Two million older voters who did not support Labour in 2019 would consider doing so now, suggests a new Fabian Society report A Mature Approach.
Older voters, those aged 55 and over, are a vital priority voter group for Labour. Not only do they turn out to vote in larger numbers than other age groups, but many live in the party’s target seats. More than 40 per cent of Labour’s target seats have more than a third of people living there aged 55 and over, compared to 14 per cent of the seats Labour won in 2019. A high share of them voted Conservative in 2019. If this is repeated, Labour has no route to victory: we will not see another Labour prime minister if the party does not improve its performance with older voters.
Older voters have been turning away from Labour since the party left office in 2010 – and in 2019, things went from bad to worse. The number of votes cast for Labour by people aged 55 and over fell by 900,000 between 2010 and 2019, while the Conservative party gained nearly 3 million additional votes from people in this age group.
But there is no reason for Labour’s unpopularity with older voters to be repeated at the next election. Many older voters can be persuaded to vote Labour. Fabian Society focus groups found that many support Labour’s core values, and their polling with YouGov showed that older voters were more likely than under-55s to believe that Labour had been moving in the right direction since Keir Starmer became leader.
The two million older voters who did not vote for Labour but who are now considering the party preferred Labour to the Conservatives on all 24 policy areas they were asked about in the poll.
They favoured Labour on issues that the party is traditionally strong on, such as the NHS and welfare benefits, but also improving the lives of older people, increasing living standards for people like me, and tackling inequality between different parts of the country. But Labour has work to do as they favour Labour less decisively on immigration, defence, public finances and debt, and inflation.
To reconnect with older voters, the report argues that Labour must continue to rebuild voter’s trust in them to govern, while offering a better future, grounded in mainstream British values.
That means the party must continue to persuade voters it has changed and cares about them. Too often, in the recent past, older voters have looked to Labour and seen a party out of touch with their priorities and speaking a different language about the future of the country. This must change, with Labour having a relentless focus on the concerns and priorities of older voters.
The party must reassure voters on fiscal credibility and economic competence, and provide clear and sincere leadership on immigration, setting out an approach that rewards contribution, ensures control, and provides fairness rather than avoiding the topic.
The party also needs to set out a positive alternative, setting out a unifying story about the future of our country under Labour, prioritising security in all its forms – in the workplace, in local communities, and in an uncertain world, and presenting a credible and popular policy offer that is appealing to older voters.
Ben Cooper, senior researcher at the Fabian Society and author of the report, said:
“We will not see another Labour prime minister unless the party improves its performance amongst older voters.
“The party will need a broad coalition of voters to win the next election, not just younger voters. Older voters are especially valuable to the party – and must be a priority at the next election.
“Reconnecting with older voters isn’t about compromising the party’s values, it is about communicating them in a way that feels inclusive for all.
Older voters aren’t alien to Labour, but they need to be satisfied the party can be trusted to govern and can offer a better future, grounded in mainstream British values.
It is clear that under Starmer the party has made great progress, but there is still work to do to secure their votes before the next election.”
For more information, contact Fabian Society media consultant Emma Burnell on 07851 941111 firstname.lastname@example.org