“Let’s welcome the death of the political tribe”

“There were some things you used to be able to count on. The double-barrelled, privately educated, pink-cheeked, Waitrose-shopping, Verbier-frequenting, gilet-wearing southerners voted Conservative. Those who preferred brown sauce to ketchup, football to rugby, Oasis to Blur; the teachers, doctors and public administrators were likely to vote Labour. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats claimed academics, naturists and the wearers of vegan shoes.

Now, in the wake of Brexit and Corbyn, those old certainties are being smashed. Tribal voters are floating voters. Die-hard Tories and Labour loyalists are mulling over the prospect of playing away in the polling booth. These might seem like moves born of desperation; these times might cause many to despair, but take heart! In the long term, this disbanding of the tribes will have a powerful and positive effect on our democracy.

The notion of belonging to one political tribe or another goes back a long way. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe of 1881 it is observed “How Nature always does contrive . . ./ That every boy and every gal/ That’s born into the world alive/ Is either a little Liberal/ Or else a little Conservative!” In truth our political leaning is most often down to nurture more than nature; parents and postcodes decree whether a little Liberal or a little Conservative a child shall be. One friend in his seventies was asked to promise his late mother that he would never, ever vote Tory — a promise he has kept for 50 years.

For most of the 20th century the Conservative-Labour duopoly claimed the allegiance of a vast majority; in the 1960s eight in ten identified strongly with a political party. The great unravelling of these loyalties has accelerated in the past ten years, with only half the electorate voting the same way in 2010, 2015 and 2017. Half! Fifty per cent of us were prepared to shrug off our allegiance to a party in that short space of time.

At the last election there was no greater symbol of voter volatility than the swapping of Canterbury and Mansfield between Labour and the Tories. Canterbury had been Conservative since 1918; Mansfield, the former mining town in Nottinghamshire, elected its first Tory since the constituency was created in 1885. So unthinkable was this that the returning officer called a Labour victory by mistake.

In recent weeks we have seen party swapping on steroids. MPs defecting to the Lib Dems. The former Labour MP Ian Austin telling us not to vote Labour. The former Conservative cabinet ministers Ken Clarke and Justine Greening teasing that they may not vote for their own party. Tories having in their sights places such as Ashfield and Bolsover, seats that have long been red. No doubt we’ll have colliery bands playing at Boris Johnson’s rallies soon.

Together, two things that may be undesirable in the short term — national divisions over Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous leadership — are achieving something highly desirable in the long term. They are eroding the idea that your background, income, profession or age should mean you belong to a party for life. Thanks to Brexit’s furies and Labour’s fantasy economics, the bonds of political tribe are finally wearing away. How refreshing this is, and how long overdue, for when political parties feel they “own” blocs of voters, unhealthy things happen.

First, the party feels it must cater to its own tribe to keep them sweet, regardless of whether these bungs or policies are in the national interest. We see this in Labour’s obsession with identity politics, mimicking the outrage of some of its supporters on the latest trivial battle in the culture war, or (when they were in government) in their pork-barrel bungs to parts of the north and Scotland. We see it too in the Conservatives’ endless courting of older voters, and in their refusal to confront nimbys in the battle to build new homes for the younger generation.

Perhaps more damagingly, when parties feel there is a section of the electorate who will always put an X in their box (the above rule having been observed), policy innovation is put on the back burner. If a town contained only a Waitrose and a Tesco, and its inhabitants had taken a blood oath only to shop at one or the other, there would be no burning incentive for either to improve its products, cut prices, offer free coffees and parking. Tribal politics kills the fierce, genuine competition that is the mother of invention.

So the dwindling of tribal allegiance should mean, in time, the flourishing of new ideas. Once less bound by what their core vote might feel, parties will be able to think with the safety catch off, prioritising what works rather than whether it will play well with their base. We might describe the process we are undergoing as the move from “contract voters” to “consumer voters”. In the old, tribal politics, loyal voters had a contract with their party of choice: you scratch my back with the policies and tax cuts I expect, I’ll scratch yours by dutifully heading down to the polling booth come election day.

In the new, party-swapping politics, elections will become a vibrant buyers’ market, with many more completely unaffiliated voters free to shop around for the policies they like best. Manifestos might even get read.

Consumer voters will have a powerful effect not only on the ideas being offered but the people, too. Many would agree that the quality of MPs in parliament today is not uniformly brilliant — but the end of tribal politics should help change that. With fewer people automatically voting for a party they have inherited from their parents, there will be fewer safe seats in which the proverbial donkey in the red or blue rosette wins. Parties will have to up their game on getting truly outstanding candidates to stand for election, because when the colour of the rosette matters less, the calibre of the candidate will matter more. They will be scrutinised not only as a member of the red, blue or yellow team but as an individual — so we can expect the quality of MPs to improve, too.

Better MPs, braver policies, leadership unbound by the demands of the old “core vote”: as the tribes dissolve, a more interesting politics will emerge. The choice on offer at this election may feel fairly grim for many of us. But in the stony ground of today’s political landscape, the seeds of something better are growing.”

