James Frayne is Director of communications agency Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion. The focus of this column is Theresa May’s conservatism for “ordinary working people”.
The defining theme of this column is – as above – politics for ordinary working people. Its genesis lies in the project I researched for Policy Exchange before the 2015 election: Overlooked but Decisive: Connecting with England’s Just About Managing Classes. It recommended the Conservatives overwhelmingly prioritise policies and communications for the lower middle class – C1/C2 voters who are “just about managing”.
Lynton Crosby’s campaign for David Cameron focused on these voters – who are around half the population of the majority of England’s traditional marginal seats – but Cameron never showed interest in them. As ConservativeHome readers will know, Nick Timothy’s interest in these voters is deep and longstanding and it’s no surprise Theresa May instigated a pivot towards them.
Over the last year, I’ve set out a number of policy ideas designed to appeal to lower middle class voters – particularly their core values of “family” and “fairness”. The policies ticked one of two boxes: helping raise lower middle class living standards or appealing to their hearts. Given this election is a turnout election, which policies should feature in the manifesto to get them out on election day? Here are four thoughts – two that make their lives easier, two that appeal to their hearts.
Those policies that have trickled out so far – such as energy price capping and an increase in the minimum wage – will appeal to the lower middle class (and particularly the affluent working class), but they leave something of an unpleasant taste in the mouth for Conservative activists, as Paul Goodman hinted yesterday. These policies would appeal to those just about managing – and ought to appeal to the party base too.