'Left behind, looking forward': The 2019 General Election, the Red Wall and the Labour Party

Masters Thesis


Rothery, J. 2021. 'Left behind, looking forward': The 2019 General Election, the Red Wall and the Labour Party. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Law, Policing and Social Sciences
AuthorsRothery, J.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMaster of Science
Abstract

In December 2019, the Labour Party suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1935. This brought about a substantial loss of seats in the North and Midlands, Labour’s Red Wall, previously considered the party’s loyal heartlands. In contrast, the Conservatives secured not only an 80-seat majority but more votes from working-class people than their traditional supporters, the middle class. The question of why Labour’s Red Wall collapsed in such dramatic circumstances became a key question following the 2019 election and is the topic for this thesis.

Critical to understanding the events of 2019, three key theoretical areas are examined. Firstly, who the working-class are and how societal changes caused by deindustrialisation, neoliberalism and globalisation caused their disempowerment politically, economically and in terms of identity. Next, the thesis considers the impact of these changes on voting behaviour as class and party alignment
declined in favour of valence issues, and the positional model, now based on cultural values. Finally, it outlines theory based on the rise of populism, in light of the disempowerment of the working-class.

Set against these theoretical contexts, the thesis links this to why the Red Wall fell using empirical data gathered from those who experienced it. Firstly, it examines the disempowerment of the working-class and Labour’s perceived role in this, creating a feeling of being ‘left behind’. Next it discusses how Labour failed to respond to this situation, exacerbating the sense of being ‘left behind’. Lastly, it considers Jeremy Corbyn’s policy offer at the 2019 general election in comparison to Boris Johnson’s, giving an explanation as to why the working-class in the Red Wall
voted for the now populist Conservative party under Boris Johnson, promising to re-empower the working-class.

The thesis concludes by considering the implications of the findings and ‘looking forward’ to Labour’s possible post pandemic future. Using the theoretical themes as a focus, it firstly outlines how Labour may be able to re-empower the working-class in the Red Wall through engagement with voters. It also suggests how Labour can develop policies that respond to the changes in voting behaviour over recent years and offer unifying populist style projects in answer to the rise in populism. These suggestions are one step towards an alternative re-empowerment of the lost voters in the Red Wall for the Labour Party.

KeywordsUK General Election 2019; Red Wall; Labour Party
Year2021
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File Access Level
Open
Supplemental file
File Access Level
Restricted
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Apr 2022
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/90x1v/-left-behind-looking-forward-the-2019-general-election-the-red-wall-and-the-labour-party

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