We all remember where we were when the Red Wall fell. It followed a long period of subtle, almost imperceptible voter realignment across the UK, the slow disintegration of long-accepted political truisms, the dwindling of generational ties between social class, geography and political party. Then, one night in December, the levee broke. Much public discussion of the ‘Red Wall’ is at best a lazy generalisation, and at worst a bad-faith mistruth: the phrase itself was only coined after the 2019 General Election. Even so, the metaphor feels apt. Labour’s implosion across the Midlands and the North did play out like the collapse of a material structure: very gradually to begin with, and then all at once.
Voter realignment works both ways, however. Though few sitting Conservative MPs had cause to worry about their own seat back in December 2019, they may have done well to think on the possible implications of such a seismic shift in voter demographics. Now, the Tories are sat on their own electoral time bomb. Boris Johnson was able to turn historic Labour strongholds like Wakefield and Workington blue through a mixture of discontent over Brexit and hatred for Jeremy Corbyn, but similar fault lines have begun to widen in the Conservatives’ own heartlands: Wycombe and Winchester, Hitchen and Harpenden, Chipping Barnet and Chingford.
With the Conservatives’ polling numbers hovering in the twenties, and a rejuvenated Labour Party seemingly united around a competent if unspectacular leader, the odds are now firmly against them securing a fifth term of Government. If they are to avoid defeat, they will need to hang on to this Blue Wall in the south of England: middle-class, liberal, university educated Remain-voters, dwellers of houses on leafy streets which they themselves own. A succession of recent by-election defeats to the Liberal Democrats will put the fear into Tory MPs and CCHQ: Chesham and Amersham in June 2021, followed by Lib Dem wins in Tory strongholds North Shropshire and Tiverton & Honiton. Winning over Workington Man in 2019 will have been for nothing if Waitrose Woman votes for Ed Davey in 2024.
Yet the most crucial seats of all in 2024 will be those which Labour manage to flip from the Conservatives. A red-yellow coalition is possible, but Labour strategists know too well that seats won from your opponents count double. It is quite possible to imagine the affluent homeowners of the home counties backing the Lib Dems. What remains to be seen is whether Keir can persuade them to hop in the Jeep, drive down to their local polling station and vote for Labour.
Field Consulting’s new research team has spent the last two months trying to answer that question. Through a series of focus groups, voters in Blue Wall seats across the south of England have been tested on whether the Labour Party now speaks to them. We’ve asked them whether they feel Keir Starmer understands their priorities, whether they believe themselves to be better off after twelve years of Conservative rule, and above all else, whether they would consider voting Labour for the first time. Such a radical swing in the behaviour of the electorate, such a total abandonment of loyalty to a party which stretches back generations, would seem vanishingly unlikely. If we hadn’t seen it before.
The exclusive launch of Field Research’s latest analysis into undecided Conservative voters’ attitudes towards Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party will take place next Tuesday 22nd November from 6:30pm at the British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AH. To help interpret our findings, we will be joined by Ayesha Hazarika, Times Radio and a former Labour Party advisor, and James Heale, Diary Editor at The Spectator and co-author of Out of the Blue, the upcoming biography of Liz Truss. Following a presentation of Field Research’s findings and the panel discussion to help interpret the findings, we will open the floor to questions.
We have had a lot of interest in this event, but a few spaces remain should you wish to attend. However, invites are being issued on a first come, first serve basis. To confirm your place, please RSVP via email at email@example.com. For further information on our findings or how we can help you achieve meaningful engagement with the Labour Party, please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.