English Labour Network – Conference briefing September 2021

Key points from the polling are:

  • Voters who are ‘more English than British’ are much less likely to vote Labour than the ‘more British than English’ (40% Conservative, 20% Labour). Labour has a small lead over the Conservatives amongst ‘More British’ voters (32% – 29%.)
  • ‘More English than British’ voters are less likely to identify with Labour (42% Conservative, 21% Labour), or to say that Labour is the best party to stand up for England’s interests (38% Conservative, 20% Labour).

Labour is struggling to win support from voters who identify as English, according to new polling by Public First for the English Labour Network. But the poll also suggests that Labour might start to win them back by promising to stand up for English interests, making England more democratic, and devolving powers to England’s local councils and mayors.

94% of the ‘more English’ think it is important that political parties stand up for England’s interests with the United Kingdom but only 20% think Labour is the best party to stand up for England’s interests. (38% say the Conservatives.)

These ‘more English’ voters have a strong sense of English identity and of local identity and they have clear ideas about how England could be more democratic.

  • While 62% support an English Parliament, even more (72%) want laws that only apply in England to be made by MPs elected in England.
  • They also want to see more powers devolved to local councils (44% support, 21% oppose), although devolution to mayors attracts less support – possibly because two-thirds of England has no experience of elected mayors.

While these issues attract particular support amongst English identifying voters, concern about English interests is evident across all England’s voters:

  • 51% think it is important that political parties to stand up for England’s interests within the United Kingdom (30% oppose).
  • 64% want English laws to be made by English MP.
  • More support devolving powers to councils or mayors than oppose

This suggests that a programme of radical democratic reform would be attractive to English identifying voters but also gain significant support from voters who are ‘equally English and British’ or ‘More British than English’.

Director of the English Labour Network and former Labour Cabinet Minister John Denham said:

‘Many issues shape the decisions voters make and England and English identity are not the only things that matter. But these issues touch on one of the most basic relationships between party and voter – does this party understand me and will it stand up for the things that are important to me? Labour is clearly failing to connect with English voters

‘Our polling highlights Labour’s challenge. But it also suggests that a radical policy of democratic reform at national and local level would chime with English voters and get a warm reception from voters in England of all identities.

Key pledges might include

  • Making sure that Labour names England when talking about England.
  • Promise that Labour will protect England’s interests as well as those of Wales and Scotland
  • Reverse Boris Johnson’s abolition of English Votes for English Laws and introduce a simpler and more high-profile procedure in the House of Commons.
  • Set out clear plans to devolve powers to England’s local authorities, and mayors where they exist.
  • Publish a Labour manifesto for England (as the Party does for Wales and Scotland).

Note: polling conducted by Public First for the English Labour Network.

In this poll, 33% identified as ‘More English than British’, 36% as ‘Equally English and British’, 20% as ‘more British than English’ and 12% as ‘other’ or ‘don’t know’.

Published by the English Labour Network.