The Tory share of the vote is dwindling – why is Labour chasing it?

"Who's been sitting in MY chair?" Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes - that aren't even there.

“Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes – that aren’t even there. [Picture: Reuters]

One of the things that really rankled about Rachel Reeves’ attempt at Tory talk in yesterday’s Observer was the (observable) fact that she didn’t need to.

Why try to out-Tory the Conservatives when their share of the vote has been going down at every election – among a proportion of active voters that is – itself – reducing?

So in 1955, they managed to snag 49.6 per cent of the votes. In 2010 this had dropped to 36.1 per cent. Turnout was 76.8 per cent in the first instance and 65.1 in the second. They got 38 per cent of all available votes in 1955 and 23.5 per cent in 2010.

Some could point out that Labour’s share in 2010 was only 29 per cent – around 18.8 per cent of all available votes – but this just proves the point. Neoliberal New Labour were very close to the Conservatives in outlook and policy and most people in the UK don’t want that.

But Rachel Reeves indicated that these policies would continue on her watch, and that’s why people reacted so strongly against the Observer interview.

Perhaps Labour should have done some research on this. Yes, the party has its ‘Your Britain’ website, for members to bring forward ideas – but I’ve been there and didn’t like it. It seemed needlessly complicated, with efforts made to get people discussing particular policy areas at particular times when it would have been better to let people just say what they want – when they want – and sort it out at the receiving end.

Besides – that’s just for members. How much research has Labour done on the doorstep? What do people who aren’t aligned to either main political party want? That is where Labour will get its votes.

Even pointing to research by the polling organisations doesn’t help here. Ipsos-MORI famously polled more than 2,500 people about the benefit cap earlier this year, and Iain Duncan Smith was delighted to announce that a significant majority of respondents were in favour.

It was left to this very blog to break the news that only 21 per cent of those respondents knew enough about the cap to give an educated opinion. It would be informative to know how many – of all the respondents, not just the 21 per cent – were actually affected by it.

All of this is a great shame that may worsen into a missed opportunity. There are some terrific ideas around at the moment and all Rachel Reeves – and Labour as a whole – has to do is look around for them.

The Fabian Society website carried an article entitled Welcome to DWP the other day, in which most current proposals for reform of the system were rejected – which is a telling indictment of the state of the nation in itself. The stated reasons were that they would reduce the incomes of poor families (no thank you, Labour! You’re not going to out-Tory the Tories!) or fatally undermine universalism.

But among the ideas that were there, it was suggested Labour needs to reform individual benefits before setting its planned upper ceiling on the benefits budget. To that, I would add that the ceiling needs to be described as a proportion of a Labour government’s overall budget – not limited to a particular sum of money. This is the only way to keep it fair as inflation increases costs and devalues the pounds in our pockets, year on year.

Reducing unemployment, involuntary part time work and low pay by getting people into full-time jobs on a living wage could cut billions off the benefit bill (and boost the tax take at the same time).

For right now, the article stated, La Reeves needs to work on Labour’s perception problem – the false image created for it by an unsympathetic mass media, that it is ‘soft’ on benefits. This is based on misconceptions; only a quarter of social security goes on working-age people without jobs, and benefit fraud is – as has been explained ad absurdum on this site – miniscule.

Before the recession, Labour had cut the number of people out of work and really made work pay (with tax credits – not necessarily a great way forward, but a start – and these could be eased out of service as pressure was exerted on employers to adopt living wages). The social security budget was falling, not increasing. That’s what Rachel Reeves needs to be saying. Labour’s policies were working. The public has been misinformed. A new Labour government could create a winning formula again.

It could happen – if Labour stops being the Party of Plastic Tories and starts being the Party of the Worker once again.


  1. Nick October 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    There’s nothing wrong with expecting long-term unemployed people to get a job – provided they’re fit enough to work.

    But it must be a real job with real wages.

    Rachel Reeves when she speaks needs to talk in a way that the public understands in that she must emphasise in all her speeches that she is not talking about the long term sick and disabled but those fit and able to work only as they are two completely separate issues
    one group very genuine the sick and disabled and the other work shy scroungers

    she also needs when talking about the long term unemployed to understand that it would be far better if the DWP called the fit unemployed person at their home with an offer of a job instead of them turning up on mass only to find that there are no jobs or unsuitable jobs for them to undertake which is waste of their time and money in just turning up on the off chance of a job when in reality for the majority there isn’t one

    if there is no work available but unpaid social type of work possibly getting some home help done for a pensioner etc then this type of job seeker should get an enhancement to around 100 pounds a week for a full 40 hour week so that when a full time job does crop up they will be able to move straight into it providing the job is suitable and they have whatever qualifications are necessary to do the to a high standard

