Britain is going to poll again. Will Labour be able to even get near the cake table? In other words, Corbyn get to No 10. Winning an election, or even becoming the largest party, which looks the best it can do, will depend on how its Leaver voters, particularly in the north, react to this trip wire balancing act. I have recently been in the north and it was interesting to talk to Labour voters to gauge their mood. I did what you may call a sort of focus group ….. writes Mihir Bose
Labour’s two-faced stance on Brexit is well known. Although the party is for remaining in the European Union, as its members have often made it clear and conference resolutions reaffirmed this, the party also knows that in many Labour held seats Labour voters put their cross in the referendum on leaving the EU. This led to what Labour called its creative ambiguity where it both wanted to remain yet not antagonise its Leave supporters. This has now morphed into one of the most ridiculous positions any party has taken on Brexit. This is that a Labour government under Corbyn will negotiate a new Brexit deal, a Labour deal which will be better than anything Theresa May or Boris Johnson has negotiated. But then having agreed this deal it will be put to the people. It is not clear how Labour as a party will campaign although individual high-profile members of Labour party will campaign to reject it. Talk of having your cake and eating it.
But will Labour be able to even get near the cake table? In other words, Corbyn get to No 10. Winning an election, or even becoming the largest party, which looks the best it can do, will depend on how its Leaver voters, particularly in the north, react to this trip wire balancing act. I have recently been in the north and it was interesting to talk to Labour voters to gauge their mood. I did what you may call a sort of focus group.
One of the most interesting voters I spoke to was an Asian of Pakistani origin. He was a fervent Leave supporter and the reasons he gave for voting Leave were very interesting. The starting point of our discussions was that many of the Leave voters were worried about immigration. This Asian was also worried about immigration. He could not be more opposed to Europeans who he pictured as a mob flooding into this country. They could, he said, just come in without any problems. No need for visas or meeting any immigration requirements. They could claim benefits. They could use the NHS. Yet his family could not bring their relatives from Pakistan.
He has a son born in this country who has married a girl in Pakistan. But he cannot bring his bride to this country . To do so he would have to show he has a job earning £18,500 and he does not have one. The poor lad can only get jobs working in warehouses packing things and there the pay is nothing like that.
As for NHS this Asian Labour voter is so fed up with it that he does not use the NHS but pays for his own medical treatment.
Listening to him he sounded just like many white voters I have spoken to who voted for Brexit. When I mentioned that to him he immediately bristled and said his vote, while based on his resentment about the flood of immigration from Europe, had nothing to do with race. An Asian making the same standard anti-racist claim that whites often make. He was also not worried that if after Brexit things turned sour the country’s white voters may turn on immigrants like him in this country and say, “Get out, why are you still here?”. I expressed the fear that when they do that they will not distinguish between European immigrants and immigrants from other lands, particularly people of colour. He would not accept that could happen. As he saw it he was part of this country and nothing would affect his position.
So, given he is such a strong Leave supporter, and given Labour’s two-faced stance, this Asian would seem to be the idea person to defect in the election to the Conservatives, even the Brexit party.
But this is where things turned around. He was he said Labour. When it comes to the election he will, as he always does, put his cross against the Labour candidate. When I asked about Jeremy Corbyn and whether he felt he would be suitable as Prime Minister he brushed it aside. He did not care about Corbyn . All that mattered was the candidate was Labour. He had always supported Labour and would do so again.
He also confirmed to me that many of his Asian friends think like that. They do not like immigrants from Europe and voted Leave but they are also Labour and will remain so whatever happens.
I realise this is a very limited survey but if this represents views of many Asians in the north then the simple assumption being made in Westminster that Labour’s Leave voters will desert the party does not hold true. Yes, some will but many Asians brought up on voting Labour all their lives will not.
So, maybe Labour will benefit by behaving like a trapeze artist over Brexit. But while that may see the party hold on to its northern seats, to win an election it needs a Remain alliance voting tactically to win Conservatives seats and the way the Liberals are behaving that looks very unlikely. @mihirbose