We have published a number of reports on the May 7 election results, in part in the interest of an informed leadership debate.

This week the left-leaning Smith Institute published its report. Its title was ‘Red Alert. Why Labour lost and what has to change’.

You can read the full report here.
https://smithinstitutethinktank.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/red-alert-why-labour-lost-and-what-needs-to-change.pdf

We publish here the report’s Executive Summary. Its emphasis on economic competence and immigration as issues which were of paramount importance and on which Labour lost, chimes with all other evidence we’ve seen so far. So too does its demographic analysis – the over 65s, and white males are groups where Labour is losing badly. The calculation of what type of seat Labour will need to win is especially noteworthy.

Executive summary
Labour’s performance
• Labour’s vote has been in decline since 1997. The 2015 election reversed this trend with Labour gaining 741,000 votes and increasing its vote share slightly.
• However, these additional votes were concentrated in Labour seats, whilst there was a swing to the Tories in Conservative-held marginals.
• Around one in five of the electorate considered voting Labour but didn’t. In the end, Labour won more seats from the Tories than they lost. But, continued its 14 year decline in seats won.
• The two party vote share remained the same in 2015 as 2010, but now Labour competes with four rather than two smaller parties.

Big holes
• With the exception of London, Labour made few gains in any part of the country. It lost seats in the East Midlands and Wales and of course Scotland, which is now the place in Britain where Labour holds fewest seats.
• Labour’s poor performance in the South was not particularly out of trend with other parts of the country when compared to 2005 or 2010. The biggest failings were in suburbia, small towns and new towns. Labour also did poorly in seaside towns.
• Labour’s vote by class remained similar to 2010 (the middle class vote held firm). However, Labour did poorly amongst blue collar voters – many of whom voted for the Tories and UKIP.
• Whilst Labour’s vote amongst working age people bounced back in 2015, those aged 65 and over continued to drift off. The Conservatives gained twice as many votes from over 55s as Labour. Labour won just one in five of the ‘grey vote’.
• Labour won around 450,000 more votes from women than men (mainly among women below retirement age).
• Labour did poorly amongst homeowners. But, it had the support of half of those in social housing and made gains with voters in the private rented sector.
• Labour secured the vote of two thirds of non-white voters. However, it gained the vote of just 28% of white voters – 11 percentage points behind the Conservatives.

Winning again
• Labour faces an even bigger challenge in 2020, and (with boundary changes) will have to win over 100 seats to command a majority, compared with 68 seats in 2015.
• For Labour to win a majority at the next election it would need a swing similar to that of 1997 (although a 5% swing could be enough for a minority/coalition).
• Most of these 100 seats need to be taken from the Tories (around 92 seats). They are spread across the country. The Conservative-Labour marginals will be in: middle Britain
– major towns and outer urban areas; wealthier Britain in rural and suburban parts of the midlands and north; new towns, largely located in the south, and struggling seaside towns.
• In the 92 seats only 10 had a combined Lib Dem and Green vote that was bigger than UKIP’s.

Policy implications
• The most important issues at the election were the NHS, economy and immigration, with the latter two seen as the top priority.
• Labour performed poorly on the economy. For every person that saw Labour best on the economy there were two who thought the Conservatives were.
• For those who considered Labour but voted Conservative, the biggest worry was that Labour could not be trusted on the economy; that they would make it too easy for people to live on benefits and may raise taxes. Large numbers also wanted Labour to be tougher on immigration.
• To win again Labour will need policies which are attractive to winning the support of older people.
• Labour needs to consider how it can reconnect with large numbers of blue collar voters.
• Labour must do better in the South, but outside of London makings gains will be limited. To win again Labour must have an offer for places such as Scotland, seaside towns, suburbs and small towns.
• Retail policy offers to one group or another will not be enough to win again. Labour needs to be trusted on the economy, on immigration and welfare. It must start by being a credible and competent opposition.

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