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What is a ‘core vote’ strategy?

Posted by Matt Walker on January 13, 2010

brown A couple of days ago I wrote about the most recent challenge to Gordon Brown’s leadership and pointed out that many cabinet ministers were unhappy with Brown’s seeming preference to pursue a core vote strategy. But what does this actually mean?

A party’s core vote are those people who will support that party through thick and thin, and are very loyal to that party.  Put more academically, this is described as partisan alignment. It could be argued that Labour’s 25-30% level of support in the polls are largely  these people – its core vote.

Clearly, to win an election a party needs to move beyond its core vote and attempt to win support from floating voters, those people who lack loyalty to a single political party. They can do this by offering policies which have a wider appeal.

In recent months it has seemed that Brown was trying to win support from Labour’s core voters at the expense of a strategy that might win over more floating voters. Arguably, refusing to admit that large public expenditure cuts is a reflection of this.

Why would Brown wish to pursue such a strategy? Well, it is tantamount to admitting defeat at the next election; an attempt to avoid total meltdown at the polls by hanging on to as many seats as possible. The Tories pursued a core vote strategy in 2001 by focussing on immigration and saving the pound. They lost the election heavily.

Do you think this is the right strategy for Brown to pursue?

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2 Responses to “What is a ‘core vote’ strategy?”

  1. Will Hazell said

    Since Labour has pretty much moved away from being a working class party, who exactly is Labour’s core vote? I can imagine some people of their old core still vote for them despite the shift into New Labour, but I’m sure large amount of people are now looking else where for their representation…

    • Matt Walker said

      Labour’s core vote doesn’t necessarily have to be working class. Partisan alignment can invlove a range of issues, not least an adherence to a set of political values. Hence, someone could be middle class, but left of centre, and always vote Labour. They’d be a core Labour voter.

      Class alignment is a form of partisan alignment which is centred around the idea of working class support for Labour, and middle class support for the Tories. So up to a point you are right – many core Labour voters will be working class.

      Of course, pursuing a core vote strategy cannot deliver election victory. Class dealignment is a significant facet of British politics during the past 30 years, with fewer people voting in line with what their class might have dicatated in bygone years.

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