LONDON — The Labour Party is heading for its worst general election performance in over 80 years unless there is a dramatic shift in the British political landscape.
There is a real possibility that Jeremy Corbyn’s party could slump to just 20% of the popular vote at the next election, which would leave it with fewer than 150 seats in the House of Commons, according to a new report by The Fabian Society think tank.
This would be the party’s worst performance since 1935 when it returned just 154 MPs.
The report – titled “How Labour is too weak to win, and too strong to die” – says Labour has little to no chance of forming a majority government at the next general election and must focus instead on working with the SNP and Liberal Democrats to form an anti-Conservative coalition, or a “progressive alliance”, a strategy that Corbyn and other Labour MPs have ruled out.
Labour is polling at around 28%, according to recent surveys, which combined with the party’s collapse in Scotland means it would win less than 200 seats at the next election.
However, as the report highlights, Labour has consistently under-performed its polling by around 8% at this stage in the electoral cycle, meaning it could return as few as 140 MPs at the next election.
This would be a dream scenario for Theresa May, whose Conservative Party would return over 400 seats to the Commons, giving it an enormous legislative majority.
The report, authored by the Fabian Society’s General Secretary Andrew Harrop, outlines these key reasons for why Labour is in the midst of an electoral crisis:
- The party has “no roadmap” to winning voters: The party under Corbyn still doesn’t appear to have a strategy for winning back lost voters. The party is quiet, resigned, and isn’t communicating a message that will tempt people to vote for it. “This is the calm of stalemate, of insignificance, even of looming death,” the report says.
- It has no real answer to Brexit: A big part of this is Brexit. Labour’s message is “muffled and inconsistent” which as a result has led to former Remain voters flooding to the Liberal Democrats and Leave supporters going to one of the pro-Brexit parties: UKIP or the Tories. Labour has found itself stranded in the middle of a “dominant social/cultural” divide.
- It can’t afford to lose Scotland: Putting it simply: Labour needs a strong voter base in Scotland to have any realistic hope of forming a majority government. The party’s collapse north of the border at the last election was a disaster which they show little sign of recovering from. The Scottish Labour Party is on just 15%, according to polling data leaked last week.
- Corbyn remains severely unpopular: Corbyn isn’t the sole problem, nor is he the main problem, but he is still a problem. Polls show that the veteran socialist trails May on basically every issue and is struggling to connect with the wider public, despite being fiercely popular among his own supporters.
The report stresses, though, that the First Past The Post electoral system means Labour will comfortably remain the official Opposition, even it wins as few as 140 seats. This is because the party will still manage to secure enough of the vote in enough constituencies to keep the Lib Dems and UKIP at bay. “It is not a story of victory or death: Labour is too strong to be supplanted by another opposition party; and too weak to have any realistic chance of governing alone,” the report says.
Harrop concludes by suggesting the party must inhabit the “middle” of British political culture, populated by people who were neither staunch Brexiteers nor die-hard Europhiles. Labour must “plant its flag midway between these poles and seek to occupy as much space as possible, so that it can rebuild connections with people with all sorts of different backgrounds and worldviews, whatever they did at the referendum.”
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