This has become the key determinant of our election resultsby Paula Surridge / December 18, 2019 / Leave a comment
“Education, education, education,” the mantra of the first Blair government, and one which heralded social change on a scale that has yet to be appreciated. The target of 50 per cent of young adults entering higher education, only recently met, is reshaping the social and the political landscape.
Unlike the social changes of the Thatcher era such as Right to Buy, it was not clear at the time it was announced that getting more young people into higher education would be electorally advantageous for Labour. In the previous election, the Labour Party had been much more successful winning the votes of those without degrees than those who held them. However, one of the most important changes over the period since then, and particularly evident in the electoral maps of 2017 and 2019, is the relationship between the educational profile of areas and how they voted, notably also a key feature of the EU referendum vote. While the detailed analysis of these patterns will not be fully available for some time, some glimpses of its silhouette are possible using the aggregate data on how different types of place voted in 2019 and the longer-term trends since 2010 (the first election held under the current constituency boundaries).
The key to understanding why education is important is political values. Politics has long been thought of as a battle between the left and the right, but this captures only part of the story. There is another dimension of social values, which is not correlated with economic positions, but which includes issues increasingly salient in our politics such as criminal justice, immigration, security and foreign aid. This “other” dimension is much more strongly related to referendum vote than the traditional left-right values are. On these “social” issues a significant portion of voters who are otherwise on the “left” in terms of economics are in more conservative positions. The core demographic driver on these social issues is education: crudely, those with degrees are less socially conservative than those without. It will be some time before we are able to look at how the values of individuals mattered for voting in 2019. But the patterns in terms of education for constituencies, and particularly how these have changed over time, are revealing.