The @LordAshcroft focus group research on @UKLabour

The focus group work of Lord Ashcroft after the 2015 British general election reinforces what was learnt about the New Zealand Labour Party’s drift away from the values of the working class.

Source: The Unexpected Mandate: my review of the 2015 election and the unusual parliament that preceded it – Lord Ashcroft Polls.

In the 2014 election in New Zealand, the Labour Party promised to extend the in work tax credit for families to welfare beneficiaries. This was worth about $60 a week.

The following week was the worst week that Labour Party MPs and party workers experienced in their door-knocking. In their own Heartland electorates, the Labour Party door knockers received a hostile response to that proposal.

Working class Labour voters believe they had earned that family tax credit by working and it should not be paid to people who do not earn it by working.

There is a re-occurring theme among those who stopped voting labour everywhere is that Labour Party is are now too concerned about scroungers and are not interested enough in rewarding strivers, and in particular those who strive to improve themselves in the working class.

Ashcroft’s research after the 2010 British general election found that British voters who had stopped voting Labour after previously supporting it believed that the Labour Party did not have the right answers to important questions. 7 out of 10 of these voters believe that the expenditure cuts of the Conservative party when necessary.

Importantly for labour parties everywhere, two thirds of voters would take a lot of persuading before they voted for the British Labour Party again. Labour would need to change quite fundamentally before they did so again.

Many said they would wait until Labour had been re-elected and served a full term before they themselves considered voting Labour again. That means two thirds of the vote lost by Labour were unwilling to vote Labour again until the 2025 general election. They had really given up on Labour despite their support for it in the past. Issues such as a perception that Labour elected the wrong brother as its leader in 2010 were minor in comparison to this.

Fortunately for the Conservative Party, research among Labour Party members and Labour supporters in the trade unions tells a very different message as to why Labour lost the 2010 British general election.

These Labour Party members and supporters thought the voters were wrong to not vote for them according to the Ashcroft research after the 2010 election:

They thought they had lost because people did not appreciate what Labour had achieved; that voters had been influenced by the right-wing media; and that while Labour’s policies had been right, they had not been well communicated.

More than three quarters thought their party had not deserved to lose, and most rejected the idea that the Labour government had been largely to blame for the economic situation.

They thought the swing voters they had lost (and needed to win back) were ignorant, credulous and selfish. More than half thought the coalition would prove so unpopular that Labour would probably win the 2015 election without having to change very much.

The strength of British Labour in the eyes of many voters is it is seen as compassionate and concerned about fairness. Unfortunately for British Labour, many of the people who do not currently vote for Labour but are receptive to these messages of compassion and fairness re fiscal conservatives according to the Ashcroft research:

I found in my focus groups that this message was best received by those already most inclined to vote for the party.

It was less effective for those who had harder questions, particularly about how all this compassion and decency would be paid for. As one of our participants put it, ‘it’s all well and good to say we’re nicer people and we care about you more, but I want someone who can sort out the country’.

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