How Have Voters Not Changed Their Minds In Four Years When Politics Has Gone To Hell?

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Over the last four years we’ve been through Brexit, scandals around antisemitism, Islamophobia, Grenfell, Windrush, an Iraq inquiry finally being published, #Piggate, Westminster sexual scandals, two general elections and two different prime ministers.

Yet now all local election results are in, the turnout (~36%) is the same, the result is ‘a draw’ between parties according to polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice and there is only a net swing of four of 150 councils.

As a guide, there was a 17-council swing in 2010, 13 councils in 2014.

While the demise of Ukip is important and the (slight) resurgence of Lib Dems could mean future improvement in general elections, London was meant to swing towards London and there was talk of real change afoot, with the local elections showing how fed up people were with the government.

Tories were keen to show that they had a calm hold of power while ‘ageing socialist demagogue’ Corbyn was a ‘risk’ to Britain.

Neither of those things happened.

How has so much change in English politics led to so little change in voting choices?

‘The electorate is more stable than commentators like to give them credit for,’ political scientist Professor Will Jennings, of University Of Southampton, tells Metro.co.uk

‘Although Brexit offers much uncertainty, voters aren’t going to move in huge numbers until they see a massive shift [in their everyday lives] one way or the other.’

Experts won’t draw too many broad conclusions from local elections but in the four years since elections (and even in the year since the general election), foodbank usage has rocketed, NHS funding is at ‘crisis’ point, Labour still faces an antisemitism scandal and Tories face their own around Islamophobia and Windrush.

‘Both parties have faced quite major scandals over the last month and support doesn’t seem to have been dampened,’ Prof Jennings says.

‘That says a lot about the nature of this current political moment. Quite significant things are happening but people aren’t really shifting their voting allegiances.’

And that ‘holding pattern’, as Prof Jennings puts it, is a worrying trend.

Voters won’t change their party of choice until the world comes crashing down around them.

BBC News’ Laura Kuenssberg characterises it as voters splitting ‘broadly Tory v Labour, Towns v Cities, Young v Old, and Leave v Remain’ and we’re back to the politics of old.

Burned too often by stunts like the Brexit Bus or from false promises around tax and all the ‘fake news’ furore, minds won’t be changed until it’s too late.

‘Loads of people who just really aren’t that bothered as long as everything is going reasonably well for them,’ Paula Surridge, of the University Of Bristol, told NME.

Until the decisions made hit voters’ pockets, hit their communities and challenge their way of life directly, little will change.

It’s so very familiar.

‘We just have to wait for the next major event for huge numbers of voters to change their mind,’ Prof Jennings says.

‘Whether it’s Brexit, an economic crisis or something else, those sort of shocks can have dramatic consequences.

‘Voters are more volatile than they were but it’s going to require something to jolt us out of this current holding pattern.’

That holding pattern is bringing British politics to a standstill.

Britain wants a customs union of some sort but doesn’t want THE customs union, it wants all the benefits of the EU with none of the responsibility. And while Brexit still means Brexit, nearly two years have passed and we still don’t know what that actually means.

With no protest vote left after the demise of Ukip and Lib Dems with the Green Party still only growing slowly, voters are left picking between the age-old caricatures accompanying both of the biggest parties.

If politics is all about the best way to boil a frog, it seems like voters won’t pay attention until the hob catches fire and the whole house burns down.

And why would they?

Until someone can actually the question of what Brexit actually means for voters accurately, this ‘holding’ pattern isn’t very engaging for anyone.

Courtesy: metro.co.uk

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