Should Labour try to win back ‘red wall’ voters? | Letters

Steve Smart warns Labour against simply trying to win back its traditional supporters in the old heartlands, Roy Boffy says these voters will be lost for ever unless the party seriously reappraises its parlous position, and Ron Glatter thinks the ‘northern problem’ is in danger of being overstated. Plus Derrick Cameron on Corbyn as a leader and Starmer as a manager

So a report into former Labour “red wall” voters concludes that the party must “listen to their concerns and aspirations … tune our policies and outlook to their priorities” (Labour ‘red wall’ seats lost to Conservatives in 2019 might be ‘lost for good’, 9 December).

My guess, informed by your interviews with such voters in Leigh, is that this would mean adopting views that abhor Europeanism, reject immigration and asylum provision, and would, for patriotic reasons, condone criminal transgressions by British forces overseas, as the Tories have done. These people have given their support to a party that oversees the continuing destruction of British businesses by hedge funds and asset strippers growing rich by offshore tax avoidance, a party that wishes to turn the clock back 50 years in a vainglorious quest for a mythical “sovereignty”.

If Labour wants to accommodate these people it will alienate precisely those “younger voters in diverse cities where it is dominant”, tie itself to an ageing demographic, and end up as a regressive force going nowhere. Sometimes progressive parties must have the guts to lead voters, not follow them.
Steve Smart
Malvern, Worcestershire

• Labour certainly has a fight on its hands if it is to seriously contest the Tories in 2024. The scale of the problem may be judged by a short example from just north of Birmingham. Cannock Chase, Walsall North and Tamworth – all once safe Labour seats, or at least Labour marginals – are now as safe for the Tories, as is true blue Sutton Coldfield. And the decline began well before 2017, the final catastrophic collapse only delayed until 2019 by virtue of Theresa May’s incompetence.

Sutton Coldfield itself may well indicate a way forward for Labour: two of Sutton’s city council seats are now held by Labour, a situation unheard of in recent times.

I believe these once-solid Labour voters will be lost for ever without a serious reappraisal by Labour of its parlous position, trapped in the cities with nowhere to go.
Roy Boffy
Former Labour party agent, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• I am sure that Labour does have a “northern problem” but, at the risk of sounding complacent, I think the case is in danger of being overstated.

The election last December was truly exceptional in a number of respects, including the time of year it was held, and this must be taken into account. Not only was Labour’s leader highly unpopular, but the Conservative leader was perceived by many, in the north as elsewhere, to exhibit a freshness and charisma which have already evaporated.

Brexit was a once-in-a-generation defining issue that the Lib Dems catastrophically misjudged in calling for revoke should they attain a majority. They and the SNP, with Labour following, walked into the trap of facilitating the election, which they could have prevented, at the Conservatives’ most opportune moment.

The context next time will be very different and it shouldn’t be impossible to bridge the cultural and economic divides.
Dr Ron Glatter
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

• Your editorial (The Guardian view on a progressive alliance: divided they fall, 13 December) argues that “Leaders scan the horizon for destinations; managers are guided by short-term considerations”.

By that measure, Jeremy Corbyn was a leader who had a vision of a fairer and more just society; Keir Starmer is a manager whose “short-term considerations” are to make Labour be seen as electable.
Derrick Cameron
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

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