Friday, May 06, 2016
Why Labour did surprisingly well in the South of England yesterday
One of the features of yesterday's local elections in England was that Labour managed to hold on to what the Telegraph calls "key southern outposts like Exeter, Southampton, Crawley and Slough".
Earlier today I heard someone on radio or the television suggest that this was because Jeremy Corbyn's views go down better with university-educated Southern voters than they do with more traditional working-class voters.
And I thought of the Richmond and Barnes constituency in the 1983 general election.
This was a knife-edge contest between the Conservatives and the Liberal Party (or Liberal Alliance, as we called ourselves in those days).
I was to find myself arriving on a doorstep 10 minutes before the polls closed, just as a Conservative activist arrived there too. We compared notes and found we were chasing the same voter.
The Liberals were eventually to lose by 74 votes and I am convinced we would have won with a more dynamic candidate.
On the last weekend of the contest the young activists (this was a long time ago) were sent out to call on the Labour supporters identified in our canvass and ask them to consider a tactical vote for the Liberals.
This approach received two distinct reactions. Working class voters were generally happy to consider the idea, even if they had a Labour posters in their window.
Middle-class Labour voters, typically teachers, however, were often offended to be asked. You had to vote for what you believed, they told me, even if your candidate had no chance of winning.
It is this second group of voters, I suspect, that Jeremy Corbyn appeals to. Which means that he may well be surprisingly successful in maintaining his party's Southern outposts.
But it also means that he may struggle to resist the appeal of Ukip to working-class Labour voters.
Incidentally, the Labour candidate I was urging people not to support was Keith Vaz. I think I did the right thing.