Ed West

Labour is now the party of the middle class

Labour is now the party of the middle class
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I'm not sure I've ever been so pessimistic about this country's future, and I'm not usually a barrel of laughs to start with. Aside from the terrorism, and the recent tragedy in North Kensington, there are real black clouds in the distance. Investors are being put off Britain, a problem that pre-dates Brexit but is surely aggravated by it. There seems little hope that the Tories will follow Philip Hammond in pursuing a more moderate line in Europe. (Would the catchphrase 'Stop, Hammondtime', galvanise the public, I wonder? Kids still like MC Hammer right?). Meanwhile the opposition - even moderate members - are now calling for people's private property to be 'requisitioned', using heightened anger and emotion in order to trample over the most fundamental of rights. Well, it worked tremendously in Zimbabwe. This is the same opposition which now enjoys a three-point lead in the polls.

The polling data coming out of the election is very interesting; the Conservatives enjoyed a 17-point lead among people with no qualifications, while Labour had a 15-point advantage with graduates. This does not take into account age, since older people are far less likely to have a degree, but certainly this was 'Labour’s highest middle class support since 1979, and the Conservatives’ best score among C2DEs since then', as one analyst pointed out.

Of course both parties did relatively well because of the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and Ukip, but there is clear evidence that Tories are losing ground among professionals, who dislike their values:


So British politics seems to be following the American pattern in that values and identity overcome economic self-interest. Trump, although his support base was far less proletarian than often portrayed, lost ground among college-educated whites, while winning more support among the working class. Not only this, but the truly rich support the Democrats in far larger numbers, while among intellectual rather than financial elites that disparity is even greater - 96 per cent of political donations by Harvard faculty go to the Democrats.

So it's reasonable to call the Democrats the elite party, and perhaps Labour too, since they enjoy overwhelming support among professions such as teachers and architects, as well as others. How can this be reversed? I don't know; as I wrote in my last post, progressivism is just the status faith among people below about the age of 45. Reducing the number of people doing humanities degrees might help, too, since universities probably help inculcate these belief systems (as well as getting many people into horrific debt with little to show for it).

And yet there is a huge contradiction in the Corbyn movement, as this excellent analysis points out.

The idea that Corbyn is a truly authentic man who has stuck to his principles through thick and thin is prevalent even amongst his fiercest critics. It is also his greatest weapon when it comes to keeping the left (and the youth vote) onside while in reality triangulating as ably –  if not more so –  as any Blairite. Labour’s policy on immigration in this election was well to the right of the 2015 manifesto. Miliband was pilloried by the left for proposing ‘controls on immigration’, which slogans on mugs aside, amounted to a two year ban on EU migrants receiving benefits. Corbyn’s manifesto went even further than May herself by pledging to end free movement of people from the EU come what may in the Brexit negotiations.  While the effect of this was to almost entirely drain the ‘immigration debate’ from the election in a way unimaginable even six months ago, this was only due to the total capitulation of both Corbyn and the broader left on the issue. The immigration policy in Labour’s 2017 manifesto was more extreme in concrete terms than what most of the Leave side were proposing in the referendum -  in essence assuring full withdrawal from the single market, whatever the consequences -  and yet Corbyn’s supporters on the left accepted it because they refuse to believe that Corbyn himself, as a man of principle, can really mean it.

While every word Miliband (or indeed virtually anyone else who is not Corbyn) is treated with suspicion, despite the pro-single market arguments of the contemporary Blair being inherently far less punitive on immigration than Corbyn’s position, Corbyn is given the benefit of the doubt every time, even when the policy is written down in black and white. This is triangulation of the highest order, enabling Labour to appeal to hardline anti-migrant Ukip voters while also keeping the trust of the ‘cosmopolitan’ urban left. It is doubtful any other Labour leader would have been capable of achieving this. Yet the faith in Corbyn’s supposedly unshakeable core beliefs is such that his party’s policies on immigration barely register amongst people who would be incandescent with rage if another Labour leader even vaguely gestured towards them.

Corbyn's alliance consists of among the richest members of society - including voters in Kensington - and the most hardline socialists; the clear majority of ethnic minority voters, the comfortably multicultural middle-class, and also the staunchest immigration-restrictionists. Whoever wins the next election, and whenever it is, there are people out there who are going to be seriously disappointed.