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June 3, 2013 / C H Thompson

Patterns of voting – an overview continued

Sarlvik and Crewe (1983) position was the above factors were having a dramatic effect on voting patterns:

  • They argued that partisan dealignment was occurring.
  • Class dealignment was also occurring
  • Class and partisan dealignment was precipitated by what Stuart Hall termed the Great Moving Right Show for Hall the shift to the political Right was orchestrated around a number of key areas as outcomes of anti-collectivist ideology. An anti-collectivist society differs to collectivist societies like those found in Scandinavia.
  • Anti-collectivist societies introduce:
  1. Monetarism over Keynesian economics;thatcher
  2. anti-collectivism;
  3. raising falling educational standards;
  4. improving law and order;
  5. creation of scapegoats through the ‘enemy within’ – such as left-wing unions; law and order policies constructed around ethnicity
  6. use of right-wing press to advocate on Thatcher’s behalf
  7. and a realignment of the state by ‘rolling- back’ its involvement in big business and individuals – a contemporary example of privatisation is available for discussion here.

The following page explores the impact of how these were played out to the electorate with Mrs Thatcher encouraging the working-class to buy their own council houses, purchase shares (privatisation of nationalised industries) as well as drop their allegiance to trade-union membership (industrial relations)

  • Sarlvick and Crewe also detected a change in voters’ habits. Instead of being historically aligned to particular party ideologies, the electorate were starting to vote on policies issues – what they termed policy preferences

During her time in office the influence of Mrs Thatcher was significance on the cultural and political identity of Britain, particularly through key policies on housing; privatisation; industrial relations.

However, Heath, Jowell and Curtice (1985) challenged Sarlivk and Crewe’s views on the weakening of voting on social-class lines by arguing class remained significant:

  • Voters were choosing on the basis of ideological image of a party – a party’s image and its class image were treated as more or less synonymous.
  • The Labour Party was losing support because its political image was too left-wing (this highlights the tension between party image and party policies
  • The Liberal/SDP Alliance in 1980s was gaining support because its image was close to the values of the electorate.
  • It’s worth noting how political image was becoming increasingly significant – Mrs Thatcher changed her image in late 1970s

Whatever the reasons the Conservatives remained in power from 1979 to the election of 1992, when many people saw John Major (leader of Conservatives, Mrs Thatcher having resigned in 1990) as vulnerable to Labour’s leader Neil Kinnock. Despite their concerns the Conservatives won.

The role of the media – in election results has become an ever increasing topic of discussion, particularly in relation to the role of newspapers particularly The Sun in Tony Blair’s first election victory in 1997. However arguably it was in 1992 when most commentators thought Labour were going to claim victory over the Conservatives that the role of the media really hit the headlines. Following the Conservatives surprise victory The Sun’s head line read: ‘It was the Sun wot won it”. The Independent explains what happened.

In 1997 the Labour Party returned to power with a large majority – the British Electoral Study explained how.

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