Three years ago, Labour Together published a post-mortem of Labour's 2019 defeat. Then, a recovery within one term seemed impossible. That Labour should now be so far ahead of the Conservatives is remarkable, and a tribute to Keir Starmer's leadership. In Red Shift, Labour Together has plotted Labour's path to power from here. As this report shows, Labour's position is strong and the Tories are reeling - but there is work still to do.
Director, Labour Together
Red Shift is a welcome reminder of the progress we have made as a party and how far we still have to go.
MP for Birmingham Ladywood and Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator
Red Shift points to a new politics that won’t just decide the next election - it will define the years to come. Britain is living through an ‘age of insecurity’. You can see it in the insecure work, unsafe streets and crumbling public services that characterise life in Tory Britain today. Labour Together shows that Britain is crying out for a ‘politics of security’ that only Labour can deliver.
MP for Croydon North and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
This report charts Labour’s path to power. A little over three years ago, writing such a report would have been a laughable exercise. At that time, Labour had slumped to its worst defeat in 84 years. An electoral recovery looked, at the very least, like a two-term project. Today, the context is markedly different. Labour is consistently leading the polls by wide margins. While the journey between poll leads and poll booths is long, a Labour victory now looks possible. This report explores how that possibility might be realised.
To do so, it introduces six groups of voters who make up Britain’s electorate. We show that two particular groups are critical to Labour’s success. To bring them to life, we present them as two characters – one who readers may be familiar with already, and another who is new to the political debate.
The first is the voter who Labour so catastrophically lost in 2019. That year, the centre-right think tank Onward called him ‘Workington Man’. Socially conservative but economically interventionist, this long-time Labour supporter turned to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. His vote that year changed Britain’s electoral map. Thirty key Labour seats - stretching from the Midlands, through the North West and North East - fell to the Conservatives. Labour’s “Red Wall” collapsed. Today, the promises made to Workington Man by the Conservatives are ringing hollow, and the Conservatives’ vote has cratered. In 2019, 49 percent voted Conservative. Now, 56 percent say they will vote Labour. Support for the Tories has dropped to 15 percent.
Rebuilding the Red Wall is only part of the challenge that Labour faces, however. In this report, we introduce a second voter, whose support could hand Labour a stable, working majority at the next election.
We call her ‘Stevenage Woman’. She, and voters like her, live in towns and suburbs across the country. Young, hard-working, but struggling to get by, she feels that national politics makes little difference to her life and her town. Her attitudes aren’t dogmatic, leaning a little towards social conservatism and a little towards a more interventionist state. In some elections she votes and in others she doesn’t. But Stevenage Woman, and those like her, are the single biggest group of voters. She, above all others, holds the keys to Downing Street. In 2019, 44 percent backed the Conservatives. Now, that support has collapsed. Just over half (51 percent) now back Labour, more than double those who support the Tories (23 percent).
This means the old bellwethers are back, and Labour could win them. Since it was first demarcated as its own constituency in 1983, Stevenage has always voted for the governing party: Conservative until 1997, Labour until 2010, then Conservative again ever since. With voters like Stevenage Woman comprising the largest group in 430 of the 573 constituencies in England and Wales, a significant shift from the Conservatives to Labour would change the electoral map completely, amounting to our eponymous “Red Shift”.
This report closes with suggestions on how Labour can win the support of these voters. Doing so demands that Labour continues to speak to the country at large, and not just its most loyal left and liberal voters. That means taking a firm line on societal and cultural issues - like crime and immigration – to address the legitimate concerns that people have. It also means developing an economic platform that makes a tangible difference to people’s jobs and local communities. Perhaps most importantly, it means a politics that eschews grand abstractions and vague promises – of which we have had so many in recent years – and instead focuses on the things that really matter. We end this report by pointing towards a new politics that could do this: a politics grounded in providing ‘security’, in the form of secure work, safe streets, and a strong nation.
This report also relaunches Labour Together. Formerly, our gaze was turned inwards, fighting to make Labour electable again. Now, our focus is outwards, towards the country, the electorate, and the policies that could make Britain better under Labour. Before that, however, something else must come first: a Red Shift.
A Red Shift is possible. Our segmentation, created in partnership with YouGov, shows that there are six distinct voter groups in England & Wales. To win the next election, a party must win four of them. In 2019, the Conservatives won five. Now, they are only winning in two.
Two voters hold the election in their hands. We call them 'Stevenage Woman' and 'Workington Man'. In 2019, the Conservatives won both groups comfortably. Now Labour holds leads of 28 points and 41 points amongst each respectively.
Support today cannot be taken for granted. The electorate is more volatile than ever before and many voters are still undecided. Labour's position is strong and the scale of a Conservative comeback would have to be colossal. If Labour has a 'path to victory', the Conservatives have a mountain to climb.
Labour must hold the line on societal and cultural issues. Since 2020, the Labour Party has significantly changed its course on social and cultural issues. With a former Director of Public Prosecutions at the helm, Labour is tough on crime, once more, and it believes in exerting a firm grip over migration. It supports robust military support for Ukraine against Russian aggression, is comfortable with the Union Jack, and sings the national anthem at its conference. To retain support from voters who are more socially conservative than Labour's 2019 vote, the party must hold firm to this line.
Labour needs a bold economic programme that speaks to ordinary experiences of insecurity. With considerable economic insecurity in Britain today, there is an appetite for government action that improves people's jobs and finances. However, with voters sceptical of grand projects and abstract promises, this programme must address people's profound sense of insecurity.
The electorate is united by a feeling of insecurity. Britain is living through an 'Age of Insecurity'. While this is in part economic, it is not entirely so. A new 'Politics of Security' - focused on strong finances, safe streets and a secure nation - could bind together a wide coalition of voters and secure Labour's place in power for years to come.