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Labour now the most trusted party to stand up for England

26 September 2017

Ballot box with rosettes

Labour is now the political party most trusted by voters in England to represent English interests, according to new research from Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh.

The latest evidence is a marked departure from previous surveys which have suggested a lingering dissatisfaction among English voters with Labour’s response to the ‘English Question’.

The findings, taken from the latest Future of England survey, were presented at a fringe meeting of the Labour Party's Annual Conference in Brighton.

Almost a third of those surveyed (31%) identified the Labour Party as the party best positioned to stand up for England, compared to 24% who identified the Conservatives and just 9% who opted for UKIP. The Liberal Democrats scored the lowest of any major political party, with just 4%.

This is a significant change from previous findings, which saw UKIP as the most trusted defender of English interests in 2016, while in 2015 the Conservatives enjoyed a substantial lead in the aftermath of a general election campaign where the party successfully mobilised English sentiment over fears of the SNP holding the balance of power in a hung parliament.

England’s political voice

Despite the introduction of ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL), a Conservative policy designed to protect exclusively English law-making from external influence, there is a perception among voters that the UK Conservative government is insufficiently committed to introducing change for England. A majority of respondents (54%) felt there has been very little or no progress in this area, compared to perceptions of an enhanced devolution settlement for Scotland. Accordingly, a sizeable proportion of respondents want to see further action to enhance England’s political voice.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University's Wales Governance Centre, said: “Just two years ago the Conservatives successfully played into fears of a Labour-SNP coalition deal to project themselves as the party best placed to defend English interests. Now the latest evidence suggests that the tables have turned, with Labour seen as most likely to give England its political voice...”

“The challenge for the Labour Party is to capitalise on this trust and craft a popular, sustainable solution to these demands without losing its appeal across the UK as a whole.”

Professor Richard Wyn Jones Professor of Welsh Politics

Professor Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, added: “What’s clear is that despite the introduction of English Votes for English Laws, voters in England don’t think it has happened, with less than one percent thinking that the government has made a lot of progress on EVEL. It’s also clear that voters believe this is down to a lack of government commitment. Since this was the governing party’s main proposal for dealing with English governance, it’s perhaps not surprising that voters now believe another party is best able to stand up for England.”

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