Dead Men Left

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"The working classes smell" - Guardian (roughly)


Labour plans to win back voters disaffected by the Iraq war with a manifesto pledge for international action on HIV/Aids treatment, a treaty to control the arms trade and a timetable for phasing out export subsidies to the west's farmers.

Alarmed at the prospect of large-scale abstentions and defections from a key group of middle class supporters, the party aims to make international development a key part of its push for a third term.

The invasion of Iraq aggregated everything else that was wrong with New Labour; it is the canvas on which every other discontent is placed. It's very hard, given that, to treat it as a stand-alone issue. We need to look at its political effects far more broadly.

The biggest drop in Labour's support since 2001 has been amongst manual workers (PDF file), 52% of whom voted Labour in the last election, but only 39% of whom now say they will vote Labour. There has been a slight swing towards Labour - relative to the Tories - amongst non-manual workers. This is adopting the crude, conventional sociological typology of "class": in practice, "manual workers" will include senior foremen and other lower middle-class types, whilst "non-manual workers" means working class call-centre operators as well as well-paid lawyers. But the pattern is reasonably clear.

The party that has gained the most from manual workers deserting Labour are the Liberal Democrats, widely (if erroneously) identified as anti-war above anything else. So why this assumption that is only the "middle class" that care enough about the war to desert?

(As an aside - Larry Elliot, whose name appears with Michael White on the by-line to the Guardian piece, is usually much too sharp to fall into this kind of lazy stereotyping. Rather disappointing.)