How Conservatives can win back Red Wall voters
Immigration reduction is the key
Whoever becomes Conservative leader will need to find a way to appeal to national populist voters, namely the relatively working-class voters who want immigration levels reduced.
Why? Because Johnson’s ‘global Britain’ liberal conservatism appears to be of limited interest to many 2019 Tory voters, the same people who voted Brexit to reduce immigration levels and have come to realise that neither Brexit nor the Tories have delivered on the cultural issues they care about.
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As Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak battle for the Tory leadership, one of the questions at the back of the selectorate’s mind will be which candidate can best attract the party’s lost voters. After all, as Matt Goodwin has recently pointed out, it is highly unlikely that the post-Boris Tories will be able to woo the mainly young, graduate and Remain voters who declined to vote for them last time.
The Tories won 44% of the vote in 2019, giving them a huge 80-seat majority. A year ago, after the tumult of the pandemic, they were still on 41% in the polls. However, the Tories now languish at 33%, well behind Labour’s 40%.
In a recent essay at Conservative Home, Alp Mehmet noted that 8 in 10 Tories, and 6 in 10 voters, wanted immigration reduced. It is the second most important issue for Tory voters after the economy. Yet immigration has been given only peripheral attention by candidates in the leadership contest.
In order to understand why, it is worth looking at data from a Delta Poll survey commissioned by Mehmet’s organisation, Migration Watch.
In Figure 1, 1,075 individuals gave a 2019 vote choice. Of these, 503 in the sample chose the Tories and 352 Labour. However, if we examine people’s voting intentions as of 26 July 2022, 374 in the sample said they would vote Labour and just 347 intended to vote Tory. The flow diagram shows what has happened. The Tories have lost far more voters than Labour to the ‘Don’t Know’ category, and a substantial number directly to Labour. Virtually no one who was not already a Tory in 2019 is one today.
While most voters who lost faith with the Tories checked out due to Johnson’s repeated lying, breaking of lockdown rules and general sleaze, Tory Remainers and the prosperous middle class in the ‘Blue Wall’ — who might be most sensitive to this — are not leading this revolt. It is quite the opposite.
What we are instead witnessing is a sense of national populist betrayal in which the Tories are perceived as being in politics for themselves and neglecting the cultural grievances that underpinned the Brexit vote. While many 2019 Tory voters made an allowance for the pandemic and delivering Brexit, there is arguably a sense that the party has no cultural vision, and no will to contest the immigration status quo.
The survey found that 86% of ex-Tories want less immigration compared to 73% of those currently intending to vote Tory. Indeed, Figure 2 shows that working class (C2DE) and immigration restrictionist voters are significantly more likely to have defected from the Tories since 2019. In fact, a working-class voter who wants immigration reduced and voted Tory in 2019 has a better than even (.56) chance of not intending to vote Conservative. Class and immigration attitudes have independent effects on switching.
This is not about delivering Brexit. Figure 2 controls for Brexit vote, and the results show that 2019 Tory voters who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum are no more likely than 2019 Tory voters who opted for Remain to have departed. Instead, differences hinge on whether voters are animated by the more politico-economic version of Brexit championed by Johnson and many Tory MPs or the more immigration-sceptic version popular with the base.
Whoever becomes Tory leader will require a message to mobilise the party’s lost national populist voters, many in key ‘Red Wall’ constituencies.
I commented on the “Who would be a young Tory?” article of today that a willingness to free up planning constraints on house building will only be popular when immigration is under control.
Unfortunately, this is not easy to achieve when a number of powerful interests are in favour of immigration. Employers are often in favour of immigration because it is often difficult to get committed workers from the UK population in many service industries and for hard graft agricultural work.
In addition there is a large legal/charity lobby whose existence turns on maintaining high levels of illegal immigration which exacerbates the impression that immigration is out of control. This lobby is keen to suggest that anti-immigrant sentiment is racially motivated rather than based on the pressure on local services and resources. This misrepresentation of motives further exasperates those who are in favour of lower immigration for legitimate non-racial reasons.
