Labour to shake up strategy after poll foreshadows heavy defeat
FT political editor George Parker reports:
Labour is to change its election strategy to strengthen its appeal to Leave voters, after an in depth opinion poll found the party could be on course to lose dozens of seats to the Conservatives.
Barry Gardiner, shadow trade secretary, did not deny a BBC report that Labour had been shaken by the number of Leave voters willing to switch to the Tories and that the party would change tack to address the problem.
The party is planning to give a higher profile to Leave-inclined Labour MPs, including party chair Ian Lavery, while more activists would be moved to areas that voted heavily for Brexit in 2016.
The party’s promise to negotiate a better Brexit deal and then put it to a referendum would also be highlighted to reassure Leave supporters that Labour wanted to make any exit deal more “jobs friendly”.
Labour has struggled badly on Brexit in this election: its promise to negotiate a new Brexit deal and then put in to a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper is seen by many voters as fence-sitting.
Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to remain neutral in any future referendum has suggested that Labour has no clear policy on Brexit, while Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” has worked well on the doorstep.
Mr Gardiner, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, said he was unaware of the change of strategy but Labour officials would only say that not all aspects of the BBC report were correct.
“We want to keep on – as we have been doing – narrowing the margin in the polls,” Mr Gardiner said. “I obviously want to make sure we appeal to all sections of the population on Brexit. We are the only party trying to unite the party, not go off to one extreme or the other.”
But the YouGov poll in the Times suggested that Labour would lose 51 seats at the election and return only 211 MPs, its second worst defeat since the Second World War.