Ballot Box. credit: unsplash

The next general election will shatter party loyalties

By Lottie Fountain

With a turbulent political climate amongst us, and big decisions in the pipeline, The Glasgow Guardian assesses how Britain’s leading parties will fair in the midst of changing policies and unstable leadership

The long-standing assumption is this: left-wing constituents vote Labour, right-wing vote Conservative. But this is shifting. The degeneration of the Conservative Party and Labour’s tilt towards centrism under Starmer have redefined the socio-political categories which have long characterised the UK’s voting patterns.

Under Starmer, Labour has moved towards a business-focused agenda in an effort to snatch up long-time centrist Tory voters who have, in their masses, become disenchanted with the current government. Scandals, cronyism and internal conflict have left Tory approval ratings beaten bloody with little time to improve before the next general election. 

In an exemplar of current political sentiment, Iceland’s Executive Chairman and former Conservative supporter, Richard Walker, appeared on BBC Breakfast on Monday 29th January with the message: ‘Labour is the party of business’. Boasting the adoption of ‘centrist, pragmatic views’, Walker’s comments made it onto Labour’s official instagram page, where it received backlash such as: ‘A right wing politician saying that Labour now reflect his views is not a good thing.’. Another user simply stated ‘Well this is gross. Thought it was a party for working people?’.

So, who will vote for whom? This is a question that both major parties will be analysing very closely as we near the upcoming general election. While the Labour Party would like to think its core vote is composed of skilled tradespeople, it actually relies on a good chunk of those at the bottom of the labour market and the socially-concerned middle class. The 2024 election will likely see a huge number of business-owners abandon the Tories, and the votes to be casted by long-time Labour supporters are somewhat up in the air. Those who identify further left than Starmer could decide the strength of Labour’s majority. This demographic are also very unlikely to vote Conservative, resulting in the possibility of a ‘voter boycott’. 

With Nicola Sturgeon’s recent fall from grace and the reveal of Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey’s involvement in the recent Post Office scandal, viable alternatives to the two main parties are scarce in Scotland, too. Lib Dem seats are predicted to continue to stagnate at around 10% of the vote share, while Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar is closing the gap on the wavering SNP majority. With the downfall of the SNP in 2023, a very decent Labour majority in Westminster is not only on the cards, but is almost certain.

This isn’t to say that other parties won’t have an effect on UK politics at all. We must keep in mind that the power of MPs in Westminster lies in their ability to influence legislation, as seen with Brexit and tuition fees.

Now that Labour’s majority is a stable prediction, the changes the UK can expect to see if they do assume government aren’t immediately apparent. Starmer has confirmed that taxes for working people will not be lowered until economic growth is stable. As the party for the working people, is Labour straying too far from its core values? Starmer’s policies have faced criticism for appearing too similar to the proposed Tory objectives, but Starmer has fiercely defended Labour’s policy. It seems like neither of the two main parties are acting on principle, but rather working in the context of voting patterns. In the post-Corbyn Labour Party, Starmer is careful to not make his campaign resemble a utopian dream. Having said that, consistent YouGov polling reveals the lasting effects of Corbynism on Labour’s reputation. The polls show that the Labour Party is seen as more left-wing today than in May 2015, despite Miliband and Starmer receiving almost identical ratings for their perceived place on the political spectrum.

Things are set to get exciting with a dirty brawl for power in our midst. After years of changing PMs with no mandates, the apathetic complacency which we have become so used to will be hammered out of us in the months to come.


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