Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Understanding the Conservative dilemma...


Here are two of the ward level voting breakdowns* for the Shipley constituency:

Wharfedale       Remain 4539 (60%)   Leave 3068

Bingley Rural     Remain 4190 (42%)   Leave 5776

Two wards both, broadly speaking, safe Conservative wards. About five or six miles apart yet showing almost perfectly opposite results. What we have to do now is ask how we bridge this gap - to over-simplify, deal with the very different outlook and expectations from AB voters in Wharfedale and C1C2 voters in Bingley Rural.

This isn't really about Brexit but rather it's about a stew of economic, cultural and social issues. For me (but representing Bingley Rural as I do, I'm biased) the priority should be reconnecting with the disgruntled C1C2 voters - what the Americans would call the 'middle class' - who live in places like Bingley Rural. A lot of the talk is about the 'traditional' working class but, for the Conservative Party, we need a leader who my neighbours, quite literally, believe has got their back.

So when we talk about security it shouldn't be only about the unlikely terrorist attack but rather about not being burgled, not mown down by idiot drivers and feeling it's safe to go for a drink in town. When we talk about the economy, it's not just about stock markets, banks and business leaders flitting across the globe but about opportunities for young people to get on in the world, about small business and the taxes we all pay too much of. And when we talk about services it's those boring old basics - good schools, access to the doctor, getting the bins emptied and the potholes fixed.

There's something else though. People want their culture to be respected. That what they enjoy is respected and appreciated. Hardly a day passes without some public school educated comedian taking the piss out of the dreary, dull and uninspiring lives of those middling sorts. We get sneery remarks about suburbia, selectively misleading guff about how 'millennials' are being robbed blind by old people, or yet another fact-free attack on drinking, vaping, smoking or fast food. Is it any surprise when these people turn round to media and political sorts and give them the finger. Is it any surprise that, if you spend months on end telling people they're racist xenophobic bigots, they don't exactly flock to buy your political message.

In the end this isn't about agreeing with racism, pandering to the worst sort of anti-immigrant nonsense or signing up to the sort of crypto-fascist autarky that now passes for UKIP's policy platform. Rather it's about respecting what people say, understanding the concerns that underlie those words and having a conversation with these people about what we can do to help them, about what they expect from government, and what realistically government can do to meet those expectations.

*The figures carry a caveat in that the postal votes were distributed evenly across the 30 Bradford wards - we suspect this slightly skews the leave votes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Note that the only count-zones in Yorkshire & Humberside which voted 'Remain' were Leeds, York and Harrogate.
And where do all those highly-paid finance sector workers in Leeds live (and vote)? Mostly to the north of Leeds around York and Harrogate (plus those pricey parts of Wharfdale).
Leeds is now merely a sub-set of the City of London in exile, voting to preserve their status quo and personal cash-flow - I suspect that's your answer.