Culture Words

How Culture Killed the Labour Party

The broad socioeconomic coalition that once buoyed Labour has broken in two, leaving the party shattered.

Yesterday’s general election in the United Kingdom was a triumph for Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson—and an unmitigated disaster for the Labour Party and its far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

On paper, the conditions were ripe for a Labour victory. The Conservative Party has been in power for nine years. Johnson is controversial; according to most polls, his popularity ratings are significantly underwater. Although he promised to lead the country out of the European Union by October 31, alienating the half of the country that would like to remain in the EU, he failed to do so, disappointing the half of the country that wants to leave.

But when the day of the election came, Labour won the fewest members of Parliament since 1935. Strikingly, it lost scores of working-class constituencies it had held for generations, turning large parts of its northern heartland over to the Conservative Party. Rother Valley, a mining community in South Yorkshire, had been in the party’s hands since 1918; in 1966, the Labour candidate won it with a staggering 77 percent of the vote. Sedgefield, a proletarian town in England’s northeast, had been held by Labour since 1935; in 1997, Tony Blair won this constituency with 71 percent of the vote. Both are now in the hands of the Tories, who had long been known, simply, as the “nasty party” in those parts of the country.

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