Introducing the A.N.T.I. voter (or, as I prefer to call them, the pound-stretchers)
James Bethell of NothingBritish.com has just completed extensive research into the phenomenon of the millions of voters walking away from the mainstream parties. Most of what is estimated to be an army of five million have drifted to not voting at all but also, in increasing numbers, they have gone to nationalist parties, like UKIP and the BNP. I should immediately say what James says; UKIP and BNP are very different parties in that UKIP is not a racist party. They are nonetheless part of the same phenomenon.
James organised a major national poll by YouGov that compared the views of three thousand UKIP, BNP and mainstream voters. He also conducted ten focus groups in different parts of the country with the voter groups, including NW Leicestershire, London, Rotherham, Staines and Stoke*.
The analysis uncovered four key characteristics of this group which numbers approximately five million:
- "First they are ‘Angry’ about the political system. They are tired of broken promises and political parties ready to surrender solemn pledges as soon as they are in office. Last year’s expenses crisis wasn’t the beginning of their disdain for MPs, but it did confirm their low view of parliament and politics.
- Secondly, they feel ‘Neglected’ financially, and because of this are much more pessimistic about their future than the average Briton. They are the pound-stretching class. They have to watch every penny. They worry about keeping their jobs. They resent their taxes going to undeserving causes or being used to bail out Ireland and rich bankers.
- The third characteristic of the ANTI voter is ‘Traditionalism’. They hold traditional views about crime, drugs, family values and national pride. They worry their country is changing too fast and not for the better.
- Finally, and most importantly, the ANTI voter is opposed to large-scale ‘Immigration’. The worry about immigration isn’t about race, except for a small minority. It is about pressure on the housing stock. It’s about competition for scarce jobs. It’s about children trying to learn in schools where English isn’t the first language for many of the class."
These voters are probably too raw in attitude for Ed Miliband in his confused search for the "squeezed middle" but they are voters without a home. Cameron has an opportunity to win them back and in his immigration and welfare policies he has made a very good start. The Coalition's crime, Europe and tax policies are probably going in the wrong direction, however.
The strategists in Cameron's circle rightly believe that there's a danger in wooing this category of voters because they might erode the progress that the party has made within 'Liberal Britain'. I would agree that the danger is real but I would also argue that no centre right party has ever won a majority without making big inroads into this 'pound-stretching class'. Thatcher had her Essex Man. Reagan had his 'Reagan Democrats'. John Howard had his Battlers. Stephen Harper won over the 'Tim Horton Voters'. ToryDiary recently noted their common characteristics. Cameron should study James Bethell's research and ConHome will be looking at it in a little more detail over coming days. In the meantime I've wrttten about the army of five million ANTIs in today's Daily Mail.
* Thanks for funding the research must go to Richard Smith, the businessman and philanthropist behind the 55 Tufton Street project which has gathered a number of centre right think tanks under the same roof.
7.15pm: James Forsyth on the ANTI voter