The social change has reached the point where, if they wish for success, left-wing parties must rely on two different milieus or groups of activists and voters of roughly the same size. On the one hand, the modern, leftwing or left-liberal urban middle classes, and on the other, the various segments of the working classes. In crude terms, if a left-wing party aims to secure 40 per cent of the vote in an election, voters from each of these backgrounds will contribute roughly half of the necessary total. But there are dramatic differences between the two groups.
A few weeks after the Brexit vote, John Harris wrote an article in The Guardian entitled »Does the Left Have a Future?«, offering a detailed analysis of the dilemmas facing the Labour Party. In it he argues convincingly that the problems facing left-wing parties cannot be readily solved overnight with a simple policy change. To exaggerate only slightly, we could say that the Blairites turned Labour into a middleclass social-democratic party, which sought to accommodate the attitudes of the urban middle class while ignoring the working class completely. So now the party shifts to the left and elects Jeremy Corbyn as leader in order to regain the trust of ordinary people.
But matters are not so straightforward. Corbyn himself is the hero of progressive students, internationalists and convinced leftists. Such groups want a programme that is very different from that of the working-class voters who voted for Brexit, of people who believe that immigrants are taking their jobs and that left-wing academics are far too concerned with LGBT rights and questions of political correctness. So a move to the left will not automatically lead to the creation of a successful progressive block consisting of these two large groupings. Even worse, a move to the left might result in Corbyn losing the support of people from progressive urban backgrounds without gaining significantly more support from the working class.