By shunning its patriotic Brexit-backing voters, Labour will struggle to win power again

By shunning its patriotic Brexit-backing voters, Labour will struggle to win power again

At May’s local elections, the Conservatives lost 1,330 councillors. Following the Government’s disastrous management of Brexit, the Tories then secured a paltry voteshare of 9% as they finished fifth in the recent European Parliament elections. And they came third in yesterday’s by-election in Peterborough, a seat they had held until 2o17. Theresa May has announced her impending resignation and the party is in the midst of a leadership contest where rival candidates have already begun sniping away at one another.

Under these circumstances, Labour should be providing encouraging electoral performances which demonstrate that they are a government-in-waiting. Instead, the party ended the local elections with a net deficit of 84 councillors and finished a distant third with only 14% of the popular vote at the European Parliament election – 2.9 million votes behind the victorious, newly-formed Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage. And in Peterborough, Labour’s voteshare slumped to 31% from 48% at the 2017 General Election as they came within a few hundred votes of losing a Westminster seat to the Brexit Party, barely a couple of months after its establishment. To make matters worse, the party is now being formally investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – ironically a body established under a Labour government – over institutional anti-Semitism.

After winning back a shedload of working-class voters from the anti-EU UK Independence Party at the 2017 General Election after pledging support for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, its embarrassing fudging of Brexit resulted in the party being humiliated in its Leave-voting heartlands in the European Parliament elections. Following the loss of council control in Leave-voting towns such as Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington – all in County Durham – the party managed to finish well behind the Brexit Party in the North East region.

In Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, where Labour suffered an embarrassing net loss of 20 councillors at the local elections, the Brexit Party won more than 10,000 votes more than Labour at the European Parliament election. Over in Wales, Labour finished a woeful third, suffering an embarrassing defeat to the Brexit Party in Neath Port Talbot. The Neath parliamentary constituency, a mixture of industrial and rural communities, has returned a Labour MP to the Commons at every general election  since 1922.

But on what was a spectacularly disastrous night for the party, perhaps the most tragic result came from the small mining town of Bolsover (for the “outward-looking” metropolitan Guardianistas who blissfully exist in their London Remainia bubble, it is in Derbyshire, which is a county in the East Midlands). Being classic Labour mining heartland territory, Bolsover has elected a Labour MP at every UK general election – 19 in total – since its creation back in 1950. This includes electing left-wing Eurosceptic firebrand Dennis Skinner – affectionately known as the “Beast of Bolsover” – on thirteen occasions. After losing control of Bolsover District Council for the first time since its inception back in 1973, Labour finished a distant second – over 5,000 votes behind the Brexit Party at the European election.

Labour’s pathetic fudging of Brexit, along with standing “Remain ultra” MEP candidates like Lord Adonis, clearly fed into a widespread perception that the party has little intention of representing the views of its traditional working-class voters in its Leave-voting heartlands across Northern England, the provincial Midlands and Wales. Blue-collar patriots are not only seen by many within Labour as a bothersome inconvenience – they are in fact held in contempt.

These voters in recent times have been cornered, having little choice but to adopt a more ‘flexible’ approach to elections. Tribal loyalties, which saw swathes of traditional working-class voters repeatedly pledge their support to Labour, are fraying. Their tolerance for not only being unheard, but also ridiculed by ‘representatives’ of the party they traditionally support, is unsurprisingly wearing thin.

And Labour will most certainly struggle to obtain a future functioning parliamentary majority without the support of its blue-collar patriots in the industrial North, Leave-voting Wales and the Midlands. This is admittedly an uncomfortable truth for the cosmopolitan chattering-class leftists of Islington.

Criticising the inequalities generated by market capitalism, regurgitating anti-austerity rhetoric and promising a fairer economic model is not going to be a magic bullet when it comes to restoring strong ties between Britain’s “blue-collar patriots” and the Labour Party. Their socially conservative nature – patriotic, family-oriented, community-spirited – must be better appreciated. And certainly not subject to the level of abuse and ridicule that has been displayed in recent times.

Labour are seriously losing ground on important debates regarding the nation, family and community. It must resist the urge of indulging in identity politics, take heed of perfectly legitimate concerns over immigration, view the family unit as critical in maintaining social stability, and talk in glowing terms about national cohesion. But there is another point to be made here – one which is important but all too often overlooked.

Without promoting a deep sense of “shared destiny” and “common purpose” under a civic model of British patriotism, Labour are simply not going to be able to cultivate the durable bonds of social trust and national cohesion needed to underpin ambitious collectivist projects funded by the state.

A comprehensive national welfare state – one which properly funds the NHS and social care, ensures that our schools are well-resourced, invests in vocational skills, meets the demand for new homes – is only truly sustainable if sufficiently undergirded by strengthened bonds of social trust and mutual regard.

Nation, family, community. It is high time Labour smelt the coffee.