This is a must read for the next Leader to understand our psephological challenge: http://www.policy-network.net/articles/3894/Labours-fatal-southern-flaw?
They should also have a look at Tim Horton's forthcoming Fabian Review piece on Values & Fairness to try to grasp that middle class voters aren't all obsessed by choice. Some exerpts:
"Perhaps the least surprising thing about the Labour leadership contest was how quickly it degenerated into an argument about whether to focus on the concerns of Middle England or those of the many voters Labour has hemorrhaged off its left flank. One of the first challenges the new leader now faces will be to get debates about Labour’s electoral strategy out of this cul-de-sac.
This isn’t just because it’s silly for a party to devote so much energy to arguing about which voters it doesn’t want. What is so toxic about the ‘core voters v. swing voters’ argument is that it’s based on a false premise: the idea that there are two types of voters who are completely different animals, with different concerns. And that you can’t appeal to both at once.
Of course, there are many ‘touchstone’ issues that have split the Labour Party internally over the last few years: how to deal with immigration, benefit fraud, the super-rich and public service reform. But in fact on none of them could you get a cigarette paper between your average Mail and Mirror reader.
On all of these issues the sentiments involved extend far across the political spectrum. They are all topics where polling questions get numbers of 70-80 per cent. For example, a recent MORI study shone a light on public queasiness about diversity in service provision; it found that “Two-thirds of the public think that standards of public services should be the same everywhere in Britain, with just one-in-five preferring greater local decision-making. This commitment to uniformity in standards cuts across party political affiliation…and is not altered by deliberation. Fairness and uniformity appear to be indistinguishable for many members of the public.” Similarly, when we polled people on tax avoidance last year, 88 per cent of Labour voters wanted the Government to act on it. The equivalent figure for Tory voters was 82 per cent. Far from playing to either core or swing voters, getting this politics right scoops both.
The Blairite critique of Labour under Brown is that it lost Middle England because it was too attached to tax-funded, centralised service provision. This was argued with passion, but at times was dangerously detached from reality. In 2008, Blair’s former speechwriter Phil Collins set out this critique in a Prospect article that argued the party should instead adopt a ‘liberal’ agenda of public service localism, combined with a greater emphasis on wealth taxes and green taxes. Personally, I support the idea of fair wealth taxes, green taxes and public service reform. But I also genuinely struggle to think of a less attractive headline package for Middle England.
In August, the think tank Demos did some helpful polling of the voters Labour lost at the last election. Whereas 19 per cent of Labour’s lost voters said central government “interferes too much in local services”, 35 per cent agreed instead that “the whole point of government is to make sure that there are decent standards across the board and everyone gets a fair deal”. And while 27 per cent of them thought government is “part of the problem not the solution”, 33 per cent thought the opposite. An agenda aimed at winning back the largest number of these voters will clearly need to be a pro-government one.
The Labour left can be fairly accused of not interrogating seriously enough why Labour didn’t win a majority. But the Labour right can arguably be accused of not interrogating seriously enough why the Conservatives didn’t win a majority. If people were really that queasy about the state, Cameron would have swept to power by a landslide (and that’s before you take into account the financial crisis, deep recession, a tired 13-year-old Government and an unpopular leader). He didn’t."