Political loyalties and the challenge for Labour

Since 2011, there have been several shifts in the way the identity ‘tribes’ place their political trust. Conservatives The support base for the Conservatives has…

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Chapter : Political loyalties and the challenge for Labour

Since 2011, there have been several shifts in the way the identity ‘tribes’ place their political trust.


The support base for the Conservatives has changed quite considerably since 2011. The party continues to source its ground support from the culturally concerned group, but this share has fallen over time, from 42% in 2011 to 28% in 2017.

The party has increased its share of votes from the two more liberal tribes by a huge 23% over the last six years. It may continue to draw votes from the two more hostile tribes, but it is clear that heading towards a hard Brexit with a strong anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism stance may alienate a large proportion of its voters.

UKIP and the Challenge for Labour

Since we began our Fear and HOPE research in 2011, we have seen the rise and fall of UKIP and, simultaneously, the decline and resurgence of a very different Labour party.

The collapse of UKIP has left behind a key political target large enough to determine an election, particularly in Labour’s traditional heartlands. Typically swing voters driven by economic insecurity, Farage’s party had tapped into a sense, particularly in the North, that Labour was no longer representative of working class communities but part of the establishment, metropolitan and London-centric.

With UKIP falling apart in the snap election, many saw Labour’s success as a sign that the party had recaptured those who strayed towards UKIP in 2015. However, our Fear and HOPE survey has found that just 7% of this group turned to Labour in 2017.

While 15% of people who voted UKIP in 2015 stayed with the party in 2017, half (49%) unenthusiastically defected to the Conservatives who they saw as the ‘Brexit party’, and 24% did not vote at all.

Corbyn’s socialist campaign failed to chime with disenfranchised working class voters, instead increasing Labour’s share of liberal, educated voters whose views have hardened since the referendum as people disassociate themselves from “Brexit Britain”.

Our report segments society into six identity ‘tribes’: two very positive about immigration and multiculturalism and two strongly opposed, whose views have become increasingly polarised.

Of the two ‘middle ground’ tribes, one is economically secure but culturally concerned about changes in society and one – a key target for Labour, and from where much of the UKIP’s 2015 swing derives – is driven by economic insecurity.

In 2011, 30% of Labour’s support came from the two more liberal ‘tribes’. In 2017, this has risen to 52%.

Looking at the values of Corbyn supporters against the 2015 UKIP voter, the differences are stark.

While many 2015 UKIP voters would have economically and socially benefited from a Corbyn-led government, on political and cultural issues the two sets of supporters were miles apart.

Where Corbyn supporters are open and tolerant, 2015 UKIP voters were hostile towards immigration, sceptical of multiculturalism and fearful of Muslims. The Corbyn supporter focuses most on the poor state of the public of the public services and increasing government intervention, while the 2015 UKIP voter resented money going to groups they believed were undeserving and wanted a stronger state and harsher penalties for criminals.


Further, Brexit has polarised the nation and our poll finds little room for common ground. Any compromise on a deal is likely to increase resentment and feelings of political betrayal. Impending economic downturn as we leave the EU is likely to trigger fear and hostility towards others among the economically insecure and could widen this gap.

It would seem an impossible circle to square for Labour, to hold on to its growing liberal, educated and tolerant base while appealing to its traditional, more socially conservative, working class supporters. But this is a key challenge to be addressed if Labour is to win a parliamentary majority again, now that it has a chance of winning the next election.


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