Socialist Worker

Anti-Tory vote was no revolt of Remainers

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2558

Labour right winger Chuka Ummuna and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron wanted to make the election all about opposing Brexit

Labour right winger Chuka Ummuna and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron wanted to make the election all about opposing Brexit (Pic: Pixabay, Flickr/Financial Times, Flickr/David Spender)


Some right wingers and liberals are trying to paint the election result as the revenge of Remain voters who want to stay in the European Union (EU).

This is an attempt to downplay the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist policies with working class people, and exaggerate that of the pro-EU Labour right and Lib Dems.

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There’s nothing inherently reactionary about opposing the undemocratic, neoliberal and imperialist EU, and nothing inherently progressive about supporting it.

Labour’s gains have cut across which way people voted in the EU referendum. They came both in constituencies where the Remain vote was ahead and where the Leave vote was ahead.

Some 54 percent of voters in Bury North and 61.7 percent of voters in Stockton South voted to Leave last year. Labour took both seats from the Tories.

Lord Ashcroft’s exit poll found that some 25 percent of voters in the election who’d voted to Leave the EU last year backed Labour. And 24 percent of those who’d voted to Remain voted Tory.

If the result had been won by anti-Brexit backlash, the Lib Dems—who want to block Brexit—would have done much better. But their vote went down.

Punished

Many commentators predicted Labour would be punished—particularly in London—for failing to oppose Brexit.

But Labour won many constituencies that voted Remain, including the Lib Dems’ main London targets.

Labour increased its vote share in Hampstead and Kilburn in north London by 14.6 percentage points to 59 percent. The Lib Dems only went up 1.4 percent.

In Ealing Central and Acton in west London, Labour’s Ruppa Huq increased her majority from 274 votes to 13,807.

A much-hyped drive to unseat Brexit-supporting Labour MP Kate Hoey in Vauxhall failed most spectacularly. Hoey was re-elected—and increased her vote share by 3.5 percentage points.

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Because of the Lib Dems’ lack of credibility, some people whose overriding issue is Brexit are likely to have voted Labour.

But Brexit has not been the overriding issue. Polling before the general election showed that the division between the 52 percent who voted Leave and the 48 percent who voted Remain is fading.

Ashcroft’s poll confirmed this. It found that 49 percent of voters are “enthusiastic” about Brexit—but a further 28 percent are “accepting” of it and just 28 percent want to block it.

Labour’s surge was won by an active, left wing campaign that galvanised people’s bitterness against Tory austerity. Only the right can gain from entrenching last year’s divisions.

Now is the time to unite working class people around socialist and anti-racist politics.


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