Breaking down Labour’s ‘red wall’ | Letters

Readers respond to John Harris’s examination of the party’s lost heartlands

John Harris (Modern, multicultural and surprisingly liberal: this is the real ‘red wall’, 4 October) brings a welcome note of optimism on the views of former Labour voters in “red wall” seats. He accepts that superficially there was a thick veneer of rightwing views, but underneath there is a more tolerant response. Essentially, it is the general feeling of alienation from the whole political process, and particularly a feeling of marginalisation in seats that were previously thought safe for Labour and therefore neglected, that provoked the desire for change.

Harris does not mention the role of Ukip in leading to these Conservative gains last year. Most Labour voters had a deep-seated antipathy to the Tories and would not have dreamt of voting for them. However, Ukip did not provoke the same visceral response and voting for it brought the key psychological break from their Labour identity. It then became easier to move on to voting Conservative.

In terms of appealing to the better nature of this mass of solid citizens, I have always been persuaded by the jurist Patrick Devlin. He said that if politicians treated the electorate as a giant jury and produced the evidence and argued their case thoroughly, the electorate would respond accordingly.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

• John Harris reminds us that there is still a large tolerant liberal majority in this country. Pollsters paint a simplistic account of a socially conservative, economically liberal Britain. We are the disregarded, almost invisible voter; our party leaders believe either we are in a minority or that we will vote for them regardless of their policies for fear of putting somebody worse in power. The repeated message is that Labour must win over the “socially conservative” swing voter. This has led to it appeasing rather than challenging the xenophobic or Europhobic right for fear of offending them. History shows that unless the social democratic left challenge these views, they lose credibility.
Derrick Joad
Leeds

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