Voters in former Labour heartlands have “disconnected” from Keir Starmer and his predecessors, former care worker Ms Rayner says, reflecting on how Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party swept to victory across former Labour heartlands in 2019.
Among the multiple factors cited for Labour losing seats it had held for generations were the party's 2019 Brexit policy to have another public vote on remaining in the EU, widespread dislike of Jeremy Corbyn among many traditional Labour voters and wider long-term demographic changes with older votes in such constituencies favouring the Tories and younger voters moving away to cities.
Speaking ahead of the party’s annual autumn conference which starts in Brighton this weekend, the Shadow First Secretary of State spoke about the need to “reconnect” with voters, some of whom turned away from Labour for the first time in generations at the last election.
When asked if Labour could win back the so-called Red Wall and to take a majority in the House of Commons at the next election, Ms Rayner told The Yorkshire Post: “I’m not going to go there and say ‘oh yeah of course we are’. I think we’ve got to earn people’s respect back.
“It takes a long time to get that back but emotionally people are connected to the Labour Party and have been for a very long time, they just feel like we’ve disconnected from them.
“We’re trying to reconnect with them. We’ve got to work damn hard, but I think it’s achievable because I think once people can see not only is our heart in the right place but our policies are, people will vote for that change.”
The party won just 202 seats and 32 per cent of the popular vote at the 2019 General Election, its lowest number since the mid-1930s.
Earlier this week, party leader Sir Keir Starmer released a 12,000 word essay setting out the party’s vision in which he said Labour cannot “wait around for the public to decide we are right” and must instead grasp the opportunities the current political atmosphere provides.
One of the reasons Labour has failed at recent elections, Ms Rayner believes, is because at a local level, the party were facing some of the blame for national austerity measures and cost-cutting, a move which saw many lose interest in politics more generally.
“They saw Labour councils as the ones delivering on the cuts which wasn’t the case. The central Government were literally pummelling councils and we’re still seeing the adverse effect of that in our community.
“The Government promised us the world; they promised us lower gas prices, they promised us that things were going to be great, that we’re going to get new infrastructure and that we can all have the moon on a stick.
“We always under promise and over-deliver. The Tories over-promise and under-deliver. What disappoints me is that it takes more people away from politics because people say ‘well you are all the same, nothing ever changes’.”