Labour members split on whether the party should prioritise electability or principles

Fintan SmithPolitical Researcher
July 13, 2021, 8:40 AM UTC

Since Keir Starmer took over as Labour leader after the party’s disastrous 2019 general election performance, he has faced criticism from the left of the party for a perceived abandonment of left wing policies and values. Others, meanwhile, say that Starmer is not going far enough, and that radical change and a major shift away from Corbyn’s policy agenda is necessary in order to return the party to a position of electability.

This could be interpreted as just the latest iteration of a debate that has raged within the Labour party for decades; to what extent the party should compromise its left wing values in order to increase its support among a broader sweep of voters.

In our recent poll of Labour members, we tried to find out what was most important to members now: the electability of the party, or whether the party should stand by its principles.

We found that the party is split on the issue. Overall, a slightly larger proportion of Labour members believe that electability is more important than principles (48% versus 44%).

Amongst those who backed Starmer, a majority (57%) believe electability is most important, with around a third (34%) prioritising principles. These results are reversed amongst those who backed the Momentum candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey, of whom 82% believe principles are more important than electability and just 14% believe the opposite.

There is also a pronounced split across age groups, with older members much more likely to prioritise electability over principles than vice versa. Members aged 65 and over exactly half (50%) believe that electability matters most, with 43% taking the opposite view. By contrast, among members aged between 18 and 24, exactly half (50%) believe that principles are more important than electability with 39% believing the opposite.

See the full results here