I didn’t believe it at first. It has taken a long time to absorb and understand it. It seems so contrary to everything we have always known about politics in Britain that it requires a big adjustment of our world view. The link between class and voting has been reversed. People are now more likely to vote Tory if they are working class than if they are middle class – and the other way round for Labour.
It was not until the elections last week that this fact suddenly became a staple of political analysis. But when Hartlepool, a name that might as well mean “Always Labour” in ancient Norse, fell to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, everyone knew that something was up. And when Labour gained Chipping Norton in the local council elections on the same day, and the mayoralties of the West of England and of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we knew that the world had been turned upside down.
Realisation had been dawning for some time. When Labour won Canterbury and Kensington in 2017, it felt as if the ground was moving beneath our feet; and when it lost so many working-class seats in the north and Midlands in 2019. I knew that the association between class and voting had weakened since 2005. At each election since then the correlation declined, until it seemed to disappear altogether in 2019, with some pollsters such as YouGov suggesting it had gone into reverse.
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