    as i say if Rachel Reeves stuck to what i have outlined she will be the natural leader of welfare reform all she needs to do is to keep it simple and to ask if she is unsure there are many people like myself or sue who are best placed to advise her she does not need to be Einstein to fix welfare reform

    as i have always stated it’s a very simple undertaking welfare reform you just have to be a person who not only understands it but a person who can identify where the pitfalls lay and take the steps to get a better class of staff at the DWP as most errors are this end which as we all know costs people their lives of which there is no need for that

    mp’s /lords are also to blame for not understanding welfare reform they have to keep referring to notes when speaking plus the fact they have no experiences of spending a week in their local job centre when all the facts and figures should be in their head nothing is worse then having to read from your notes if your interested in welfare reform you should have all the answers to hand in your head and not keep looking foolish from the reading of notes which only undermines your credibility and loses the public’s confidence

    off topic a scroungers program tonight I’ve not watch it but with 11 kids and not working do i need to watch it the press no doubt will love it as will David Cameron and IDS

  2. wrjones2012 October 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Yes the facts state that Labour lost six million votes between 1997 and 2010.Whilst it may be argued that they may have lost a proportion of those votes to the Tories,in terms of the overall picture I believe they are an insignificant minority.The bulk of those votes are far more likely abstentions and those who quite frankly have given up saying;”they’re all the same”!

    It is these last two groups we should be wooing!

  3. […] One of the things that really rankled about Rachel Reeves' attempt at Tory talk in yesterday's Observer was the (observable) fact that she didn't need to. Why try to out-Tory the Conservatives when…  […]

  4. Editor October 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on kickingthecat.

  5. jed goodright October 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    This makes me sick!!!

    There is plenty of evidence to suggest that there are better ways to treat people. There is plenty of evidence to highlight the gross injustice of the Welfare Reform Act. There is plenty of evidence that ESA/WCA are killing people
    There is plenty of evidence that ATOS, a4e, and the rest are costing more than any benefit payment

    What more does it take to notice these things?????
    We know the labour movement has been shafted by right wing infiltration, indeed as has the union movement but this does not excuse the rest from making one helluva noise. Rachel Reeves could have attended to these issues but didn’t – because labour is ruled by the right and conversation is not accepted. They, like the tories, don’t actually care that much about anyone but themselves. Is there nobody in parliament prepared to stick the head out of the window to show they are interested and know what’s going on and will join us in a fight for change???? What do you have to do?????

    I had a dream …. and Rachel Reeves proved it was not going to happen

  6. hstorm October 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on TheCritique Archives and commented:
    Indeed, why? If Labour wants to win support from the media, sure, keep moving right. If it wants support from the electorate, it needs to move left, and a long way left at that.

  7. Derek Robinson October 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I agree. I was fuming at this because of the crassness of it.
    The creation of the massive numbers of jobs it would take to lift everyone out of the danger area is simply not going to happen. Labour would need to be radical beyond belief to achieve that number of jobs etc and unless they did you are then left being tougher than the Tories on people you have failed.

  8. Jane Canning October 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I think Labour should be seeking to re-engage those who have ceased to vote, instead of floating voters. I had decided to vote for them as Ed was showing promise, but that was prior to the comments of Reeves.

  9. […] “Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes – that aren’t even there.  […]

  10. Bryan Hemming October 15, 2013 at 11:28 am - Reply

    When the Labour party stop avoiding the term socialism and becomes proud of it, and its values, once more, the votes will begin to swing in their favour.

    • Mike Sivier October 15, 2013 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Well, Ed Miliband keeps saying he’s going to bring it back!
      The question is, will his idea of socialism be anything like ours?

      • Bryan Hemming October 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm - Reply

        Don’t think so, unfortunately. But I like to retain some optimism, and there is something about him that might shine out if he gets into power.

        The problem is the press constantly presenting socialism as akin to a crime.,The supposedly left-wing mainstream media seeem more afraid of socialism than they seem to be of fascism, at times. Most them have got too used to the good life and are shackled to high mortgages. They don’t leave the comfort of the big metropolis often enough to see the real world. Well, in fact they don’t leave the comfort of their trendy boroughs, as their are plenty of deprived areas of London.where they could learn a lesson or two.

        I had to leave London almost fifteen years ago, and finally settled in Spain. Despite all its financial problems, it’s still cheap enough for me to live and be able to think independently, something I found was becoming impossible in Notting Hill with its rocketing rents and growing population of stinking rich Tories. Shame when I recall it as being a bastion of individualism and free-thinking in the 1960s and 70s.

        Here in Spain, many more journalists aren’t afraid of challenging the government head on, particularly some of the privately owned media TV stations, oddly enough.

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