Until a cap is imposed on immigration and a proper system is established to return illegal immigrants promptly from whence they came, which will involve,Ve legal reforms, simmering discontent will remain. Unfortunately Labour having nothing positive to offer which takes the pressure off the Conservatives who will inevitably be influenced by employer interests.
‘In addition there is a large legal/charity lobby whose existence turns on maintaining high levels of illegal immigration which exacerbates the impression that immigration is out of control.’
Any party that committed to dismantling this pernicious lobby would storm to power.
Why do you think immigration features so little in the Tory leadership contest? Because there simply is no party outflanking the Tories on their right.
Whether or not they would ‘storm to power’ will remain untested, because they don’t exist.
and a proper system is established to return illegal immigrants promptly from whence they came,
If they have dropped their travel documents and mobile phone over the side of the boat, how do you determine their origin? Last year 28,000 crossed the Channel illegally, and no-one seriously believes that any will be sent home, wherever that is.
Their origin, and “whence they came” are two different things. If they discarded their documents in the Channel then they came from France and should be returned there.
France won’t accept them. France won’t stop them setting off either.
If a French naval vessel picks up refugees from a boat in the Channel they rendez-vous with an RN or Border Force vessel and transfer them for onward travel to the UK.
If you have no travel documents you must be from Afghanistan. home you go
The Tories are institutionally incapable of reducing immigration. Our state has outsourced its functions to foreign courts, multinational organisations and lobbyists who it funds to protest against its own attempts at reform. The ultimate irony of all this is that Enoch Powell was destroyed by the establishment in the 1960s because he claimed the country would contain 3.5 million immigrants and their descendants in it. It turns out that it’s almost three times that. If the mainline parties don’t break this vicious cycle of doing absolutely nothing about immigration then expect to see a 1970s style upswing in the fortunes of ‘far right’ groups.
Democratically elected Tories.
Limit net immigration to half of the number of new houses completed in the previous year.
2019: 213k houses built, so 2021 visas should have been limited to 106k (I’m skipping 2020 due to Covid restrictions). They were actually 240k.
Someone should work out what level the minimum salary eligibility for a work visa needs to be to get numbers down to 100k.
It always amuses me when people object to new houses being built in the next field or wherever. The fact is that if you voted for any of the main parties since 1997 (or perhaps even earlier) you voted knowingly for mass immigration. You cannot, therefore, complain if new houses are built here, there and everywhere.
Quite! You only need to overlay the charts for immigration and house prices from 1990 to date to see that when the EU expanded eastwards, house prices skyrocketed. Loose lending policies, family breakdown etc also helped but immigration is the key factor.
You can’t import the equivalent population of Leeds each year without building a city the size of Leeds every year to house them.
but immigration is the key factor.
No it is not, cheap money from the Central Banks is the key factor. Why did US have a gigantic house bubble? Eastern European migration?!
I fully agree that cheap/free money from central banks is at the core of the problem. But mass immigration has certainly a factor in the UK, and the Netherlands for instance.
The US also had a huge immigration influx (from South of the Border) but they didn’t see the same increase in unaffordability except in cities like NYC, LA and SF where zoning mean’t that house building couldn’t meet demand.
Even if we had had tight lending policies since the mid-1990s, we would still have had to find houses for 10 million extra people we have added to our population since 1995.
France population (wiki)
1990- 56M; 2021-67M
Similar demographic growth as UK. And jus like UK France has a dominant city/region. And France (like) does attract foreign money for housing. Paris, Alps, Dordogne (British), Riviera…well you know.
What is the differences? It is easier to build housing in France.
Yes. France has twice the land area of UK, and hence half the population density.
France is self-sufficient in food, and has so many power stations that they sell spare energy to the UK. They have far more hospital beds per head of population, too.
So, France is much better able to house migrants than we are.
I’ve lived in France. I’m really not convinced that it is any easier to build housing there than in the UK. Do you have any actual figures to support your claim ?
Informed readers will also be well aware that there has also been huge house price inflation in France and housing affordability in the areas where the well paid jobs are is in the same ball park as the UK. It’s the same all over the world.
