Labour's support, we are told, is gentrifying. But as the social and economic landscape changes, so must our notions of "the working class"by Jade Azim / August 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
The gentrification of the Labour Party—both its membership and, more significantly, its core voter—has been a matter of debate since before the Corbyn phenomenon. It’s been brought to the forefront, however, by the 2017 election, and by new voting patterns showing what many have heralded as the end of class politics.
For the first time in British electoral history, the two main parties’ vote share of C2DE voters—skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers—was level. In the 2015 election, Labour had a substantive advantage in this group, despite it being a year where the party fared badly across the board, and where the Conservatives took a large chunk out of the C1 vote share. In 2017, Labour’s share of the C2 vote particularly dwindled to achieve parity with the Conservatives.
Some might argue that Labour’s declining share of this vote has been in notable decline since 1997. This, also, is true.
But as new research by Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker shows, while seems inarguable that Labour’s grasp of the manual working class as we know them is indeed slipping, such measurements of social stratification are also dwindling in their relevance. Our understanding of what it means to be “working class” is being left in the dust by various factors of social capital, and a changing, global labour market that has seen a rapid erosion of manual jobs and a rise in the service economy. In this new world, entirely new classes have emerged.
Before these dramatic shifts, it was easy to rely on measurements such as NRS—using ABC12DE to code by occupation—to assess the status of class politics. These occupational measurements were most relevant in an era wherein ‘blue collar’ professions dominated Britain’s working classes. It is now difficult to argue that such a way of measuring can accurately capture the complexities of modern, and particularly millennial, British workers—who have moved en-masse to the office, but seen little wage growth.
Labour’s vote share among renters, the poorest citizens, and young people, including graduates—argued to be one of the key drivers of the gentrification of the party—is thus far more difficult to analyse in terms of class.
Young people for instance, both graduate and non-graduate, are caught in a perpetual adolescence, existing from one short rental to another,…