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Philip Davies MP: Win the Blue Collar Vote or prepare for Opposition

PDPhilip Davies is the Member of Parliament for Shipley and Parliamentary Spokesman for Blue Collar Conservatism. For more information about Blue Collar Conservatism you can visit the website. Follow Philip on Twitter.

The Conservatives cannot hope to win the next election without gaining substantial support from blue collar Britons.  Blue collar voters have been vital to every Conservative election victory since the age of mass suffrage.  2010 was no exception, with our biggest swings coming from C2 and D voters.  Today somewhere between 35% and 40% of people are employed in some form of manual work but, according to Lord Ashcroft’s polls, the numbers describing themselves as working class are as high as 58%.

It is from these groups which we must find the support to give us a majority in 2015.  While this will be a challenge, I believe it can be done.  Indeed, I believe that it should be viewed as an opportunity.

Quite simply, Labour has abandoned the working class.  Blue collar voters were ignored throughout Labour’s time in office and they were amongst those who lost out most as a result of Labour’s disastrous management of our economy.  In fact, far from being for the working class, Labour favours those who do not work!

When it comes to the values of blue collar voters, it is Conservatives who share them.  It is the Conservatives who understand their views on issues like tax, welfare, crime, Europe and immigration.  Yet despite us sharing many of their values, many of them do not believe that we are on their side.

For too many there is a perception that we are not for people like them.  Let me take the example of self-employed C2s.  In Lord Ashcroft’s polling on Blue Collar Tories, only 26% of self-employed C2s said they thought we were on their side.  We should be ashamed of this statistic.  If our party is not for self-employed C2s, then I do not know who we are for.

What we need is a clear mission and a clear purpose so that the average voter knows what we are about.  Margaret Thatcher was good at connecting with blue collar voters – they knew what she was for and what her agenda meant for them.

Can we really say that the same is true today?  Do people really understand our mission and what it means for them?  Does this lack of clarity about our mission create a perception that we are not for people like them?  I believe that what we need is a mission and purpose that resonates not only with blue collar voters but with everyone who wants to work hard and get on in life.

My colleague Simon Reevell, the MP for Dewsbury, asks of our policies “does this help us win in Batley?”  I think he is right and not just in Batley and Spen, but in seats like Bolton West which we need to win next time round too.

I believe that the average blue collar voter agrees that we need to tackle the deficit.  They know they cannot live beyond their means, so why should the Government?  But they need to hear more from us on what it means for them in their everyday lives.  We also need to be talking more about things which matter to them.

We need to move away from issues like ring-fencing international aid (while telling people there is no money for other things); minimum alcohol pricing (which gives the impression that it is OK for only those with money to drink) and green energy (when what most people really want is cheap not green energy).  We need to talk their language on tax and on welfare, and we should be making a virtue out of ensuring work pays, not apologising for what we are reducing.

Lord Ashcroft’s excellent “Blue Collar Tories” research makes interesting reading.  An example of the problem is highlighted very well by a woman who took part in one of the focus groups.  She said: “My 16 year-old daughter has gone to school and seen the Government give kids in her class a free computer.  She asked why we didn’t get one and it’s because we both work hard and pay all our bills.”

Is it fair that hard working people are left feeling like this?  If our mission is to mean anything, it must reach people like this woman.

As Labour advocate yet more debt and an extension of the “something for nothing” culture, I believe that we can win the support of blue collar voters.  To do this, we need to show them that we are the Party that wants to extend their opportunities and, crucially, that we are on their side.


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