Fall of the Red Wall: Labour Voters Back Conservatives in Revolt Against the Elites

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conf
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Labour has suffered its worst election defeat since 1935, with the left-wing party losing 24 seats to Boris Johnson’s Tories as a result of the collapse of the “Red Wall”.

The Red Wall refers to industrial areas of Britain, particularly in Northern England, that were once home to coal mines, steel plants, and manufacturing. The regions, like the Rust Belt in the United States, were where the working class typically voted Labour — whose traditional colour is red.

Since the beginning of the Tony Blair era, however, the party has turned its back on its working-class roots and pivoted towards a leadership focused on a London brand of liberal-progressive elitism and identity politics.

When Corbyn backed a second referendum on the EU in July 2019, it left five million Labour Leavers politically homeless.

This was a mistake, some Labour MPs will admit, with the party’s chairman, Ian Lavery, telling the BBC: “What we are seeing in the Labour heartlands is people very aggrieved at the fact the party basically has taken a stance on Brexit the way they have.”

“Ignore democracy, and, to be quite honest, the consequences will come back and bite you up the backside,” Mr Lavery added.

Before dawn, senior Labour shadow minister John McDonnell admitted that they lost votes primarily because of Brexit — and to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, not the Tories.

However, whether Labour gave their votes to the Brexit Party or Conservatives, the working-class backlash translated to a Tory win in 24 seats of the Red Wall.

— Boris Johnson: “We made Redcar Bluecar” —

The Telegraph broke down the Conservative victories, noting that some seats had gone from Labour red to Tory blue for the first time in a century.

Some of new Tory seats had been held by Labour since before the Second World War, including Rother Valley which had been left-wing since 1918 — 101 years.

The constituencies of Don Valley and Leigh had both been Labour for 97 years and Wakefield for 87 years before turning Conservative last night. In total, some nine constituencies that had been red since the war have gone blue.

Redcar, which has never voted Conservative since the seat’s creation in 1974, became “Bluecar”, to quote Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for the first time.

Many of the victories were not marginal, either. Dudley North had a double-digit swing. Bolsover’s Conservatives won with more than 5,000 votes. Great Grimsby, which had been Labour since 1945 and voted 71 per cent in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum, delivered an 8,000 vote majority for the right-leaning party.

The largest majority was in Brexit-backing Bassetlaw, where Conservative candidate Brendan Clark-Smith won 28,078 votes to Labour candidate Keir Morrison’s 14,065 — a majority of over 18,000.

Bassetlaw was previously held by Labour Brexiteer John Mann, who resigned from the House of Commons over the party’s antisemitism.

Mann was appointed the head of the Conservative government’s antisemitism inquiry and elevated to the House of Lords.

Labour also lost high-profile seats, notably Leigh, the seat of former MP and current mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, and Tony Blair’s former constituency of Sedgefield.

— From Red Wall to Rust Belt —

Aware that Labour Leave voters may only have “lent” their support to the Conservative Party, this morning Mr Johnson extended his “humbled” thanks to them and pledged he “will never take your support for granted”, signalling that the party would make a permanent shift from the stereotypical “party of the wealthy” to a party of the working class.

A column in The Guardian suggests that these votes may not only be “lent” but could represent a permanent shift in British politics.

Author Dan Sabbagh observed that outside of London and big cities, Labour lost hard to the Tories and remarked that this pattern could be either a one-off for the purposes of getting Brexit done or could result in “a permanent alignment in British politics, with echoes of Trump-era U.S.”

The Rust Belt is the analogous region to the Red Wall in the U.S., and denotes areas of the Midwest and around the Great Lakes that were once manufacturing powerhouses and centres for coal mining and iron production, such as Youngstown and Cleveland in Ohio, Detroit in Michigan, and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

There, too, voters generally vote Democrat but rejected globalist Hillary Clinton, shattered her “Blue Wall” — in the United States the traditional colours of the leading right- and left-wing parties are reversed — and voted in favour of patriot-nationalist Donald Trump.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump had said that in time the Republican party would be refocused on the working classes into a “workers’ party”.

President Trump ended up winning Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. But he also won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin which, like a number of Boris Johnson’s victories on Thursday, came as a surprise to the left. All of the states occupy so-called ‘fly-over country’ — the places in American between the liberal, Democrat-dominated cities and states like California and New York — comparable to Johnson’s wins outside of London.
A poll from August 2019 revealed that the majority of working-class Pennsylvanians want to see President Trump re-elected in November 2020. A study from June found that white, working-class swing voters back the President on economic and immigration issues.

Another poll in June showed President Trump holding Rust Belt states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, all three of which he flipped from Democratic control.

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said in November 2016 that working-class Britons defying the political establishment and saying “no” to globalism in the EU referendum had encouraged Americans of the same stripe to be bold and vote for an alternative (Donald Trump) to a status quo (Hillary Clinton) that promised them little and would deliver even less.

Mr Farage said that Brexit “directly led to the establishment getting beaten on the 8th of November, and Donald J Trump about to take the presidency. We were the inspiration behind much of that, and I’m pleased for it.”

Likewise, Boris Johnson’s “stonking” victory meaning the Conservatives can “Get Brexit Done” may have provided a boost to Britons’ cousins across the Atlantic to back President Trump in his work to “Make America Great Again”.

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