Will Tanner, a former deputy head of policy for Theresa May, told a gathering of policy wonks in London on Tuesday night that Jeremy Corbyn was able to turn the election by becoming the ‘candidate who represented change.’
The director of Onward, a new Tory think tank, said that early on he believed May was seen as a change candidate, but this flipped during the campaign. ‘Clearly we made mistakes in that campaign which means we ended it in that position [of having to form a minority government],’ he said.
Tanner was speaking at the launch of The New Working Class, a book aimed at getting politicians to recognise that the traditional working class of miners and dockers has shrunk, to be replaced by a more diverse group.
The author Claire Ainsley, executive director of the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: ‘Any political party who wants to win a majority needs to understand the new working class.’ She estimates it at half the UK’s population.
‘I don’t think mainstream politics has listened well enough to the concerns of low to middle income voters for a very long time,’ she said. Arguing that politicians should better stand for what the public want, rather than imposing elite views, she added: ‘It’s clearly not the case that just because you come up with a bunch of policies the votes flow.’
Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, said that both Labour and the Tories’ respective members had been polarised by recent political events, and their attitudes did not align with those of the wider public.
‘That’s going to make it much harder for those parties to get back to the centre ground,’ he said. The New Working Class also cites research suggesting that richer people are more likely to join political parties than the poor.