Source: Times, pay wall

“Unite to Remain supports independent Parliamentary candidate Claire Wright for East Devon despite parties not standing down”


“Unite to Remain supports independent Parliamentary candidate Claire Wright for East Devon despite parties not standing down

The organisation behind a Remain alliance has backed independent candidate Claire Wright as its preferred general election candidate in East Devon despite rival parties failing to agree a truce in the seat.

Unite to Remain last week identified 60 seats where a deal had been struck between the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, in a move to defeat Conservative candidates.

The non-party campaign group has revealed that it also proposed Claire Wright – and whose 21,000 votes in 2017 make her the clear challenger to the Tories – but were unable to persuade the Lib Dems or Greens to stand aside.

Unite to Remain director Peter Dunphy said the organisation had not included East Devon in the list of candidates but urged Remain voters to back Claire Wright as the best chance to wrest the seat from Tory control.

“It was not possible to gain cross-party agreement for a single candidate in every key constituency that we considered,” added Dunphy.

“Ultimately it has been up to the political parties in consultation with local members to make these tough choices.

“Sadly, we were unable to gain Unite to Remain all-party agreement in East Devon where we had proposed Claire Wright as the clear challenger to the Conservatives.

“Our suggestion therefore is to follow the excellent tactical voting advice of Best for Britain and Gina Miller’s Remainunited to support the Remain candidate with the best chance of victory, which in the case of East Devon is the Independent Claire Wright.”

Wright, who won 35 per cent of the vote compared to the Lib Dems’ 2 per cent, said she had never approached any of her rivals or asked them to give her a free run.

However, she welcomed the Unite to Remain endorsement and insisted voters could make their own decisions about whether to vote tactically based on past results.

“I have never asked for any favours from my rivals and I respect their decision to stand and fight for the seat,” she added.

“Of course, running as a sole candidate against the Conservatives would appear to give me a better chance but I am not asking anyone for an easy ride.

“I have fought a fair and positive campaign twice, without assistance, increasing my share of the vote without resorting to personal attacks and I don’t intend to start now.

“I would now urge my supporters to concentrate all of their energy on getting this people-powered campaign over the line.

“And, of course, we must avoid the danger presented by Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement – which could condemn us to years of trade negotiations and threaten the NHS – by offering the public a democratic vote which includes the option of Remain.”

“Missing million voters whose decision could swing 40 seats”

“More than a million low-income voters who did not cast their ballot in the last election are planning to do so this time, in a sign they could play a crucial role in deciding the result.

Analysis shows as many as 1.2 million people on low incomes did not vote in 2017, but have since become politically engaged. The figure emerged from a major piece of work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, which has been attempting to identify the concerns of low-income families, with research already showing that there are 40 seats in which the number of low-income swing voters is bigger than the incumbent MP’s majority. Its research reports high levels of disillusion, distrust and cynicism among low-income voters, with many wary of broken political promises.

Crucially, the voters display different priorities to the population as a whole, with key issues including more secure tenancies in the private rented sector, more council and housing association homes for rent, and guarantees that social security benefits rise in line with inflation. …”


Ex-Monster Raving Loony Sidmouth Tory councillor releases Loony Tune for election

Owl doesn’t see anything remotely funny about the upcoming General Election but Stuart Hughes (ex-Monster Raving Looney Party and current Tory) does:

And who can forget the video he made to attract the “yourh” vote in East Devon with the very truthful title “We plan ANYWHERE”?

Perhaps “youth” shoyld think carefully before voting in this one …

Book of the Month

“Hugo learned a lot of things in high school, but never right from wrong – so when he was offered a full-ride scholarship to the college of his dreams in exchange for destroying the world, he signed up right away. Unethical ethics professors, econoanesthesiologists, how lawyers think they can bring forth Armageddon, a psychologist who asks patients to call him ‘Daddy’ – plus more trolley problems than you can shake a stick at – all in Hugo and the Greatest Good, a comedy about education, ethics, trolley problems, and, of course, destroying the world. Written by author Andrew Stanek because the forces of good were too late to stop him.”

(Available from Amazon)

What do we know about the EDDC Tory candidate?

He failed to be selected for Bristol North West last year when he was described rather differently than in today’s press release (see earlier post below):

“Simon Jupp: Currently Special Adviser to Tim Bowles, the elected Mayor of the West of England [today described as a special adviser to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab but see further on]. Jupp is a former journalist, having worked as a News Editor for ITV and as a BBC Radio Presenter. He is also a former press adviser and Head of Broadcast for the Conservative Party.”

Selection news: Shortlist for Bristol North West; Tall selected in Bath

He thinks many MPs are ignorant:

He was in and around Bath complaining about police cuts when he was on the Bristol South West short list:


He’s listed as working for Simon Clarke MP on 5 November 2019 not Dominic Raab (Simon Clarke works at the Treasury)

So, a little confused: has worked for or works for: Tim Bowles, Simon Clarke or Dominic Raab.

Busy man!