New polling for The Constitution Society has revealed the Labour Party would remain on course to regain all Red Wall seats and could expand its overall support if it said Brexit was a mistake. The polling suggests that the Party could even win an increased Commons majority at a general election if it made such a move.
At present, the Party is committed to a policy of making Brexit work. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has ruled out ever rejoining the EU, the Single Market or the Customs Union, or returning to Freedom of Movement. Starmer and other senior Labour figures who were previously pro-Remain now insist it is time to move on from the issue. They have maintained a position of not criticising Brexit despite evidence of public opinion turning increasingly against UK withdrawal from the EU.
Labour seems to be motivated by the fear that appearing to be anti-Brexit would risk its chances of regaining the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats at the next General Election. The ‘Red Wall’ label applies to constituencies which produced ‘Leave’ majorities in the 2016 EU referendum, and which Labour lost to the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election. Regaining lost ground in the ‘Red Wall’ is often regarded as being essential to a Labour return to power at the next General Election.
The poll commissioned by The Constitution Society and published today, though, finds that there would be no electoral penalty for Labour if the Party said Brexit was a mistake, and that it could even gain from doing so. With its present stance of ‘make Brexit work’, Labour is projected to win 527 seats in the House of Commons, a majority of 404. If it said Brexit was a mistake, its seats total could rise to 550. Labour is currently on course to sweep all 42 Red Wall seats. This poll reveals that the Party would still be on course to win all 42 seats if it said Brexit was a mistake.
The poll found that, among the general population of Great Britain:
- Most people (59%) think Brexit has made Britain worse off
- Most people (55%) think that Brexit was a mistake
- On General Voting Intention, Labour has a lead of 26% over the Conservatives
- This lead could grow to 28% if Labour said Brexit was a mistake
Among Red Wall voters:
- Exactly half agree that Brexit has made Britain worse off
- 46% say Brexit was a mistake
- On General Voting Intention, Labour has a lead of 33% over the Conservatives
- This lead could shrink to 30% if Labour said Brexit was a mistake, but the Party would still win all 42 Red Wall seats.
Andrew Blick, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, King’s College London, and Senior Adviser to The Constitution Society said:
‘Most Labour voters backed remain in 2016, and a majority of members of the public seem now to view Brexit as a mistake. But because of the way that the UK “First-Past-the-Post” voting system works, a particular viewpoint can achieve electoral importance out of proportion to its total popularity. Support for Brexit was high in seats that Labour lost in 2019. The party seems to have drawn the conclusion that it cannot come back into power if it criticises Brexit. But, this polling suggests it is mistaken. On this evidence, criticism of Brexit might not be a dealbreaker in the Red Wall, and saying Brexit was a mistake could improve Labour’s overall electoral performance.’
Dr. Dexter Govan, Director of Research for The Constitution Society said:
‘What this polling highlights is that constitutional policy can often be developed by political parties on unstable foundations. If the Labour Party wants to continue to make Brexit work because it believes that it’s what’s best for the country, that is a reasonable position to adopt. But, as we can see from the results of this polling, the Party shouldn’t assume it needs to adopt it because of constituencies in the so-called Red Wall. Constitutional policy should be carefully developed to meet the needs of the nation, and not in an attempt to curry favour with specific voting demographics.’
The Constitution Society commissioned the polling through Find Out Now, who interviewed 1,862 GB adults across Great Britain and a further 1,457 GB adults living in “Red Wall” seats online from 10-14 March 2023. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns. The sub-samples of those respondents who had a clear voting intention (excluding don’t knows and refuseds) were also weighted to be representative. Full details are given in the linked tables.
Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.
The Constitution Society is an independent educational foundation which works to promote public understanding of the UK constitution. We monitor constitutional developments and proposals for change, and assess them against core constitutional principles.
This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.