Sorry Jeremy, I can’t tell whether you are agreeing with me or not. France also has very high immigration and prices in Paris have become too high for young families there. They also had easy money and a breakdown in traditional family structures.
I’m sorry, but that is a silly argument. However you cut it, if you increase the size of the population then you must increase the demand for housing. Of course other factors come into play, but mass immigration is the elephant in the room.
Both artifically cheap money and a supply:demand imbalance will inflate house prices. It is hard to be certain which is dominant right now and there is little credible research on this really very important matter.
I suspect however that it is at least 60% cheap money to 40% supply:demand. If a government prints a massive amount of money and offers it at near zero interest rates, it has to end up somewhere. Housing is seen as a “safe” asset (until it isn’t) and hoovers up a lot of the excess money.
Of course, this is all government policy to keep pushing back the inevitable house price correction – it will just be bigger, longer and more painfukl when it eventually comes.
A good point (I’m going to agree with you on something today !). I won’t repeat my reply to polidori redux here (it’s below).
Supply:demand is of course a major factor. But quite likely the second factor to over-loose cheap money over the past 15 or so years.
We’ll know for sure when interest rates revert to some sort of normality and people realise they need to repay not only the increasing interest on home loans, but also the massively inflated capital. Just the moment for the BofE to relax lending affordability checks …
Good to see you back Fraser!
“Immigration” covers a wide range of different processes and problems: its not much help saying it needs to be controlled without being clear about what that means.
– there is the illegal immigration (a few tens of thousands) across the channel in boats or in lorries. Probably most people want an end to this, although nobody has much idea how to achieve that.
– there is family reunion immigration, where Asian families marry their daughters to men in their villages of origin back in Pakistan or Bangladesh, and then the husband claims a right to reside in the UK with his new bride. I don’t know how many immigrants this accounts for, but I doubt that restricting this right would be very popular in Bradford or Sheffield or Rotherham.
– there are the “brightest and best” schemes, directed towards bringing in skilled workers to meet our domestic industrial needs. This is probably acceptable to most people, but the difficulty is identifying the relevant needs and the right people to fill them, and of course what is required now may not be what is required in 10 or 20 years.
– there is the specific asylum/refugee schemes, for Hong Kong or Ukraine or (to a limited extent) Afghanistan. Most people would support these I think.
So apart from the relatively small numbers of illegal immigrants, its far from clear to me what immigration control would actually be popular in the so-called Red Wall (or anywhere else for that matter).
Well if you (or the government) are confused or unsure, there is nothing to stop you (or them) going out and talking to some of these people to find out. In any normal business, finding out what the customers/punters think – market research – would be one of the first things you do. Particularly as these are swing voters now.
Secondly, please provide some numbers if you aere going to claim that there is a “small number of illegal immigrants”. How small is “small” ? What is the number a) as an annual current inflow and b) as a cumulative total ? If you have such figures, then what are the error bars on your figures ? If you have no such figures, your claim has no factual basis.
Of course, it’s far easier to wring your hands and says it’s all just too difficult …
I did give the numbers for illegal immigration – a few tens of thousands. In fact, I believe the number coming across the Channel this year is about 28,000, so my number is correct or perhaps even overstated. This probably represents about 10% of the net annual immigration figure, so it is “relatively small” compared to that number.
My point is that it is very easy to say immigration must be reduced or controlled: it is rather more difficult to identify what changes should be made when you consider the sources of annual immigration. Many people, including it seems you, talk about immigration as if it is all illegal and can be dealt with by proper enforcement of existing laws, but that simply isn’t the case.
Immigration appears to be a very difficult subject for many on this forum.
Just a few thoughts:
Could it be that lots of issues with immigration are related to the way western governments have run their countries in the last many decades: favouring through tax etc those who invested and had the money rather than favoring those who ‘did the work’ ?
Our countries are now run by those who own the money and maybe immigration is a good scapegoat?
Also, if we are worried of loosing our identity, maybe we are not good ambasadors for our identity… it is alway easy to blame somebody else.
It is my opinion that the issues of immigration need much more nuanced thought than the superficial arguments on offer. If the countries’ services are not up to scratch …. that may be our fault ( votes politicians, choices news headlines that become short sighted policies) ….
