The 2017 election campaign was the most remarkable in recent British political history. As the dust settles on the election, many politicians and commentators have put their spin on why the campaign saw such dramatic changes in vote intentions.
The Tories began with clear poll leads suggesting they’d win a substantial majority. However their ‘safety first’ approach, overly aggressive targeting of the Labour leadership and missteps with their manifesto policies undercut their claims of being ‘strong and stable’. In contrast Labour’s energetic and visible campaigning, its clear policy platform and huge support on social media saw it making unexpected gains.
Whilst Labour supporters rightly welcomed the increase in its vote share, Labour still remains out of office. The Conservative-to-Labour swing was modest at 2.05 per cent and to achieve a majority of one (326 at the next election) Labour needs an even larger swing of 3.57 per cent.
If an election were held today current polling would result in Labour still in second place in terms of seats. In an era where we appear to be returning to two-party politics it is clear that pursuing a strategy of gaining votes from third parties and non-voters has reached its limits. Labour’s hastily put together manifesto gave activists easy slogans for the doorstep. However Labour was unable to successfully rebut claims that its sums did not add up and it needs to reflect on how a fundamental belief that “power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few” resulted in policies that were not only more statist but less redistributive than when it was last in office (and barely more redistributive than the Tory manifesto). It was the Liberal Democrats who offered real change for the lowest income groups.
Despite its relative absence from the Conservative and Labour campaigns, Brexit was clearly the dominant issue on voters’ minds during the election campaign and it appears to have shaken the electoral map with gains in Kensington and Canterbury and losses in Middlesbrough South and Mansfield.
Nearly two-thirds of Chinese voters voted for Remain in the EU Referendum, and anecdotally this weighed heavily in their minds during the general election (though Tory attitudes to immigration and funding of public services were also high up on the agenda). Brexit appears to have ruptured the Tory vote in a way which the 2008 financial crisis did for Labour, so much so that lifelong Chinese Conservative voters crossed the floor. For the first time since 2005 it appears Labour managed to win a majority of British Chinese votes, demonstrating once again that we continue to be an important swing vote population.
Given such strength of feeling in the British Chinese and East Asian communities, we devote this issue of The Orient to Brexit and immigration. We look at the left-wing case for Brexit (or Lexit), how immigration and integration policy needs to change, the thorny issue of freedom of movement, the lack power and accountability in post-Brexit trade negotiations and Brexit’s economic impact on our cities.
Earlier this year we were proud to welcome Peter Wong as the newest Chinese Labour councillor in Cardiff and to see Rebecca Blake restanding in Redditch and Vincent Lo standing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the general election. Rebecca managed to peg the Tories in tough West Midlands terrain and as in other London seats Boris Johnson saw his majority whittled away!
Finally a date for your diary - our must-attend Lunar New Year Annual Banquet will be on 28th February 2018 in Central London. As in previous years, the banquet will be a highlight of the Labour social calendar. It promises to be a wonderful occasion, providing an excellent opportunity to enjoy an evening together with Shadow Ministers, supporters, business colleagues, friends, and a cross section of the Chinese and East Asian community.
For those interested in attending, please contact Chris Ng on 07928 106846 or email him on [email protected] I look forward to seeing you there.