Labour’s “impossible” policies, a leader who was “stuck in the past” and a sense that the party is for “middle-class radicals” are among the reasons for the party’s electoral annihilation, according to a damning new report.
Jeremy Corbyn was the single biggest factor in causing voters to defect, resulting in Boris Johnson gaining an 80-seat majority in December, Lord Ashcroft’s ‘Diagnosis of Defeat’ claims.
Contrary to Labour’s internal report, which was leaked last week, Corbyn was consistently viewed as weak, incompetent, unpatriotic, too left-wing and old-fashioned while Labour’s position on Brexit “further undermined the credibility of the leadership”. Voters also felt that Labour’s policies would take Britain back to the past in multiple areas, including industrial relations, the benefits system and nuclear disarmament.
The report, based on interviews with more than 10,000 people, also found that policies such as free Wi-Fi signalled “an odd set of priorities”.
One voter said: “We don’t need free Wi-Fi, for heaven’s sake. It costs £20 a month, I can afford it.” Another argued that money could be better spent on policing or nurses, saying: “That was a redflag moment for me. I thought ‘I don’t trust a word you say anymore’.”
A third was even more brutal in their verdict: “They were promising such stupid things, paying off student loans and giving everyone free broadband. They were trying to buy everybody. It was like being in an African country, where they bribe everyone to vote for them.”
More generally former Labour voters thought the party had ceased to represent them, and was now mostly for students, the unemployed, and “middle-class radicals”, creating a sense that the party “looked down on them while taking their votes for granted”.
Looking ahead to the future leader, Keir Starmer scored the highest ratings among Labour members and voters as a whole, although some associated him with the attempt to stop Brexit.
Emily Thornberry was remembered as having “slagged off someone because he had an England flag outside his house,” while Rebecca Long Bailey was described as “Jeremy in a skirt.” Lisa Nandy was less well known, but some gave her credit for speaking out against Corbyn’s leadership
Introducing the “pitiless” report, Lord Ashcroft writes:
As far as many of these former supporters were concerned, then, the Labour Party they rejected could not be trusted with the public finances, looked down on people who disagreed with it, was too left-wing, failed to understand or even listen to the people it was supposed to represent, was incompetent, appallingly divided, had no coherent priorities, did not understand aspiration or where prosperity comes from, disapproved of their values and treated them like fools.
No doubt some will be suspicious of my motives. I’m a Tory, after all… [but] the country needs a strong opposition. Britain will be better governed if those doing the governing are kept on their toes. At its best, the Labour Party has been a great force for decency, speaking up for people throughout the country and ensuring nobody is forgotten. We need it to reclaim that role.
Labour has been contacted for a comment.