Why should we listen to you when we didn’t listen to Ed Miliband?
  3. How will you re-build Labour’s economic credibility; and what is your plan to help create jobs and wealth without taking the country further into debt?
  4. How will you reform the welfare state?
  5. How will you help the country and our communities flourish within an increasingly globalised world that has growing migration of people?

None of those questions have gone away. And Labour’s lost Labour voters are still waiting for some answers.

*Talking of inquests, when Neil Kinnock spoke at Labour’s first NEC meeting after the 1992 election defeat, he was at pains to say that the discussions on what went wrong were “a biopsy not an autopsy.” Labour was alive, not dead, and was still moving in the right direction. He’s not saying that any more.

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