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“There is no left and right – except in political imagination”

By Peter Hoskin
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That quote above? It was uttered by Stephan Shakespeare in his presentation to ConservativeHome’s Victory 2015 conference. Stephan revealed some new YouGov polling which shows that most people think that, overall, they sit in the political centre. That’s hardly surprising. But when he polled people on individual policies the results were considerably more striking. Here, for example, is how people responded to a question about NHS privatisation (click for a larger version):

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But here is how they responded on immigration:

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Which is to say, most voters are what we’d normally call “left-wing” on NHS policy, and “right-wing” on immigration. And there are plenty of other examples of this bi-polarity. Indeed, Stephan said that one of the few policy areas where the traditional bell curve applies – where people congregating around the centre – is tax:

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So, what’s the lesson? As Stephan put it, politicians should spend less time advocating a lurch to either the “left” or the “right” or, indeed, the “centre”. When it comes to voters, those labels don’t apply in any substantial sense. Individual people are a multiplicity of beliefs.

But while there may not be, as Stephan put it, a “policy centre”, there is an “emotional centre”. His point is that, rather than lurching this way or that, the Conservatives should do more to wrap their policies up in language that actually appeals to voters. People feel good, he said, about messages of aspiration, community, reform, fairness, and so on.

Of course, it helps if these messages seem authentic and sincere, which is rather a problem for politicians at the moment. Stephan’s closing point was about how to make voters less sceptical – and the answer, it turns out, is to two-fold. First, concentrate on the practical (e.g. “the cost of living”) rather than the political (e.g. “Big Ideas”) Second, take risks and do difficult things. Become a dragon slayer.

I shall leave you with Stephan’s own slide about the dragons that ought to be taken on. Time for David Cameron to dig out his sword and shield…

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