Well, it is for the Labour and Conservative parties anyway as they desperately try to respectively regain or cling onto this particular section of voters who are, by a majority, backing the Tories in recent years.
For Labour, this is a conundrum to which they seem to have few if any answers and it may well be why Starmer and Labour tend to be keeping their heads down when it comes to acting like an opposition. My feeling is that they fear alienating the white working-class vote even more so until it starts to slip from the Tory’s grip best to keep Mum. Of course, this is a wait and see strategy but if this section of voters stays with the Tories it could be a very long wait indeed.
The messaging from our Tory government and Offical Labour opposition is therefore nearly always aimed at this section of the electorate or has their views significantly in mind as they are the power behind Johnson’s throne, whilst they are also helping to keep Starmer out of power. For Labour, which aspires to be a left of centre progressive party, chasing the right wing voters who used to be in their camp is both problematic and crucial to Labour’s future. If Starmer takes Labour too far right in an attempt to bring the white working-class voters back to his party then he stands to lose his progressives to the Lib Dems and Greens. However, if he doesn’t bring the white working-class voters back he will fail to get anywhere near a majority at the next general election. Remember Labour have virtually no seats left in Scotland, as the SNP has all but destroyed Labour north of the border, and there seems little if any prospect of Starmer reversing those losses. So the reality is that forming any kind of majority is probably well beyond Labour’s capabilities even if they claw back their lost right-wingers. Starmer and Labour are facing a grim electoral scenario whichever way they turn.
And what about that Batley & Spen by-election which bizarrely prominent Labour right-winger Rachel Reeves has been trying to pass off as a victory for Kier Starmer! Oh come on, get real, Labour all but lost it except for the fact that they had a very local candidate with a direct connection to murdered MP Jo Cox. Kim Leadbeater presented herself, at least in style, like a Liberal community politics campaigner/candidate and significantly as one of an independent mind who was not going to be a slave to her party. It’s highly likely that this was why Labour just about clung on to a seat they would otherwise have lost. Trouble is having an independently minded MP in Labour’s ranks who has in effect pledged to put her community first is hardly what a significantly authoritarian Labour Party really wants. If she carries through with her independence then Labour has to prepare for her becoming a thorn in their side. My every experience with the Labour Party has been one of them stifling independent thought in their ranks and demanding loyalty to the party at every turn. If Kim Leadbetter can’t stomach such control where will it end? No, Batley and Spen was a close squeak win for progressive politics but it was the connection with Jo Cox and a community/independent-minded candidate which actually won it. Sadly, this by-election actually confirmed that otherwise the white, working-class right-wing is still the only section of the electorate both Tories and Labour are actually interested in.
Note – I took against Rachel Reeves back in 2013 when the Guardian newspaper said this of her – ‘Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband’s frontbench reshuffle.’ To me, her position was very far from being one of a progressive and I’ve not changed my mind.