My attention has been drawn by a good friend, Matthew Brunning, to a poll which breaks down political support by class and age. It has featured in several newspapers and I daresay you have seen it. The universal line taken by the journalists has been that it is remarkable that the Tories now have a significant majority in the working class group.
That is, I agree, very interesting. But I am much more interested by the decline in support for the Conservatives amongst the middle classes.
These are the figures: in 1992 the Tories had a 30% lead over Labour in the middle class group and Labour had a 10% lead in the working class group; today, the Conservatives have a 22% lead over Labour in the middle class group and a 17% lead over Labour in the working class group. Of course, the jump in working class support for the Tories is far greater than the drop in middle class support. But it still seems to me to be fascinating that the middle classes are apparently drifting towards Labour (and some towards the Liberal Democrats), and away from the Conservatives, at a time when support for the Conservatives overall is reaching almost unheard of heights.
Draw a graph and you will see that, should this tendency continue, the time could well come when the proportion of working class Tories will be higher than the proportion of middle class Tories.
I am not suggesting that Mrs May should be desperately worried that the traditional core vote for the Conservatives is diminishing. They still remain dominant amongst middle class voters and it would be very surprising if Labour were to overtake them. Furthermore, there is almost certainly a Brexit element in the latest figures. Most middle class people assume they are much cleverer than the working classes (a rather depressing conceit) and they are endlessly told by all the media (even newspapers which support Brexit) that only the working classes voted to leave the EU. They see the Conservatives as being the party of Brexit and assume, therefore, that being as clever as they are, they must support other parties, even Labour under Corbyn. Once Brexit is out of the way that will, I assume, change and we may revert to normal service.
Still, the figures do suggest to me that there may be some quite interesting results, come 8th June, in south eastern constituencies. The swing to the Conservatives there could turn out to be a lot smaller than it will be in what were previously considered to be Labour heartlands. We must wait and see.
One of the articles analysing this poll went on to tell us that age has replaced class as the new factor which divides the parties. Unfortunately, comparative figures for age between 1992 and now are not actually given. All we are told is that Labour is now ahead in the 18 to 24 group and the Conservatives are ahead in the older groups. My own guess is that there is absolutely nothing new in that. Indeed, I would not be at all surprised to be told that support for Labour in the 18 to 24 group has declined rather than increased since 1992. Ever since the Labour party was invented it has, as I understand it, attracted more young votes than the Conservatives have. I can’t see that changing dramatically.
I predict wide variations in the results from individual constituencies, with the Tories doing very well in the Midlands, the North, Wales and even Scotland, while Labour and the Lib Dems just hang on in the South.