"Middle Class" now votes Labour

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sun Dec 27 09:35:55 PST 1998

Below is an important survey of voting patterns among strata in Britain. Although the term "middle class" is highly unscientific it reflects a subjective division within layers of the working population.

The question now arises whether the Labour party can retain its lead among the privileged more bourgeoisified workers. Whether it needs to make further New Labour type changes. Whether it requires further constitutional reform to enable a coalition of social-democrats and current supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party to work together. Whether it needs a change of name, to mark the historic failure of the Labour Representation Committee. (There is no chance of a *consciously* working class and trade unionist party winning consistently in bourgeois elections under present conditions.)

My prejudices are that in marxist terms it is better that a left wing bourgeois party tries to unite the great majority of the working class (including those who think they are middle class) rather than divide them by supporting the poorest at the expense of better off workers. This provides the opportunity for better consensus about how to manage society reasonably fairly for the great majority of people, and in the long term puts the private ownership of the means of production and unaccountability of capital under pressure.

It would be a considerable gain to break the ability of capital to manage politics through the two party bourgeois electoral system.

But I do not think marxists, or would be marxists, should confine their perspectives to such a party or such a left-centre coalition of parties.

I realise these views are controversial and would appreciate reasoned criticisms.

Chris Burford


>From the Guardian/Observer web site. This from the Observer it being Sunday:

Sunday December 27, 1998

Labour 'party of middle class'

By Peter Kellner

Britain's middle class, historically the backbone of Conservative support, has switched sides and now backs Labour. The Tories, however, are beginning to recover ground among working-class voters, who are showing signs of disenchantment with some policies of the Blair Government.

These findings emerge from an Observer analysis of ICM's political surveys during 1998. It shows Labour consolidating support in the prosperous parts of southern England, while slipping back in traditional heartlands in Scotland, Wales and northern England.

ICM combined the results of all its political surveys this year to provide a sample of more than 14,000. This makes it possible to look underneath the overall national picture and examine in detail Britain's new political landscape. ICM also combined data from its polls in 1996, to provide a like-with-like comparison, before and after last year's election, for each region and demographic group.

Peter Mandelson and Labour's other modernisers have left a legacy that could shape British politics long after last week's resignations have been forgotten.

ICM's figures indicate a double revolution. First, Labour now leads the Tories among every group of voters analysed by ICM - in every region, every social class, every age group, and in prosperous households with three or more cars as well as poor households without a car.

Never in recent decades has one party so dominated the political landscape. Even the Tories in Margaret Thatcher's heyday, faced with a Labour Party on the verge of self-destruction, lagged behind in Scotland, Wales and North-East England, among council tenants and voters in the DE social classes (semi- and unskilled workers, and people living on benefits).

Second, a remarkable convergence has taken place in the way social groups view politics. The gulf in loyalties between the richest and poorest is narrower than ever. It is now far harder to deduce a voter's party allegiance from his or her social class. Two years ago, Labour enjoyed a six-point lead among AB voters - business and financial executives, senior public officials and people at or near the top of the main professions.

In contrast, Labour's lead among DE voters was 42 per cent. Thus the 'class gap' - the difference in Labour's lead between AB and DE voters - was 36 points.

This year, Labour's lead is up to 15 per cent - a lead that would deliver Blair a landslide victory on its own, without anyone else casting any votes at all. Among DE voters the lead is now 36 per cent. Thus the 'class gap' is down to 21 points. This is by far the narrowest it has been.

Indeed, in 1966 - when Harold Wilson led Labour to its last big election victory - the class gap stood at 96 points. Among AB voters the Tories led Labour by 57 per cent, while Labour's lead among DE voters was 39 per cent. Compared with 32 years ago, the working-class voting pattern is virtually unchanged, while middle-class voters have switched allegiance from Tory to Labour. This shift is, in part, due to Mandelson's efforts. He helped to devise policies and campaigning methods to attract support from middle-class voters. Part of that shift occurred before the 1997 election, as voters warmed to Blair's classless appeal, but it has accelerated, as Labour's policies on taxation, business and public spending have extinguished the fears of better-off voters that Labour in office would revert to 'old Left' policies. Until last week Mandelson was in the forefront of the Government's attempts to reinforce its cross-party appeal.

© Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.1998

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