After a disappointing local election result for Labour last week, politicians were quick to blame the party’s Brexit ambiguity for the net loss they suffered. Labour councillors in Sunderland and Barnsley said talk of a second referendum had been unhelpful on the doorstep. Meanwhile, MPs including Jess Phillips suggested that a clearer call for a so-called People’s Vote would boost support for the party. Downing Street hoped they could capitalise on the party’s Brexit worries by convincing the Labour frontbench to back some form of Brexit deal in order to bring the matter to a close.
However, the view in Labour a week on is rather different. Coffee House has been passed polling analysis that Labour party officials today sent MPs – which suggests the contrary:
‘This report evaluates the Labour Party’s performance in the 2019 local council elections in relation to 2016 EU Referendum vote within local authorities (LAs); namely, whether Labour performed worse in areas where the Leave vote was higher. Data analysed was published by the Electoral Commission, the BBC, and Britain Elects.’
The data analysis from Survation suggests that there was in fact no significant ‘Brexit backlash’ as per the data. The analysis does acknowledge that the party experienced a greater percentage point decline in Leave areas than Remain areas:
However, the main takeaway points are that although Labour did a little bit worse in places that voted Leave than voted Remain, the relationship between how people voted at the local elections and the EU referendum is weak. The report concludes that Brexit was not of huge importance to a person’s likelihood to vote Labour.
This finding is reflected in Jeremy Corbyn’s message today on the EU elections. The Labour leader used the launch to urge voters to discard the labels of Leave and Remain – insisting Labour will stand on the ‘common ground’. While Labour MPs on both sides of the debate question the reports claims, at least in the short term the conclusion is bad news for Theresa May and her hopes of getting Corbyn to agree to bring Labour votes to pass a Brexit deal in the near future. While the Leader’s Office may still choose to do this, this report suggests there is no rush on the Labour side to pass a deal in order to stop a further Brexit backlash – right now the party isn’t even sure that there is one.