Why Labour needs to stop chasing the mythical middle

The discourse of the main political parties of the UK has become one of the centre right. The reason being that the conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems have become obsessed with chasing the votes of middle Britain. The reasoning behind this has been the idea that the upper class and the working class will not change who they vote for. The middle however has the potential to move from one party to the other. This group then gives you enough electoral capital to push you over the opposition.


While this strategy worked in the Blair years it has the potential to massively damage the current Labour party. The mythical middle that the Labour party and the Conservative party both chase after is as the name suggests not real. The mythical middle is the creation of averages and statistics. The image we have of the average income is one that is skewed by the many millionaires and billionaires who reside in our country. They drag the average income into a realm that is not representative of reality.


In fact the average income is below this mythical middle and thus would actually be more inclined to follow a more traditional Labour approach. The main reason however that Labour needs to stop tailoring its policies to the mythical middle is that it is harming the foundations of their traditional source of votes.


The working class has since 1945 almost always been in the pocket of the Labour party. The conservatives have never had any realistic hopes of taking the old industrial strongholds of Labour such as Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester etc… yet just because the working class don’t have an alternative does not mean they have to vote either.


The number of working class people who turn out to vote is often un-representative to begin with but as Labour has continued to chase after its mythical middle it has distanced itself with its traditional core voters and in fact makes them less appealing to the real middle incomes in British society. With the conservatives following a similar line of stratagem the two parties haven’t seen a dramatic difference in fortunes as both battle over the mythical middle and the rest of the electorate sit at home with no alternative and thus their vote is removed from the equation.


While this strategy under the old status quo was damaging to Labour as many working class voters were more unlikely to turn out and vote for Labour in key swing seats making any gains in the mythical middle potentially nullified. There is however a new status quo emerging in British politics as unfortunate as it is and it can’t be ignored especially by Labour.


This new status quo is being formed by UKIP. The hopes of many Labour supporters including myself was that UKIP would drain voters from the conservative party allowing Labour to dominate through the divided right. Much the same way Thatcher did during the divisions in the Labour party. This belief system however was gravely wrong.


UKIP is a populist right party that feeds on the fears and trepidations of voters and while they do have strong traction among the middle and upper class it is in the working class that they have the potential to garner much of their force. There is a reason that the more extreme versions of UKIP and Labour the Fascists and the Communists have such violent clashes, they both draw from the same support base. As does UKIP and Labour.


The problem that faces Labour in the upcoming election is that while they pursue the mythical middle their traditional base of support is going to be chipped away by UKIP. While I doubt this will be enough to get UKIP a seat or dislodge Labour from many of its old industrial strong holds it will damage them in middle England where many of the battle grounds for British politics are fought.


If Labour fails to catch the mythical middle from the conservatives and lose the support of the actual middle to UKIP and the Conservatives then they will not even have their strong traditional base to fall back on.    


Before you dismiss this as all hypothetical and based on ifs and buts remember that, that is all the future is a number of ifs and buts. For example if Labour was to pursue many of the traditional left wing policies that many of the working class and middle class desire such as nationalisation of the railways and parts of energy, they could reclaim many of the lost working class voters and potentially gain many voters from the real middle class. This would give Labour a strong voting base across the country and solidify its self in the electorate forcing UKIP to drain votes from the Conservatives.


For this reason it is time for Labour to abandon the mythical middle, turn left and come home.