What if the conservatives move…left?

by Joe Reddington

Let us consider the popular (and backed by the data) narrative.  Large numbers of former conservative voters are ‘defecting’ to UKIP, which they believe better represents their views.  UKIPs policies are somewhat significantly to the right of the conservatives, even if there is a perception difference, and it is clear from the polling data that it’s a certain type of conservative that is switching.

The average conservative voter in 2015 is younger, more urban, less likely to own a house, more likely to be non-white, and more likely to have a degree than the average conservative voter of 2010 (see here, p15).  We can then infer that they are also less pension-obsessed, more much likely to be pro-(at least neutral on) Europe, much more likely to favour things like equal rights to marriage, adoption and social care than the average conservative voter of 2010.

Now answer this.  Given the group that is *leaving* the Conservative party, who are the remainder? We see that the Conservative leadership has lurched somewhat to the right in an attempt (and it may be working to a small extent) to stop the bleeding.  But it remains to see what happens if it becomes clear that those voters are staying with UKIP.  The thought that should be keeping Labour strategists up at night is this: what if the new Conservatives listen to their thinned down membership and move left?

Not far, but it doesn’t have to be far.  If they keep their tax policies but change around their spending proposals in favour of a different group of beneficiaries: childcare, NHS, and prison reform, some commitments on human rights and internet freedoms – then they stand to capture the votes of large chunks of the middle classes.  The middle classes, by the way, that reliably turn out to vote, that hold the balance of power, and that are much more influenced by the policies than the rhetoric. More to the point, they are exactly the votes that Labour need if they are going to return to power.

Even at the rhetorical level – many of the policies that the conservatives can be presented in a range of ways. By habit, conservative policies are pitched at the mindset of a Telegraph reader (average age of subscriber: 61). They’d have a much better shot with the younger floating voters if they highlighted those parts of their tax policies that focused on small businesses rather than of pensioners; if they presented the parts of their immigration policy as being about economic agility rather than security; and if they presented technology related policy in a way that made any sense at all to people who actually use the internet.

Labour need to be very careful.  The legacy of UKIP may well be that we have a centrist Conservative government for decades.

Joe Reddington blogs on disability and technology issues at joereddington.com

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13 Responses to “What if the conservatives move…left?”

  1. Tafia says:

    Large numbers of former conservative voters are ‘defecting’ to UKIP

    Have a little think about that. It means if it wasn’t for UKIP the tories would be somewhere in the mid-40s in the opinion polls and on course to an absolutely crushing majority.

    Which in turn means that the British voter (in England anyway) is now right wing in outlook and belief.

  2. There’s plenty of room and votes to the left of Labour if they wanted to make that shift. Even some of the UKIP candidates are finding space there in Labour’s northern strongholds.

  3. BenM says:

    UKIP has picked up much of its – now declining – share from ‘did not votes’.

    Which is why, contrary to what poor Tafia thinks, as UKIP declines the Tories are noty benefitting wholesale.

    As for Tories moving Left: arguably we’re now seeing this in pledges to cap rail fares and Friday’s raid on the magic money tree to boost NHS spending.

    Problem is, it smacks of desperation given how the tone has been set from a typically rightwing start to the Tory campaign.

  4. John. reid says:

    Danny Speight, plenty of votes 4% green, at least 1% of greens don’t realise that they’re a far left party, 1.5% of SNP, now plaid, ha vea few left wing voters,

    but as Tafia points out, suggesting that labour could get extra votes from the left who are voting elsewhere, you’re forgetting that the amount of votes the Tories could get from the right are the Ukip vote 13%’ approx

  5. derek flaunty says:

    Labour must be so thankful to David Cameron for alienating so many Conservatives, even now Cameron could have them back in the fold by offering a promise on an early full & free referendum but he just doesn’t have the strength to overrule his civil servants & advisers & win the election outright….what a plonker he is!

  6. Blair says:

    UKIP has picked up much of its – now declining – share from ‘did not votes’.

    Which is why, contrary to what poor Tafia thinks, as UKIP declines the Tories are not benefitting wholesale.

    Really BenM. So Labour HQ saying that two thirds of UKIPs vote are formerly tories is a blatant and utter lie and the Labour election machine is talking out of it’s arse is it? Whereas you know more than people employed by the Labour Party.

    Heres a little graph for you dating back to GE2010 up to present. Study it, and have a very long think about what it means, especially how the little coloured lines move in relation to each other – it’s not difficult and there are plenty of four year olds who will help if you are struggling. Also, consider ringing Labour HQ and telling them that they are spending tens of thousands on idiots and you know more.


    And yes – I am publicly belittling you. Because it’s easy and because it amuses me.

  7. John Reid, Labour’s loss of seats in Scotland isn’t because Scottish Labour MPs are too far to the left. We know that not to be the case just by looking at the likes of Tom Harris. The loss could easily end up being the difference between Labour having a majority or not.

    Of course you are free to argue that policies needed to win in Scotland would lose England votes, but several opinion polls show the majority electorate’s views on individual policies to be to the left of Labour. Rail ownership would be an example.

    We may even be able take some votes back from UKIP. The cautious minimal offer that Douglas Alexander has made to the electorate is proving to be a disaster.

  8. swatantra says:

    Unfortunately UKIP’s tanks are firmly parked in Labours backyards where traditional Labour voters were taking for granted, and then immediately ignored. That will be the crucial factor in the GE and which Part forms the next Coalition Govt. Labour may swell face the price for not developing its support in traditional areas; its a lesson that should have been learnt in 2010 but wasn’t. We haven’t been developing our support in BAME communities either

  9. BenM says:



    “the biggest slice of UKIP support is not coming from those who votes for any of the main parties last time. Ex-Tories voters in these key marginals account for less than a third of the UKIP contingent.”


    Read it and weep.

  10. Tafia says:

    So there we go BenM – so you are calling Douglas Alexander a liar and accusing Labour of wasting tens of thousands of pounds, and telling them that there entire tactical deployment in England is bollocks.

  11. John P Reif says:

    Danny Speight, I never said Scottish Labour is going down hill due to being t Olmert wing, I pointed out that, the ex labour voters there who went sNP did it as theSNP are more left wing, but as. I said, thats1.5% of the total electorate ,

    Regarding Ukip going down, doesn’t mean the Tories are going up, fair enough, because when Ukp were on 22% 6 months ago, that extra 8% was ex labour voters, nearly all Ukip now are ex Tories,

  12. John P Reid says:

    Clem Attlee was asked just before he died who was the second best socialist prime minister after himself, Ramsey McDonald or Harold Wilson, neither he said Harold McMillan

    The Tories standing on a middle ground platform in 1959 meant, that no matter what trouble Suez caused, or Gaitskell getting(a few) more votes than 4 years earlier, the Tories could walk it, it would only be the rise of the liberals, the Tories looking burnt out, no Lseaze that saw us win, 4 years later, by getting less votes when we won, in 1964′ than when we lost in 1959,
    Apprenlty, a few labour members thought labour would n we win after 1959′ and get the unions to go to the Tories say what they were prepared to give up, and what we wanted, now it’s not the unions, it’s things like sure start. Social housing, ,if we late we’ll have to sa, that we’d like funding for some things, accept cuts for others, the recent view that non emergency ambulances to ferry us to hospitals, could be better run privately.

  13. Doug Murdoch says:

    The Fifties and Sixties were very different to the way we exist today.Look at the changes Services instead of manufacturing,Europe united,no Soviet menace,less American influence, Trade Union membership in the multi millions. All these factors have led to the Tory lite membership and voters.So Cameons desperate attempt to dig up Thatcher and her Right wing policies can be understood.

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