This is more a quick note and thought than an extensive analysis (which I’ll write up later).
Anthony Browne at ConHome writes that immigration is ‘cooling’ as an issue.
I’m entirely unsurprised by this, and it illustrates how these issues change in importance on the left and right.
Voters generally assume that Tories will be harder on issues such as immigration, ‘welfare cheats’ and reducing govt spending. They also generally think Labour will be better on issues such as the NHS, jobs, education and looking after ‘ordinary people’ (some readers may disagree but these are broad brushes and the polls bear this out).
Take an issue such as immigration: most voters don’t expect immigration to come down significantly. But they expect Tories to do as much about it as possible, given their rhetoric. So it becomes a less politically charged issue for them since they expect the party in power to be harsh.
Same goes for the economy. I was talking to a mate at Labour party conference, who said his company had done some private polling on the economy just before the election (by severly richards). They found that, given the choice between what a govt should focus on, 70% picked reducing the deficit while just 30% picked jobs. I was a bit taken aback but it makes sense I suppose.
At the time – the deficit was seen as a higher priority than jobs. And the media was hyping it up as massive issue (for political reasons too, obviously).
But I’m So betting that pre-election poll will now have inverted. As soon as the Tories came into power, an increasing number of people who picked the deficit as their priority will start choosing jobs instead. Partly because unemployment is rising, but also because they think the Tories will tackle the deficit anyway, but need other priorities too.
That was my first point. My second point is this:
There is a dilemma for Labour (on immigration and welfare – where voters overwhelmingly thought they were too soft), and for the Conservatives (on education and NHS – where voters overwhelmingly thought they didn’t care for ordinary concerns), on how do you keep your natural supporters on side while dealing with concerns of the centre that you’re crap on the issue.
To be more specific: I don’t want Labour to triangulate on welfare or immigration any more either. This is specifically why I didn’t vote for them in 2010. But I also recognise I was more to the left of the public on the issue, and it’s difficult to make the argument that just by listening to the likes of me, Labour will win elections.
The good news is that the election showed triangulation didn’t work either. But I’ve not heard a convincing narrative out of this dilemma either.
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