A chasm separates the Tory leadership race from the public

The writer is the UK Director of More in Common

While those vying to be our next prime minister were laying out their positions on gender, corporate tax and the European Court of Human Rights last week, I was busy talking to voters. about very different interests. These can best be summed up as: how can they afford to get through the winter.

It is not new for the public to think that politicians speak a different language than they do. But the contrast between the issues that dominate the Tory contest and what the participants in our focus groups in the Altrincham constituencies in Cheshire and the Rother Valley in South Yorkshire want to talk about cannot be. more clearly.

Very different conversations reflect different powers.

Currently, candidates are making offers to 358 Tory MPs, who, frankly, are unusual. Both are more involved in politics by niche topics and, like research by Alan Wager and others show, far more economically correct than the average voter. Only 5% of Tory MPs agree there is one law for the rich and one for the poor – compared with 72% of voters.

The race will soon move into the membership phase to select the final two candidates. Will we then see a conversation that better reflects the concerns of the country? Do not hold your breath. Snapshots of Conservative Party members in the UK are definitely not representative – as Tim Bale’s research has foundThey are middle class 86%, 97% white and 71% male, with an average age of 57.

Perhaps, then, once the new leader has managed to be elected by this unrepresentative group, they can offer a unified opinion with the electorate? Again, Our research shows that it won’t be easy.

The electoral coalition that gave the Conservatives a majority of 80 seats in 2019 is made up of four different constituencies. We’ve named the one who most resembles the members of Tory Backbone Conservatives: they’re in the pocket. Seventy-nine per cent support the Conservative Party in 2019 and 76 per cent will again. The second group, the disrespected traditionalists, are unlikely to switch to Labor but may not vote at all.

Then comes a bit of difficulty – balancing the two parts of the Tory alliance often looks in opposite directions. The Liberal Party was formed as the only remaining part of the Tory coalition, and has fallen from 49% of Conservative support in 2017 to just 37% today. Economically and socially liberal, they find culture wars alienating and disliking, such as Rwanda’s policy towards asylum seekers.

On the other side are the National Loyalists, who switched to the Conservative Party significantly in 2019 with 56% support. After Partygate, only 38% stayed. Socially and economically conservative, 75% strongly agree that the world is becoming more dangerous. Cross-channel refugees are a top problem for them. So these two groups are not ideological fellows.

Three things drew Conservative voters together in 2019 – burnout with Brexit debates, the threat of Jeremy Corbyn and, yes, Boris Johnson’s personal appeal. Not applicable now.

But several themes bring the Tory base together. First, they all ranked the cost of living as the top issue facing the country. Second, the Tory voting segments resembled the idea of ​​a patriotic national mission both at home and abroad – from upgrading to supporting Ukraine. And then there’s climate change – 73% of Liberals and Loyal Citizens want to see the UK reach net-zero emissions. Advocating that goal is not only good science but also smart politics.

The next Tory leader will face a difficult balancing act if they are to keep the Conservative coalition together. Last week’s red meat was pretty easy – the challenge now is to find a yard where the entire Tory family can get behind.

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