First off I must say: I supported the coalition in 2010. I remain unconvinced that the arithmetic or politics of working with Labour in May 2010 would have worked. I still support the coalition, for positive (tax changes, actually looking at executive pay, pupil premium etc) but also I’m afraid for negative reasons: we’ve made mistakes as a party and the coalition government has made mistakes but Labour are still worse at the moment.
Anyway, having said that. I have just finished reading Kavanagh and Cowley’s The British General Election of 2010 (Palgrave Macmillan). A very interesting reading on various aspects of the campaign. One table that makes very interesting reading for a geek like me was tucked away in the final normal chapter on page 341, table 16.3.
This was a breakdown of voting by various different categories. A large poll by Ipsos-MORI was used to get an idea of how different age groups, social groups, genders etc voted.
As a LibDem supported I was surprise by some bits and profoundly unsurprised by other bits.
Shockingly we did worst in the two highest turning out groups: our national score of 24% across the board was above our 55-64 and 65+ scores (23 and 16 respectively). This fits a view that people tend to be more fixed in voting intentions as they get older (a natural idea I suppose) and so we are unlikely to convert people. In fact it was worse than that as 65+ was the only group in which are vote fell from similar figures for 2005. This was despite the triple lock for the state pension: now an excellent but costly Government policy.
The problem is that these two groups have turnouts of 73% and 76%, well above the national turnout of 65%.
The interesting figures were at the other end in the lowest turnout categories: 18-24 (44% turnout) and 25-34 (55%). Here a big sell was the tuition fees. This is the age range who are students, or recent students, or remember the betrayal of Labour reversing their tuition fees policy twice.
Here we did well. Very well.
The break down for 18-24 was 30% Tory, 30% LibDem, 31% Labour: within margins of error of each other one assumes; and for 25-34 35% Tory, 30% Labour, 29% LibDem. Whilst we’ve always done better with younger people than older, in 2005 we were a clear third in 18-24: Labour on 38%, Tories on 28% and us on 26% (despite Labour’s record on tuition fees and Iraq).
The question is whether the stay at homes were any different: if they got older and started voting, would they be Labour and Conservative voters? My memory of the polling during the campaign would suggest not, but I’ve not dug out anything on this so feel free to correct me.
If the poll is accurate then this means we were neck and neck with Labour in the people who will be voting for the next 40 years.
So my question is simple: will the mistakes we made in handling tuition fees be worse than a blip: Have we blown a chance of a real generational change in politics?