Recent Blog Articles
A poll by LabourList last week found that nearly half of all voters think Labour can’t be trusted with the economy. No one should find this surprising.
What annoys me is the lazy (and ideologically driven) assumption that this is because Labour is not spelling out cuts it would make in 2015.
If you believe Labour should be ahead on economic credibility, you must also think voters have a very short-term memory. In fact Labour should be languishing way behind in the polls and it’s more remarkable they’ve caught up so quickly.
Two sets of views reported by YouGov yesterday highlight Labour’s dilemma:
Over half of people now think David Cameron (51%) and George Osborne (53%) should take either a lot or a fair amount of blame for the current state of the economy, but this is still less than the 69% who think Gordon Brown is to blame.
Only 23% think Miliband is genuine in his wish to cap the cost of benefits, 60% think he does not believe in it and is doing it only for political reasons.
Ed Miliband and Balls should worry that people don’t trust their economic judgement. The problem is they don’t know why this is the case, so in their panic they’re in danger of* making promises the public simply don’t think are genuine. The Conservatives have been doing this with immigration: announcing a large raft of policies, that don’t convince the public. Acting tough doesn’t work other than excite an out-of-touch Westminster bubble.
There’s a simple reason Labour aren’t widely trusted: they were in power during the biggest economic crash of the past 80 years.
Voters always blame the party in power for not preventing such big crashes, and take years to forget. They also blame the party for the resulting problems.
Labour are also unpopular because they’ve made unpopular arguments.
1) Voters blame Labour for the cuts. And even if they don’t like the cuts, a majority have always accepted their need. In fact more voters have consistently blamed Labour for the cuts than the coalition government. Voters have also mostly preferred more austerity over extra spending on growth.
And all this time, Labour argued against the cuts (remember when Ed Miliband was at the TUC rally in Hyde Park?) – an unpopular move.
2) Most voters blame Labour, the Eurozone, banks or even higher oil prices for the stagnating economy. They don’t blame George Osborne as much as they blame Gordon Brown for it.
Keep this chart in mind
After the UK was ejected from the ERM it took years (over a decade) before the Tories regained economic credibility. Labour didn’t get mid-term blues, in fact their reputation improved even as they introduced policies such as the Minimum Wage.
As I keep saying, its more remarkable that Labour have caught up so quickly, and aren’t languishing miles behind the Tories on economic credibility.
* I say “in danger of” because I mostly approve what they’ve announced so far. I just don’t want them to go further.
The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be out from September this year. This should be a big deal: it’s six years since the last report, and that was headline news at the time. The report will be a chance for climate change, and what we do about it, to be one of the top issues in public debate for the first time since the 2009 Copenhagen Conference.
But for climate campaigners, activists and anyone who wants better action on climate change, what should be done with this opportunity? I believe it would be a mistake to use the coverage of the report to try to score points in the same arguments that have dominated over the last few years.
Instead, there are other approaches that could reach a wider audience, move the debate past recurring arguments, and perhaps create a basis for more useful action on climate change.
We need to stop talking about climate denial
The problem, as I see it, is that much of the debate about climate change is dominated by whether or not it’s happening, how quickly it will happen, and the meta-debate about why ‘so many people’ don’t agree with the vast majority of climate scientists.
One reason this is a problem was explained by US Republican pollster Frank Luntz: he recognised the goal for opponents of government action on climate change should be “to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate”. So long as the debate is about the science of climate change – most people only hear that there is a debate, not what each side is saying – people aren’t talking about what to do about it.
But you might respond: how can we ask people to agree to action on climate change when they don’t believe it’s happening or caused by humans? It’s a logical question. But the polling shows that it’s a mistake to assume there’s a logical chain of reasoning. In fact, the debate about belief in climate change is based on two misconceptions: that people are widely and increasingly sceptical about climate change, and that their desire for action to tackle climate change depends on the extent to which they think it’s happening.
Because of these misconceptions, I think that the debate about whether or not climate change is happening is a distraction for people who care about climate change, and that we should change the subject.
