There was a dog that didn’t bark on 8th June. Polls runs by Conservative pollster Lord Ashcroft tell us that in 2015 immigration was in the top three issues considered important by voters: Some 47% of Tories and 28% of Labour voters put it in their top three concerns. In 2017 it was just 9% of Tories and 3% of Labour - a massive change.
What do voters think important now? Brexit, the NHS, the economy. In other words, what the election was called on and what Labour said it was about.
Of course, as Brexit was sold as being about immigration, voters may think that the referendum sorted the problem. But even if that were true, the important thing is that immigration is no longer the toxic issue it was. And a lot of that is about how Labour fought the election, especially on the doorstep: listening and asking, and determined to sort out the issues such as the under-funding of pubic services and precarious employment that unscrupulous politicians have been all too keen to blame on immigration.
So what does that mean for us now? Most important is that we keep immigration tightly confined to those low percentages. Because it is significant that Theresa May has decided that the immigration minister will attend cabinet meetings, perhaps signalling that they want to play that card in the next election. So we need to be very careful how we deal with immigration, continuing to hold the principled line we have taken so far.
This worked and was in tune with the electorate. Jeremy’s various statements about rights for Europeans and refugees and the benefits of migration served not only to bind his supporters, especially Remain and BAME voters, but also to move the electorate onto a kinder politics that has rejected the nastiness of both May and the Brexiteers. It was Labour’s authenticity and integrity that won people’s trust and we must keep that.
Islington North CLP