James Forsyth James Forsyth

Can Labour survive the next election?

(Getty images)

Keir Starmer is having a torrid time. Today brings another poll showing his personal approval rating falling. The Labour leader is now down to a net score of minus 22. But Starmer’s leadership, or lack of it, is far from being Labour’s biggest problem. 

The party’s fundamental issue is that its old electoral coalition has fallen apart in recent years; the 2014 Scottish referendum and the 2016 Brexit referendum detached large sections of the party’s traditional base from it.

Starmer’s problem is that the constituent parts of the traditional Labour coalition are moving ever further apart. Many of his metropolitan voters regard Brexity provincials with disdain. If Starmer went all out to try to win back voters in the north-east and the Black Country, he would risk alienating the Labour base in the big cities. In England, Labour leads the Tories in the core cities by a whopping 25 per cent, but it trails the Tories in towns of all sizes, according to the former Labour data analyst Ian Warren

We are 101 weeks away from what Tory MPs consider the most likely date of the next election. If denying the Tories a majority is beyond him, the challenge for Starmer is to ensure that Labour avoids the fate of the French Socialists who are no longer one of the country’s major parties. At the next election, Labour’s survival as a major party will be on the ballot.

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