By Tim Montgomerie
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Over recent weeks I've been arguing that there aren't a class of voters on the Right of the centre ground and another class to the Left. I have argued that the very idea of the centre ground is a nonsense. Voters, instead, occupy the common ground. They simultaneously want tougher crime policies, a looser relationship with Europe, tougher border controls, a more demanding welfare state and they also support progressive taxes, investment in the NHS, generous benefits to pensioners and equality for minorities. Very few people are left or right-wing. They are, well, kind of normal! If the Conservative Party wants to again become the natural party of government it must become a national party again – aiming to represent and serve all of society and not just sections of it or a narrow range of society's concerns.
In the latest edition of Prospect Magazine YouGov's Peter Kellner confirms this analysis. First of all he finds that large majorities of existing and target Labour voters support what the media often lazily describe as right-wing views on Europe and immigration:
The so-called left-wing policy of imposing a cap on pay is less popular than total opposition to immigration and interestingly 59% of the people who used to support Labour in 1997 but defected subsequently want to leave the EU.
Other polls find large majorities of Tory voters supporting higher taxation of high value properties. They also support investment in the NHS and the general safety-net.
Peter Kellner summarises the electorate in this very helpful way (my emphasis):
"The political classes are far more divided than the electorate. The figures in our chart show some significant differences between Labour loyalists and defectors, but also the fact that their attitudes overlap to a large degree. It is only in their views on the political parties that they divide into two completely different tribes. They are more like supporters of rival football teams than inhabitants of warring nations. They sport different colours with great passion, but they live in similar homes, have similar jobs, watch similar TV shows and drive similar cars. This is true even if we extend the analysis to include Tory loyalists. Their attitudes to economic and social issues are modestly—and only modestly—different from those of Labour loyalists. Now that the 20th-century contest between the rival ideologies of capitalism and socialism is over, British politics has become largely consensual. On any given issue, individual voters will hold widely different views; but overall, the range of opinions held by Labour, Tory and Lib Dem voters is far more similar than the parties, and their media cheerleaders, generally acknowledge."