The evidence is pretty clear that agreement with climate science is high and stable and that doubts about it are not increasing. The following chart is typical in showing that the same proportion now believes that climate change is real and manmade as did so before the UEA email hack. Most people think it’s real and manmade and a third think it’s real but natural; barely one person in 20 thinks it’s a fraud.
Agreement with climate science also fell before the start of the chart above, after a peak sometime around 2006 and the Stern Report.
But the polls suggest that what people say about their belief in climate change doesn’t have much to do with whether they want action to tackle it.
It’s such an important point I’m going to show two separate charts to demonstrate it.
Firstly, a poll just after Copenhagen showed that most people who said they think climate change is natural, or not happening at all, were satisfied with a plan to reduce worldwide emissions. To put it another way, over three in five ‘climate sceptics’ want international action to tackle climate change:
Just in case that was a freak or a mistake, we tested it again in the recent Carbon Brief poll. The conclusion was similar: of those who say climate change is natural and not caused by humans, nearly half want government action to tackle it.
So the evidence is clear. Outright climate denial is low and not increasing. Most people think climate change is real and manmade. And of those who think it’s natural or not happening, many still want government action to tackle it: a logical disconnect that suggests the debate about belief in climate change has been taken more seriously than it deserves. As Chris Rose has pointed out, responses to questions about belief in climate change are often about something else – a declaration of which ‘side’ the respondent is on. It’s not a debate that climate campaigners can win in its own terms.
The question is, if not scientists’ confidence about anthropogenic climate change, what should campaigners and communicators talk about?
Stick them with the pointy end
There are two key arguments that I believe are crucial for improving the case for better action on climate change – but which I don’t see being made at the moment. The first is that climate change is very likely to hurt people in the UK: people alive now and their children. Not just through indirect effects like more expensive food and foreign political instability, but also directly, through flooding and killer heatwaves.
There are people who’ll suffer more from climate change than Brits: people living on flood plains in Bangladesh, in low-lying islands, and in the Sahel, for example. And many wonderful species will become extinct when their habitat changes. Almost everyone is sad to hear about that and agrees that someone should do something. A few internationalists and conservationists might even do something themselves.
But nothing mobilises people like something that directly affects them and their family.
The pointy end of climate change – that the UK is very likely to face more floods and more killer heatwaves – is still largely absent from the debate. It shouldn’t be. The 2003 heatwave killed 2,000 people in the UK; it is likely that summers like that will be the norm by the end of this century. But only 34% in the Carbon Brief poll recognised that climate change is likely to cause more UK summer heatwaves.
This should include a ban among climate campaigners on references to global degrees of warming in conversations with anyone except climate change experts. The thought of the UK becoming 3° warmer sounds quite nice to me. You have to be familiar with the subject to understand what 3° means in practice: much wider variations in temperature and rainfall, with flooding and some summer days that are unbearably hot (yes, in the UK).
Essentially, what I suggest is that climate campaigners follow the example of this road safety film. Don’t just make the message about our responsibility to others, make it about what will happen to us if we don’t put it right:
We’re all in this together
The other argument that’s still missing is the one tackling the view that we shouldn’t make sacrifices for climate change because it would disadvantage us against other countries that aren’t doing the same, particularly China. It usually follows the structure: “why should we do X when China will just build Y power stations in the next week/month/year?”.
But the argument is much easier to rebut. It’s not true that rapidly growing countries like China are leaving the hard work on climate change to developed countries. China may be the world’s biggest emitter (though per person its emissions are still lower than the EU’s when including international transport and/or emissions from production of exported goods), but even as it industrialises it’s now using trading schemes to make it more expensive for its businesses to emit greenhouse gases.
So it shouldn’t be hard to knock back the argument that taking action on climate change puts us at a global disadvantage – and that’s before we start talking about the potential economic benefits of investing in low-carbon industries.
Change the subject
The debate about climate change has stagnated over the last three and a half years, stuck on belief in climate science. But that debate is based both on a dubious claim that scepticism is increasing and on the understandable but misplaced assumption that there’s a logical connection between belief in climate change and desire for action to tackle it.
