Voters who identify as English are more likely to believe Labour is “far-left” or “extreme”, a former Labour minister has warned.
John Denham said party leader Jeremy Corbyn had to fix this by ensuring the party reflected “English identity in its language and campaigning”.
Writing for HuffPost UK, he said: “Labour must understand how a combination of powerlessness and a sense that Labour ‘isn’t for people like us’ is alienating voters from the party.”
Denham left parliament in 2015 and now serves as the director of the English Labour Network.
He said analysis by the organisation of the British Election Study 2016 showed that voters who identified as English were more likely to vote to the right and those who identified as British were more likely to vote to the left or centre.
“There’s plenty of evidence that voters reject parties they see as distant from themselves, and few people think of themselves as holding extreme views. Centre-of-the-road voters who see Labour as an extreme party are unlikely to vote for it.
“For some years, Labour has struggled to win support among key voters who identify as English,” Denham said.
“One reason may be because voters who identify as strongly English are more likely to see Labour as a ‘far-left’ party than the electorate as a whole.
He added: “These voters do not see themselves as particularly right wing compared to the general population.
“They are also open to progressive policies on many welfare and economic policies.
“But their ‘extreme’ perception of Labour may explain why they are reluctant to support the party, even if they are in step with its social and economic message.”