Note that immigration also means that people of your country can find the life they are looking for elsewhere….
I fear that there is no black and white on this issue but surely many heated opinions and feelings..
Net migration in 2021 – c.240K.
Fewer Eastern Europeans, more 3rd worlders.
That is why the country voted Leave in 2016!
Not another “expert” telling me why I voted Leave in 2016 and falling for the idiot fallacy that everyone who votes a certain way does so for the same reason.
They never learn.
Did I say you…or are you the country?!
Please re-read my comment. I speak only for myself. You have over-generalised in suggesting the immigration was the only reason (or indeed for many including myself the main reason) to vote the way we did.
Naturally, I find that mildly offensive. And since it’s still – just about – a free country, I’ll say so.
Eric Kaufmann wrote, “In a recent essay at Conservative Home, Alp Mehmet noted that 8 in 10 Tories, and 6 in 10 voters, wanted immigration reduced. It is the second most important issue for Tory voters after the economy.”
Most Britons understand the inevitable fate of the United States: it will cease being a Western nation by 2040. By 2040, most Americans will reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture will dominate. In California, most residents already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.
You can see the impact of excessive immigration by just comparing Californian society in 1982 to Californian society in 2022. In 1982, European-Americans politically controlled California. In 2022, Hispanics politically control California.
In 2022, Hispanics comprise the majority of students in K-12 public schools. The Californian illiteracy rate is now the highest such rate in the nation. “In fact, 23.1 percent of Californians over age 15 cannot read this sentence.” (See the reference.)
The Britons want Great Britain to avoid the American tragedy of excessive immigration.
Get more info about this issue.
I refuse to press your links, as they appear on every article no matter the subject. On every comment you’re asked why Hispanics (Spanish) aren’t western and you refuse to answer
‘Hispanics’ versus ‘European Americans’? Where do you think the ‘Hispanics’ orgincally came from? Why do you think they’re called ‘Hispanics’? What you’re actually arguing is that one set of former European settlers in the Americas is going to be replaced with another, or that they’re going to merge, as is already happening.
Wasn’t the point being made that we might look at the currently occurring replacement of American culture by that of it’s Hispanic immigrants as evidence of how such replacement happens. Their new culture being arguably quite similar to their old isn’t going to help us. We are accepting immigrants with cultures vastly different from and arguably incompatible with our own.
Hispanic culture is quite different from Western culture.
For example, Hispanics expect, demand, and receive preferential treatment. Get more info about this issue.
Hispanics commit murder at 3 times and 6 times the rate at which Americans of European ancestry or Asian ancestry, respectively, commit murder. Get more info about this issue.
Hispanics refuse to assimilate into Western society. They deliberately refuse to study English to the same extent to which Asian-Americans study English.
According to a report by NPR, “students whose home language was Spanish were considerably less likely to reach [English] proficiency than any other subgroup. And, on the extreme end, Spanish speakers were almost half as likely as Chinese speakers to cross the proficiency threshold. … It’s no surprise that researchers studying this trend in the past have used income-based controls — such as whether a child qualifies for free or reduced lunch. Those researchers have still found Spanish speakers lagging [their peers (in other ethnic groups) with similar economic status].” Get more info about this issue.
How can “Hispanics” not be westerners? They’re as western as we are.
The Mexicans and Central Americans who make up the great majority of illegal immigrants into the southern US are Mezo-American Indians. These mestizos and indigenous are no more “Western,” or European than Native Americans are.
The Hispanics people are thinking of are the descendants of the conquistadors. They are the elite of Central America and have little besides language in common with the immigrants. They also only come to the US on business or pleasure trips.
This is what Donald Trump meant when he said “Mexico isn’t sending us their best.”
Even the white elites of South of the border are culturally distinct from the West, as their political histories plainly show. Many have patterned their constitutions on the US’s, but the results have shown the transplant doesn’t take.
The US either stops all immigration from the south into the nation and repatriates all of Biden’s illegals, or the nation will become the northernmost part of Latin America, with all that entails for the survival of Western Civilization.
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