Published on 11 May 2016

EU – Gordon Brown deployed to reach the unreachables

In a recent talk the Labour former Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander said that the referendum on Europe would be as much about “psychology” as “psephology”.

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Perhaps with that in mind Gordon Brown was on unusually smiley form this morning when he spoke to students at the LSE about why the UK should stay in the EU.

The former PM has pulled together his thoughts in a book, as he did in the Scottish referendum. And as with the Scottish referendum, he worries that the government-led campaign is too negative. He told me that the Remain campaign “needs a positive message and I’m putting that forward”.

On immigration, Gordon Brown repeatedly said that “the biggest problem is illegal immigration”. When I spoke to him and challenged him that for people in many towns the “biggest problem” was actually legal migration, he repeatedly emphasised that “the biggest problem over the next 10 years will be illegal immigration”.

It’s hoped by Remain campaigners that Mr Brown (also speaking on the Good Morning Britain sofa this morning and in an article in The Mirror as well as The Guardian) can reach some of the voters that Jeremy Corbyn struggles to reach.

New analysis suggests that Labour’s hold on most of its seats in the Welsh Assembly elections last week, for instance, concealed a much more troubling set of numbers underneath. Labour, at 34 per cent, got its worst share of the vote in Welsh elections since 1918. While the middle-class Labour vote in Wales is estimated to be down 4 per cent, the working-class vote is estimated to be down 12 per cent.

Remain strategists are identifying that problem bleeding through into the EU referendum campaign across England too. One of them has talked about how the “working-class” Labour vote is hard to reach unlike the “ABC1 Internationalist” Labour voters.

One Labour MP who had been campaigning in her constituency told me that she found it was a “dead loss” trying to find Remain supporters in traditional working-class areas. She said, in an echo of some of the campaigning that happened in the Scottish referendum, that Labour has to “go fishing in some very middle class streets” for support.

There will be some Tory figures in the Remain campaign who will roll their eyes at Gordon Brown’s veiled criticism of their work so far.

There are critics in Scotland who think his intervention with “The Vow” shifted few votes and was not the turning point some portrayed it as. Those same critics, I hear, could be in for another shock in a few weeks’ time when the former prime minister may wade in again on the question of whether Scotland needs something closer to Home Rule than the government has delivered.

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3 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    The reason why Jeremy Corbyn may not be attracting these voters is quite likely to be the same thing that caused problems for Labour in Scotland. Many “natural” Labour voters are also anti-EU (=pro-Independence) and have drifted towards UKIP (=SNP). I doubt whether it’s because Corbyn isn’t Blairite enough. Increasingly Blair/Brown lost these voters over immigration (both EU and non-EU) and appearing little different from the Tories once in opposition. Whether Corbyn can recover these votes post a referendum with his very different approach to economic & social policy will depend on the result of the referendum and whether the PLP as a whole is prepared to cohere around his approach or whether Labour will continue to have a voluble Blairite minority pursuing a different agenda. In the current political circumstances, Labour got the result I would have expected, probably doing a bit better in England than I would have anticipated. But how people react after the referendum, especially if remain win, still seems imponderable..

  2. MoreSilentMajority says:

    Gordon? this is the kiss of death for ‘remain’. the man who ruined our economy and opened the floodgates to illegals while conspiring to betray the UK to a european oligarchy is lhardly a creditable person to ‘reach’ voters that our communist labour party leader cannot. it’s almost as bad as making tony bliar the ‘middle east peace envoy’. which was another miserable failure that just made tony richer. the pair of them are walking disasters.

  3. Merv Johnson says:

    Gordon Brown is probably one of the last people anyone should take notice of especially regarding the EU. A chancellor whom sold off our gold at rock-bottom prices, whom advocated mass immigration regardless of the cost to the UK.
    He recently stated that British citizens should feel more European? No, Mr. Brown the British view themselves as British and not European, and are inclined to remain so..
    So Mr. Brown keep yopur views to yourself and don’t try and impose your longing to be European on the British public..

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