Monday, 27 October 2014

Class Lines ,Regional Lines and Politics

Readers, it has been confirmed that Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected President of Brazil after the second round run-off. Even though she was not my favourite candidate, it is better that she was elected instead of the right-wing candidate Aecio Neves.

It was a rather close runoff though, with Dilma defeating Aecio only by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6% in the second round. More importantly, there were reports that urban and working-class voters were much more inclined to support Dilma, whereas upper-class (and upper-middle class) voters in Brazil were more inclined to support Aecio. Support for Aecio was also stronger in rural areas outside the Amazon.

Class lines and regional lines are prominent in politics elsewhere of course-but in Britain it is particularly pronounced. Polls have shown that despite the Conservatives' woes, they continue to lead among people whose socio-economic status would be stated by the National Readership Survey to be AB' (professional or managerial, basically), whereas amongst people whose socio-economic status is C1 (clerical or service), C2 (skilled working class), or DE (unskilled or casual workers, and also those not in work generally) are more likely to vote Labour or UKIP. These polls also show that there are generally more Liberal Democrat and Green voters amongst the 'ABC1' strata than the 'C2DE' strata of society.

Whether the Conservatives are tied with Labour or some points behind, they are still leading in the South East and South West, and Labour are considerably ahead in the North, particularly the North East. In bad years either for Labour or the Conservatives, regional lines are clearly visible in all general elections since 1983 (when major boundary changes occurred which in particular merged many under-sized seats and split many over-sized seats that existed for the 1979 general election) and notably for 1983, 1997, and 2010.

In 1983, Labour fell to its lowest ebb in recent memory with 209 seats-and notably, it won no seats at all in the South East region, only one (Bristol South) in the South West region, and only two (Thurrock and Ipswich, both lost by Labour in 1987 but regained in 1992) in the East of England region, but nevertheless still dominated the North East, Scotland, and Wales in seat terms. Conversely in 1997, when the Conservatives fell from 343 seats (notionally) to 165, they ended up with no seats at all in Scotland and Wales, and only one (Hexham, by a slim majority) in the North East region, but still held more than half the seats of the South East region, and also more than half the seats in the East of England region. Up until their strong South West revival, the region with the most seats held by the Liberals/Liberal Democrats was Scotland (8/23 in 1983, 9/22 in 1987, and 9/20 in 1992).

At present, the Conservatives hold almost all the seats in the South East and East of England regions (74/84 an 51/58 respectively, giving them 40% of their seats from just two regions of the UK!), but only one Scottish seat, eight Welsh seats (most held marginally), two North East seats (Stockton South will likely be lost next year). Labour, meanwhile, hold only eight seats in total across the two Conservative-dominated regions mentioned earlier, but most of the seats of the North East, Scotland, and Wales (and nearly two thirds of the North West's seats as well; the Conservatives won over half the North West's seats in 1983 and 1987). Nearly half the Liberal Democrats' current seats are in just two regions (Scotland with 11 and the South West with 15), and there are no Lib Dem MPs in the East Midlands at present.

Meanwhile, the top three targets (first to hold, second and third to win) for me and my fellow Green Party members for next year's general election are in the South East (Brighton Pavilion), the East (Norwich South), and the South West (Bristol West). We are winning over many ex-Labour voters, yet we experienced our strongest surge in the South West, the weakest region for Labour due to the Liberal Democrats' presence (we are taking more Lib Dem voters than Labour voters, though, depending from area to area).

It would be so much easier to blur or break these lines with the introduction of proportional representation, so that we would no longer have to vote tactically (now useless since there are almost no real differences between the LibLabCons)-and Vote For Policies shows that people who would vote with their heart will generally vote Green anyway by plurality, regardless of where they live.

Alan.







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