Glyn Gaskarth says Conservative councillors who want to win should remember the C2 voters
Conservative councils need to make public spending cuts to balance the books. If we spread the pain we will not build the electoral base we need to win. We need to target key swing voters and recruit the grassroots activists necessary to mobilise them. A key part of this is recognising those groups very unlikely to vote Tory and those that are susceptible to voting Tory and transferring resources from the former to the latter.
A key group of target voters is the C2 social group.The C2s are skilled manual workers. We need to win them over. Former Labour Minister Liam Byrne describes how Labour lost the 2010 election because of a fall of 20 percentage points in their share of the C2 vote. For an explanation of who is a C2 read here. We need to mobilize these C2’s to defend the common good against the Labour special interests, building on the leap forward made in 2010.
Conservative councils need to explore how to increase the disposable income of these C2’s and increase their identification with the Tory party. Increasing VAT was a bad move and should not have been done. The refusal to abolish the TV licence fee is also regretable. I believe we should prioritize cutting the pay and conditions of public sector workers over reducing core public services. Also we should cut overall public spending more than the existing plans require and use the money to incentivise C2 voters to vote Tory.
First, councils should not spread the pain. We should concentrate both the pain and the rewards. Pain is unpopular and if that is all you offer then don’t expect to be re-elected. People need a positive reason to vote for a Conservative council. Freezing council tax is not enough. Many Labour councils have taken up the Government offer to freeze council tax. This is no longer a divide between the parties; we need to cut council tax. People in the C2 bracket earning £20,000 to £30,000 per annum are facing declining disposable incomes; the benefit of voting Tory should be a cut in their council tax. Being better than the last lot or better than your neighbours is not enough.
Second, the affordability and availability of housing is a huge problem for C2’s. Conservative councils should increase the discounts on tenant purchases of social housing. We should also link the provision of tenancies in council properties to those who are employed and can demonstrate a record of work for a designated period. Abolishing national pay bargaining for public sector workers will also help private sector workers in the C2 bracket in the North and the Midlands because they compete to purchase houses with better paid public sector workers. Conservative councils should favour more residential development in their areas but impose charges on developers and use these to reduce the council tax. This will balance the needs of young families for spacious accomodation with existing home owners dislike of new developments.
Third, Conservative councils need to defund politically correct services. If your council is paying to translate documents which do not relate to emergency services then it should not be. Metropolitan Labour upper middle class spokespeople will condemn you for this. They will seek to legally challenge your decision. You will be called a racist and the campaigns against you will be ugly. However, ordinary working class C2 voters expect all citizens to learn English. They resent subsidizing people who refuse to integrate into British society. This is a wedge issue and should be deployed in your council now. It is the right policy and it appeals to a key voting demographic. It saves money, it does not cost money.
Fourth, transparency will greatly help Conservative campaigners. Publicising the wage bill for public sector workers by council and the average salaries paid will help expose the divide in the Labour coalition between upper middle class public servants on high wages with final salary pensions and semi-skilled manual workers struggling to make ends meet. With national pay bargaining abolished Conservative councils in northern areas can run on reducing council pay and use the money raised to target C2 voters. We need to build a genuine grassroots movement in support of the austerity measures. Sharing the pain at a local level is a recipe for disaster.
We need to ensure that private sector workers particularly those in the C2 bracket gain from our policies. The beginning of this is organizing and attending marches like The March Against Debt on May 14th to help identify potential supporters and activists. Developing a policy agenda that clearly favours our target electoral groups is also key. We are 'all in this together' but we do need to give our supporters, current and potential, a reason to turn out and vote Tory.
The views expressed above are my personal views and not those of my employer or any other organisation with which I am associated.