Politics: If social class no longer determines party allegiance in the UK, what does?

If social class no longer determines party allegiance in the UK, what does?

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If social class no longer determines party allegiance in the UK, what does?
For much of the 20th Century, British politics was dominated by a battle of the classes based upon a
three layered social structure identifying and separating the working, middle and upper divisions of
society. In this essay I will briefly look at how this structure has been broken down by political events
that have occurred since the 1980s and the economic policies that primarily initiated this breakdown.
I will also look at the effects that this collapse has resulted in, primarily regarding the general
philosophical outlook exhibited by the British electorate. I will then look at how this new outlook
affects British politics, i.e. how the electorate determine their party allegiance with respect to the
nature of the electorate, as well as the nature of political parties.
During Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister of the UK, Britain was subject to vast economic
reforms that sought to centre the economy around the concept of `free markets' ­ leaving the
economic forces of supply and demand to find their own, natural, equilibrium free of taxation and
stipulation. However, the government still maintains control of the amount of money present in
circulation (monetarism). In political terms, this supported Thatcher's philosophical ideology of
practical economic individualism, where all citizens should be treated as individual agents, serving to
meet their own goals and desires. It is up to the individual to make their own way in life, free of fear
that the state could place restrictions on being able to live as an individual.
During her time as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher carried out policies that greatly reduced the
power of the trade union movement, including enforcing unions to carry out mandatory strike ballots
and outlawing closed shop agreements. She also implemented the `Right to Buy' policy, allowing
citizens to purchase their council-owned property at a greatly reduced price, thus providing
"concrete demonstration of the new neo-liberal democratic vision; citizenship and freedom through
individual empowerment and entrepreneurialism" (Carr, 2011). Part of the electorate who had never
owned property before were empowered by living in a house that they possessed. However, under
the "anti-community, selfish, individualistic message of Thatcherism" (Walraven, et al., 2000), Britain

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Indeed, it was these values that proved
paramount to the success of the creation of the British welfare state: the ultimate "triumph of
collectivism over individualism" (Lewis, 1995).
Thatcher's reforms institutionalised the concept of individualism in British society, and people
(perhaps subconsciously) began to choose to work and vote to primarily serve their own interests.…read more

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was here where many men and women would get the only political education in their lives ­ by
militant trade unionists. The halls are empty and the pits are closed now, but these areas,
predominantly in the North of England as well as Scotland and Wales, will still return without fail a
Labour Party politician at almost every election.…read more

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Co-operative movement in 1844 was in Manchester (by the Rochdale Pioneers) to enable the poor
to be able to purchase food items they could not otherwise afford.
When we apply the theories of collectivism and individualism to economics, we can clearly see why
the North seeks collectivism. By redistributing the wealth of the country to ensure everyone has
access to a fair share, there is essentially just a transfer from the South to the North.…read more

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Taking these assumptions, it follows that those who work in the public sector would be more likely to
support the Labour Party (or face being the turkey that voted for Christmas). As well as those who
work for the state, it follows that "those most dependent on state provision are most supportive of
state spending" (Marshall, et al., 1985).…read more

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Although for the majority of voters, their party allegiance is the same as it has been for much of their
life (Curtice & Steed, 1982), it is those swing voters that in turn are the key deciders of British
General Elections. It is to these that the performance of political parties matters most.
For a government to be effective, it must be underpinned by competency and unity.…read more

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Does a newspaper shape the readers political allegiance, or is it chosen because of already held
beliefs? It is a reasonable assumption to make that the majority of the time, newspapers don't
pronounce their political allegiance out-and-proud, but rather let their editorial team apply it
In conclusion, I think that both approaches of the nature of the electorate and the nature of political
parties have a large part to play in determining party allegiance.…read more

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Ramsden, J., 1980. The making of Conservative Party policy. London: Longman.
Rogers, S., 2011. Indices of multiple deprivation: find the poorest places in England. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 23 November 2012].
Sinclair, M., 2010. Dod's Parliamentary companion guide to the General Election 2010. Exeter:
Walraven, G., Parson, C., van Veen, D. & Day, C., 2000. Combating Social Exclusion Through
Education. 1st ed. Leuven - Apeldoorn: Garant.…read more


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