UK ELECTION UPDATE: The polls show a moderate to large lead for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, but because the electoral calculus has changed it’s still difficult to predict what might happen next week. Nevertheless, this analysis is extremely interesting.
The media conception of who the swing voter in the UK is much the same as in the US – the fiscally conservative, socially liberal suburbanites who like tax cuts, “responsible” spending decisions, and who would feel perfectly comfortable living in any major US or European city. The media conception of this as the swing makes sense – these voters are in most metro areas, and if one spends enough time in well off circles, with professionals – lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, et all – it’s a viewpoint one would see quite frequently. Consequently, this is the swing voter the media thinks of – as New York, DC, or London media would frequently encounter that view in their work – either in their private lives after hours or in the seemingly endless amounts of charity dinners, functions, and galas that occur. The problem is, that isn’t the swing voter anymore, at least not the one that swings UK elections. Labour could do even better with that voter and still lose this election worse than any since the Second World War.
The new swing voter in the UK is the reason the Tories are on track for a large majority government. The new swing voter is the fiscally liberal, socially conservative voter who wants more money spent on northern towns and health care in regional areas and less money spent on “elites”, which routinely means whoever that voter isn’t a fan of. They’re wary of immigrants, mad at the Blair-era broken promise of only 13000/year net immigration from the 2004 EU Accession states – 250000/year would come in the decade after – and is annoyed by social issues that grip the modern left. This class of voter was staunchly Labour for decades, especially in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s term in office. These voters were tempted by Theresa May last time, but went home to Labour because Corbyn did enough to reassure that Brexit would happen. With Labour policy now being a second referendum with an option to Remain – and every senior Labour politician outside Corbyn saying no possible deal is better than staying in – their likelihood of repeating their 2017 trick is somewhere between small and non-existant.
The old certainties are as much dust in the UK as in the US. It is quite possible that the Tories will win Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old Durham mining constituency. To even suggest that five years ago would have been to invite scorn and derision.