James Frayne: Working-class voters are leaving the Conservatives in droves. Truss has to prove she’s on their side.

James Frayne is director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to shifting public opinion.

When her political staff is in place, Liz Truss will learn how the Conservatives’ greatest electoral vulnerability lies with poor working-class voters who are leaving the party in droves, fearing they have been let down by the rising cost of voting. life. Government survival depends on a massive package of financial support for working-class families, while medium-term success requires a strategy that amplifies the values ​​of fairness and patriotism to show working-class voters that Conservatives are “on your side”.

These are the main recommendations of a comprehensive new policy brief – the “New Majority” – that I have just completed for the Center for Policy Studies. You can read the document here and the full tables for the survey component of the research here. You can also read the preview of the article by Robert Colvile, the director of the CPS, in the Sunday Times here. I’ll expand on the themes in this column’s note in the coming weeks, but I’ll summarize the key points below.

1. The new conservative strategy: “on your side”. Recent political attention has focused on the faltering middle class, Southern Remainers; however, our research shows that the greatest vulnerability lies among the poorest working-class voters. Since 2019, these voters have moved away from the Party in greater numbers – not, generally, to Labor, but to “don’t know”. In this column, I’ve tended to dwell on affluent working-class and lower-middle-class voters (I once wrote about them as “just about management”). However, the Conservative challenge now is different: it is to maintain support for the struggling working class. The guiding philosophy of the Conservatives for the foreseeable future must be to show less affluent voters that the Party is “on your side”.

2. How the Conservatives handle the cost of living crisis will determine whether they stay or go. Overwhelmingly, the most important reason for these voters leaving is the Conservatives’ inability to meet the rising cost of living. They don’t think the Party is on their side; the poll numbers are unambiguous: working-class voters are in dire straits – and getting worse. They feel that the Party has let them down. They are very fearful of what the near future holds for them; many of them simply won’t be able to pay their bills without great help. If the Conservatives do not give them that support, they will not vote for them forever.

3. The aid provided by the Party must mark the beginning of a different economic policy. The government has various options to help less well-off voters through the immediate crisis. Whatever path the government chooses, it is imperative that the Party develops a broader economic policy that appeals to working class voters and demonstrates that it is “on your side”. They should reform the economy so that the system focuses on delivering for ordinary consumers: holding companies that provide public services more strictly accountable; prevent failing big business from paying ridiculous wages and dipping into reserves that need to be protected for workers’ wages and pensions; providing disproportionate support to small businesses; etc

4. Leveling up has an attractive new context in this new strategy. The fact that many working towns are struggling makes the cost of living crisis more serious. It gives poorer voters the impression that everything is falling apart. For this reason, the government should stick to its leveling policy, but focus like a laser on the poorest cities to help them over the next few years. Again, this will show local residents that the Party is “on your side.”

5. Appeal to working-class values ​​of fairness and patriotism. Such an economic policy would work because it responds to the working class obsession with fairness. But there is another value with a very practical application: patriotism. I’m not talking about something aggressive or assertive – which people find bizarre at best and distasteful at worst – but the calm, confident and understated patriotism that David Cameron expressed so well in his early days. Our research has shown that patriotism is the only thing that truly unites the disparate groups within the Conservative coalition – uniting the stayers and the leavers, and distinguishing them from the non-Conservatives. Many of the “cultural” issues are totally lost on most voters, including less affluent Conservative voters. However, they expect and demand a simple and confident patriotism that they do not see in other parties.

6. The coalition will survive intact with a disproportionate focus on working class voters. In our research, we have identified four key groups that make up the New Majority. Very briefly, these are: the less affluent voters of Leave; more affluent and traditional-minded leavers; Remain less rich and in difficulty; and the well-to-do remnants of the classic middle class. Their views diverge on many issues; however, they all accept the need to target cost-of-living policies on the less well-off, and they all favor an approach that would prioritize working-class voters more broadly. Showing that the Party is “on your side” will not fracture the coalition.

7. A principled commitment to lower taxes. It remains to be seen whether the government sees tax cuts as a useful economic tool as they help people through the cost of living crisis. Either way, there is broad support for a tax cut in principle, and the government should make it clear that this is a real aspiration.

For struggling voters, this leadership campaign has gone on too long. They were angered by the government’s silence on the cost of living. Expectations are very high for the government to help on a large scale. We’ll know by Friday whether working-class voters will even give Liz Truss a chance; we will know by the end of the month whether there is a strategy in place to secure working class support in the medium term.

Comments are closed.