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Well I never. Working class voters like working class candidates… September 8, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This isn’t exactly news, is it? But it does have implications:

“Working-class people are much more likely than middle-class people to vote Labour when the party contains a substantial number of working-class MPs, and variation over time in the number of working-class Labour MPs closely tracks the strength of such class voting,” wrote Oliver Heath, an academic at Royal Holloway, University of London, who wrote the paper.

He said the study, which is revealed in a new book, More Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box, showed that even when other factors were controlled the number of MPs from poorer backgrounds had an effect.

The fact that 37% of Labour MPs came from a manual occupational background in 1964 but just 7% did in 2015 had harmed the party’s image among its traditional voters, he added.

And that shift was part of a concerted effort by the Kinnock and Blair leaderships of the BLP as they sought to ‘reposition’ the BLP. And while, perhaps, in the short term reasonably effective, or perhaps they were coasting on the work of more working class predecessors, in the long term:

“What the research showed was that as Labour candidates became more middle class, many working-class people simply stopped voting. For the last 20 or 30 years we have had a picture of gradually growing working-class abstention,” he said, arguing that people felt Labour was no longer representing them.

“They became alienated from the political process – and that went unnoticed for quite some time. But these alienated voters are fertile territory for being remobilised,” he added, saying that is why they were drawn to Ukip and then – more clearly – the vote for Brexit.

“It is very difficult for Labour to rebuild the connection in a credible way. The party needs to reassess what its social identity is – who it wants to represent: the disaffected working-class voters in the north or the more liberal middle classes. I think it was easier when it had a strong identity at the core.”

It’s not just the perception. This has real problems in regard to democratic engagement. For example:

His research found that the problem was most acute with wealthy candidates, finding that they tended to “particularly repel” the working classes, because they were not seen as approachable.

And that must make one wonder about our own system where, I think it is fair to say, the number of working class voices are limited. That said a PRSTV system does throw up a different mix than FPTP and the issue of approachability may be somewhat different.

Of course – and one BLP MP makes this point, it can get blurred with MPs ‘who were brought up in working-class families, but ended up in typically middle-class jobs’. But the broader point has a resonance, doesn’t it?


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