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The Labour vote at the UK GE June 21, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Over on Spiked Brendan O’Neill (and thanks to the person who directed me there) has a piece that while I disagree with it in the main makes one point that is worth noting. That is that despite the emphatic, though not fully victorious, turn to Labour one broader phenomenon was evident. That is that trade union membership in the UK has had a massive drop in numbers and the numbers of strikes was at its lowest ever. How seriously one feels O’Neill takes this is up to the individual. Certainly the amount of anti-socialist bile in the comments section is a sight to behold – and makes me loath to link to the piece. One has to wonder what he thinks of that. But it is an important point that we see both revival and weakness. Historic weakness. Moreover if it was simply disenchantment with unions but behind that there was a dynamic of activism or energy one would expect industrial action to be more prevalent – particularly given the background of austerity etc.

O’Neill, naturally, uses this to shoehorn in an argument as to how Labour has actually increased its popularity amongst the middle class. And he goes on to suggest that the Ashcroft polling data shows that middle and upper classes were as likely to vote for the BLP as all others and more so than skilled workers. Hold that thought, I’ll return to it in a  moment, but…

For O’Neill this is actually all about Brexit. For everything appears to be about Brexit these days. And he neatly folds in an argument how the LP made gains where Remain votes were strong and the middle class likewise, whereas the Tories (who, and this is fair point he makes and it’s sometimes ignored, saw their vote go up too) made hay in constituencies where there were Leave votes fuelled in part by working class Brexiteers. There’s a degree of truth in this, and for O’Neill that means haring after a ‘true’ ‘authentic’ working class in order to legitimise his own political position.

So for him the LP vote is suddenly an ‘establishment’ vote and the Tory an anti-establishment vote. He doesn’t mention younger voters, or say anything about the actual manifesto presented by the LP. Massive omissions in any analysis. Nor does he work through the difference between voters and parties. Or between different voters and their ability to support a party.

Because, of course, some Leave working class voters returned to the LP –  an LP offering in the wake of the referendum result, a much ‘softer’ Brexit than that offered by the right. And perhaps most notably he doesn’t interrogate at all what Brexit means to people, and the possibility that a softer one might be more popular than a harder one full stop.


But there’s one further point that is worth making and I’m grateful to EamonnCork for pointing me in that direction… Note this from the Guardian about analysis of Ipsos-Mori polling on just this issue… It doesn’t quite bear out O’Neill’s thesis. The Tories still lead in terms of ABC1 (though let’s also keep in mind how fluid those ABC definitions and unfit for broader purpose – but at least it is largely like with like in terms of Ashcroft). And the LP remained ahead on C2DE voters… 


The 2017 general election’s denting of long-held political assumptions is sharpest on the issue of social class. The Ipsos-Mori estimates showed that while the Conservatives maintained a six-point lead among the more affluent ABC1 voters, Labour increased its share of the vote among this group by 12 points compared with the last general election in what was the party’s best score since 1979. Similarly among poorer, C2DE voters, Labour maintained a four-point lead but the Conservatives’ share of the vote increased by 12 points. The Tories achieved their best score since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.

The polling company said there was little evidence that many people who didn’t vote in the 2015 election or the 2016 referendum took part in the 8 June general election. About 60% of the one in eight previous non-voters who made it to the ballot box this time backed Labour.

But EC noted that much of the swing to the BLP amongst the middle class is quite explicable – the precarious position of formerly secure lower middle class and middle class people is a new enough phenomenon and one that would ultimately translate into some increased support for left of centre parties.



1. bjg - June 21, 2017

Some astonishing news about [US] unions https://www.nber.org/papers/w23516#fromrss [h/t Tyler Cowen http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/06/tuesday-assorted-links-118.html, who has some other interesting links as well]



2. madgemcgowan - June 21, 2017

The important issue here is the definition of class, of course.Since the 1960s and the rise of white-collar trade unionism this topic has been debated.It seems to me that many ‘middle class’ occupations are anything but nowadays.The idea that it is the ‘middle class’ vote that swung it for Labour in Britain uses a rather superficial definition of class.Likewise the generational vote of young people might also reflect class and the precarious nature of work , even for many young ‘professionals’.Given the shifting patterns of enmployment into the service sector many occupations that were previously considered ‘middle class’ using cultural definitions about white collar work have now become quite proletarianized.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2017

+1. And I’ve also seen a dynamic where working class occupations have been in a sense given a white collar look but wage wise etc arent. Management positions in some retail springs to mind.

Liked by 1 person

Pasionario - June 21, 2017

The definition of “middle class” has become so attenuated that it is used to refer to everyone from primary school teachers earning not much more than 20 grand a year to millionaire barristers and corporate chieftains.


3. Rat - June 21, 2017

Why are the views of a member of the far-right being discussed on a leftwing blog?


WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2017

This is a discussion site, we examine and criticise far right stuff often. I think that’s useful. I noted above I wouldn’t link to Spiked because of it’s anti left posture but it is useful to work through and understand what they say and secondly show where the inaccuracies in their analysis are. Because Spiked people crop up on TV, radio, in the media etc and the left has to have its counter arguments ready.


Dermot O Connor - June 21, 2017

No worries Rat; it’s not as though any of us are going to be converted to the right now, is it?

This de-platforming “don’t mention the war” tactic so loved by the US campus crowd has produced a coddled cohort of middle class lightweights who don’t know how to attack their opponents.


4. GW - June 21, 2017

So one group in which a Corbynist Labour did especially well were the younger members of increasingly precarious middle class.

This is hardly surprising because such precarity is inflicted first on the young, the older people having longer-term work contracts. Also it must be abundantly clear to them that they will not enjoy the benefits that their parents had.

This isn’t, by any means, confined to the UK; but in that context – this group is also fairly solidly and increasingly anti-Brexit, it should be noted.


5. thepleasedmiddle - June 21, 2017

Spiked Online describes itself as a missile against misanthropy while spending ten minutes there is enough to turn you into a convinced anti-natalist.


WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2017

It has an odd effect on me too.


6. Dermot O Connor - June 21, 2017

UKPR with stats on public’s attitude to Brexit:


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