Ethics & Public Policy Center

Britain’s Labour Party Just Collapsed in Blue-Collar England. Democrats Should Consider Themselves Warned.

Published in The Washington Post on May 10, 2021


Political trends in the United States and Britain have mirrored one another for decades, so the Labour Party’s stunning collapse across blue-collar England in last Thursday’s local elections is a clear warning sign for President Biden and Democrats. A full analysis gives Democrats signs of hope but also shows how difficult it will be to build a durable Democratic coalition.

The headline results were a disaster for Labour leader Keir Starmer. The party lost the parliamentary constituency of Hartlepool by a whopping 23 points. The seat resides in a working-class area that Britain’s Conservative Party had never won previously and that had once been occupied by Peter Mandelson, the Labour politician who served as former prime minister Tony Blair’s spin doctor. Labour also lost 327 local councillors in England, mainly in blue-collar areas that were once Labour’s heartland. It was the British equivalent of the massive losses that Democrats suffered in blue-collar areas in the Midwest and Northeast during the Trump era.

Other results were more positive. Labour gained support in some wealthier areas of the country that opposed Brexit, an analogue to Democratic gains in wealthier U.S. suburbs. Most telling here was Labour’s defeat of incumbent Conservative mayors in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and West England, two regions that had voted to remain in the European Union or were divided on the question in the 2016 referendum. Combined with Tory losses to minor parties in other wealthy areas that voted “Remain,” these results suggest that Democrats may hold onto their suburban gains even after Donald Trump’s departure from the White House.

Click here to read the rest of the piece on the Washington Post’s website.

Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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