Up the Workers?

A few news pieces have struck me on the back of last week’s local elections in England. All of which focus on the demographic changes in Labour's support base from working class voters to more affluent and educated ones.

Polls from the beginning of the year show a substantial swing from Labour to the Conservatives among people in the C2DE social grade - with the Tories overtaking Labour over the course of the past four months. Ipso defines C2's as skilled manual workers, D's as semi and unskilled manual workers and E's as state pensioners, casual or lowest grade workers and the unemployed with state benefits only. All of who make up C2DE. Since the beginning of the year there has been a seven-point swing pushing the Conservatives up from 35% to 43% and Labour down from 46% to 40% among C2DE voters. 

On the flip side, yesterday the Guardian has published a piece from Ian Warren, Director of Election Data, entitled 'Watch out, Tories. Your southern strongholds are turning red'. Warren argues that ex-Londoners moving out of the city into the Home Counties accounts for why the Conservatives did not do as well in these parts of Southern England during last year’s General Election. This, he says, explains Labour gains in Bedford, Brighton and Canterbury. Labour is currently attracting these suburban "affluent young families" who would typically be in the ABC1 group (the opposite of C2DE) and would normally vote Tory.

It is an irony that when Jeremy Corbyn came to power he promised to reconnect the Labour Party with its traditional working class base who had become disillusioned by New Labour. Yet, Tony Blair enjoyed far more support among C2DE voters from 1997 and beyond. I have no doubt that in recent weeks Corbyn's response to the Russian attack fed into these voters’ already unfavourable image of the Labour leadership as unpatriotic. However, there are of course other bigger and long-term factors including Brexit and the global backlash against globalisation all of which have pushed less affluent voters towards the political Right.

As a Labour campaigner in Essex I’ve put up with plenty of working class Tories on the doorstep. It looks like the national party will also have to get used to hearing from them too.