Through the feeds of politics-internet I haven’t been able to escape the BMG research on the UK’s political clans (find out yours here). If you’ve managed to escape the discussion there’s more information in The Independent (and a more in depth report here), but basically it splits people into ten values and identity groups and then analyses how each vote, essentially highlighting how fractured the current alignments are and how little the current party system reflects these clans.
For liberals of all stripes, the initial findings can be disheartening. People with explicitly authoritarian beliefs make up the largest part of the electorate at 38 percent. Those who might broadly be termed liberal are a much smaller group.
It’s not scientific, but the smattering of polls in various Lib Dem online discussion forums suggest that roughly two thirds of our members are ‘Orange Bookers’ (OBs). This is a group who favour market solutions but are broadly in favour of redistribution and government intervention when the evidence supports it. They’re supportive of free trade, free movement of people and are optimistic about multiculturalism. Another third are ‘Global Green Community’ (GGC). BMG define these as those with a more interventionist view on the economy, but with liberal and environmentalist stances on social issues. They want government to pursue an ethical foreign policy, and have little interest in the nation-state, preferring a civic interpretation of Britishness. After that we have a small smattering of members who fall into one or two other camps.
Alas, Lib Dem support can’t be counted upon in these two groups. We don’t poll overwhelmingly well with any clan but we do best with the Orange Bookers, taking 17 percent of their support at the 2017 GE (the remainder split almost evenly between the Tories and Labour). When we look to our other liberal core things look rather grim; a staggering 83 percent of GGCs voted Labour, with our party taking just 9 percent. If I had to describe them in columnist terms I’d call them the youthquake demographic, with their hearts having been stolen by Corbyn and his merry band of Labourites. While unfortunately BMG don’t cover voting patterns prior to the 2015 GE, it seems likely we did pick up a lot more of these voters prior to the Coalition.
But that doesn’t mean we need to despair. If we want to pursue a core-vote strategy it makes sense to maximise our Orange Booker vote. As BMG notes, between the 2015 and 2017 elections “the Lib Dems were able to retain the support of one “core” clan (Orange Bookers) that now proves vital to their electoral survival and revival”. So if we are going to find a group that will reliably stick with up between elections, it makes sense to start with the OBs. Socially liberal, pro-EU and currently described as the type most likely to call us “a wasted vote”, they’re politically homeless, under-served and we should be hoping to poll as well with them as Corbyn does with the GGC. That means we need to be burnishing our pro-business policies, keep fighting for a second referendum, and be prepared to stick up for immigration.
That’s not to overlook the need to expand our reach elsewhere; OBs are just 8 percent of the population. The GGC and ‘Modern Working Life’ groups also have rather liberal attitudes, and while it’s hard to see how we can dislodge the former from Labour in the near future, developing policies that address hip-pocket issues may be the key to gaining support from the latter.
There was some recent polling done for the London Mayoral which found that whenever the Lib Dems were in the news, regardless of what the story was, we started to poll better. There’s a whole group of people out there who wholeheartedly agree with us and we should be doing whatever we can to make sure they know that.
Aria Babu lives in London and is on the Board of Liberal Reform.
This post originally appeared on Lib Dem Voice.