The Fabian Society has published a pamphlet 'Never Again: Lessons From Labour's Key Seats' which examines constituencies the party either lost, or failed to win despite expectations, at the 2015 general election.
As so often in life it is during recriminations that the really interesting facts and argument tend to emerge. Perhaps the most significant lines are from Rowenna Davis, who lost the marginal of Southampton Itchen to the Conservatives. The potentially terminal mess the left has got itself into over race and immigration, and consequent loss of influence to a non-racist alternative in UKIP, is clearly established (I choose the word non-racist deliberately, as anti-racism per se is now such a farce). Davis writes:
We had been told by senior figures in the party that UKIP was a boon to Labour, splitting the right of the country, but not for marginal seats like ours. In these white working class communities, particularly on the coast, UKIP tore our vote apart. The safer, older council estates in areas like Weston and Thornhill that used to be solid Labour were now significantly disillusioned. No matter how hard we worked these areas, significant national differences, particularly on immigration, meant that we couldn’t stop the tide.
Without wishing to disrespect the excellent work of my colleagues campaigning in Southampton Test, I believe we managed to hold Itchen’s neighbouring seat because the demographic simply had more liberal, middle class, student and immigrant voters to win. This loss of the white working class vote is a crisis for our party, not just because we lost, but because it raises an existential question about who we represent. We have always won by uniting working and middle class people in England. Without that first half, you have to question why we’re here and where we’re going to go.
Rowenna Davis, "The Need for Strength" in "Never Again: Lessons From Labour's Key Seats" (Fabian Society: London, 2015) p.16
Nothing I have heard from any of the four Labour leadership candidates comes even close to addressing the 'existential question' raised above. However Davis herself ducks addressing an important issue locally - the closure of the city's Ford Transit plant in 2012. She writes:
The likes of Ford, Pirelli and Vosper Thorneycroft which used to provide dependable, respected work for huge numbers of people in the city, have now disappeared, to be replaced with more white-collar, unstable work (p14)
Certainly with regards to Ford, that is only half the story. The local factory closed following its transfer to Turkey with an £80 million loan from the European Union. Whilst there is some recognition in the Fabian pamphlet that Labour was wrong to oppose an EU referendum, the intellectual re-configuration required to accept that the EU may be bad news for working class people, and the country as a whole, is almost certainly a step too far for Labour.