The issue is important—but so are issues like jobs, crime and healthcare. It's time to figure out what a sensible Brexit is then move onby Nick Hargrave / May 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
The recent launch of Onward, the new Conservative think-tank fronted by Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove, was heartening. Good, personally relevant, life-improving policies are needed for a credible election campaign, and Davidson is right to argue that the party must do more to look approachable.
However, I would add one qualification. The deal with voters is sealed through something more fundamental than individual policies put forward: it is cemented through a connection on values that people hold dear. As the pioneering American political scientist Richard Wirthlin observed, you persuade people through reason but you motivate them to vote for you through emotional identification.
Here lies the source of the Conservative Party’s current electoral problems. It’s why frankly—in words and deeds—the party needs to make Brexit less central to what it is trying to do.
Although holding a deceptively high total share of the vote, the Conservatives are struggling to attract voters under the age of 45 and from aspirational, but by no means wealthy, backgrounds.
This is an outcome partially borne of inter-generational unfairness, the consequences of which have been well rehearsed. But I don’t think this paints the whole picture. It ignores the elephant in the room that is Brexit—and the deeper cultural flux that the referendum unleashed.
According to IPSOS Mori, among voters aged 25-34 the Conservative Party had a 29 point deficit to Labour at the 2017 General Election. It had a 16 point deficit among 35-44 year olds. Just 2 years previously they were virtually neck and neck.
Similarly, among AB voters where votes for the Tories are usually weighed, the lead in 2017 was only 10 points; half the lead in 2015 and the same as in the wipeout of 1997. Looking through the social demographic, the lead among C1s in 2017 was only 4 points—down from 12 points in 2015.
Part of this can be explained by the unique circumstances of Jeremy Corbyn—and, of course, a lousy election campaign. But such a shift over the course of 24 months necessitates a more fundamental structural explanation. It does not take a rocket scientist to work it out.
Brexit, and what it is perceived to say about the country we aspire to be, provokes strong reactions.…