It's how we see ourselves—not how much we earn—that shapes our party loyaltiesby Peter Kellner / May 22, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
Those who think class-based politics went out with the miners’ strike should think again. © http://underclassrising.net/
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As so often, some of the sharpest political insights come not from the sage columnists of our upmarket papers but from comedy writers. They have noticed—and exploited—some of the social class cross-currents that conventional analysis has tended to overlook.
Fifty years ago, things were simpler. The working classes voted Labour while the middle classes voted Conservative. In 1967, Peter Pulzer, the political scientist, wrote: “Class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail.” He had good reason to say this. Labour had won the general election a year earlier, taking more than 60 per cent of working class votes. It attracted only one in four middle class voters, who preferred the Tories by more than two-to-one.
Today, Britain’s economic and social structure is completely different; and so is the nature of party loyalties. Today, using the same yardstick as in the 1960s—whether the job of the head of each voter’s household is essentially manual (“C2DE”) or non-manual (“ABC1)—the class gap is far narrower. In YouGov’s survey for Prospect of more than 3,000 electors, Labour enjoyed a 1 per cent lead among ABC1 voters, and an 11 per cent lead among C2DE voters—a class gap of 10 points. However, this fails to tell the full story. Class may no longer affect votes as powerfully as it used to—but its influ…