Why is Labour in danger of losing Wrexham to the Conservatives?
Wrexham has returned a Labour MP to the Commons ever since the 1935 UK General Election. Like many other seats in traditional Labour heartlands, it once had a proud coal mining tradition, and delivered a resounding Leave vote back in the June 2016 referendum on EU membership (58 per cent).
A Survation poll commissioned by The Economist for the constituency made for great reading – for the Conservative Party. Labour, meanwhile, were trailing the Tories by 15 percentage points.
I would imagine a good number of Wrexham’s constituents find themselves in what I call the “red-blue” political space – left-leaning economic views combined with socio-cultural conservatism. It is exactly the kind of place where both the politics of economic and cultural security can find electoral appeal.
Voters in this space are likely to hold ‘economic anxieties’ over the inequalities produced by free-market capitalism, but may also have ‘cultural anxieties’ related to issues such as immigration and gender identity.
UnHerd Britain data for Wrexham makes for fascinating reading. Out of a total of 632 constituencies, Wrexham is ranked 603rd when it comes to level of support for the view that tax rate for high earners should be minimised “to keep the UK competitive”.
However, looking at level of support for the view that immigrants should be free to move to Britain for work, the constituency in the north of Wales is positioned in 501st place. On level of support for the view that it is acceptable for adolescent children to make their own decisions about their gender identity, Wrexham was in 495th place.
If the Tories win over Labour “citadels” such as Wrexham, along with the likes of Bishop Auckland, Barrow & Furness, Ashfield, and Great Grimsby, it will lead to a fundamental realignment of our politics. The country could be on the verge of a pro-Brexit, security-oriented, “Red Tory” administration. A ‘red and blue’ politics which represents the fundamental rejection of the ‘Cameron-Osborne’ blend of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.
There is, of course, the possibility that when it comes to the crunch, a good number of Labour Leavers across austerity-choked, declining communities, will make a personal compromise on Brexit – and stick with the usual to help end of nine years of Conservative-led rule.
But if Labour was to find itself on the opposition benches after the General Election, sat opposite Conservative MPs returned with the support of deprived areas in provincial towns such as Wrexham, it will surely have it ask itself:
“How on Earth did we let this happen?”
Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher who specialises in public attitudes and political behaviour. Views expressed are solely his own.