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will be an opportunity for people who want action on climate change to get it back into the news and to start talking about something that feels meaningful for most people*. Partly this means neutralising the out-of-date criticism that it’s pointless for the UK to make sacrifices to reduce climate change when other countries aren’t doing the same.
But more important is to make the case that tackling climate change is a matter of self-interest for British people. This means recognising that most people are, naturally, more interested in what happens to themselves and their family than what happens to far-off people. The projected impacts of climate change for the UK – floods and killer heatwaves – are themselves serious enough to justify action: it’s time to start talking about them.
I wrote a post the other day that caused something of a stir. I argued that migration of the young & skilled from southern European countries could mean that those left behind face a very bleak future. Let me explain a bit further.
I am emphatically NOT arguing that there is anything intrinsically wrong with young, skilled people leaving in search of a better life elsewhere. Migration benefits both the migrants and the receiving countries. Immigration is a GOOD thing for countries that have ageing populations and skills shortages – as most Western countries do.
But where people can freely move to other countries, the sort of ‘internal devaluation’ that forces down wages in search of ‘competitiveness’ inevitably causes migration when the same jobs in Greece and Germany pay vastly different wages. Unfortunately it is this sort of ‘internal devaluation’ that has been forced on the Eurozone periphery because their membership of the Euro prevents them from devaluing their currencies vis-a-vis their main trading partners, which is the usual means by which countries restore competitiveness.
Traditionally, young migrants send money back to their parents. But in the West, with pension and healthcare systems that support the old, the explicit contract between children and parents is weakened. I don’t have evidence to support this but I think that young migrants are much more likely to send money home when there is little state pension or healthcare provision in their country of origin. If they believe that the state will support their parents, they may not send money home.
The problem is that the people left behind are older, less able and lower skilled, which makes these countries less attractive to businesses. After all, why would a business choose to locate itself somewhere where the local workforce is ageing and poorly skilled? So businesses would go elsewhere too. That would cause GDP to shrink further.
The population’s need for state support would actually increase as it ages and gets sicker, but tax revenue would fall as working people and businesses leave. That adds up to long-term decline and a growing burden on the state’s finances.
And old people and long-term disabled don’t generally pay taxes. So where will the taxes come from to support the welfare systems that these people depend on?
There is one final ingredient in this poisonous mixture. Most of these states are already highly indebted. With a growing burden on their healthcare and pension systems and falling tax take due to GDP decline, their debts can only get worse. The fiscal compact gives primacy to debt service over maintaining public services. As I see it, therefore, these states will eventually be forced to dismantle their welfare systems – the pensions and healthcare required by their ageing populations – to avoid debt default.
Eventually, I suppose, the old and the unskilled will also leave – if they can, and if any country will receive them. For although the European Union is in theory committed to the free movement of people, I wonder how real that commitment would turn out to be in the face of large-scale migration of pensioners and benefit claimants from the Eurozone periphery. I suspect that free movement of people might turn out to be another of those European laws that are binding in good times but illusory in bad.
Therefore as Krugman said, the combination of labour mobility with internal devaluation and lack of fiscal union in the Eurozone is potentially lethal.
There is no possibility of recovery for countries caught in the deadly embrace of high public debt and youth migration. For them, “internal devaluation” actually means creeping desertification.
A longer version of this blogpost is here.
Yesterday’s speech by Ed Miliband on social security reform was positive.
First of all, there was the reference to child poverty. I was in the audience, and my key question for this speech was whether he was going to drop Labour’s historic commitment to ending child poverty as some have demanded.
He began by accepting the fact that this goal has become much more difficult and the target of ending child poverty may have to be put back from the original deadline of 2020. Denying this would rightly have been criticised, after all, the current government’s policies will increase the number of children in poverty by 400,000 by 2015/16.
But he didn’t use this as an excuse to walk away from the commitment:
But I still think we can make progress if everyone pulls their weight.
And there was a real commitment to tackling working poverty. Part of his strategy for bringing down the costs of social security to raise the incomes of low paid workers. He talked of “an economy that works for working people” – a phrase I think we’ll hear more of over the next two years.
That’s why the union response has been so positive, with Len McCluskey highlighting the commitment “to action on demeaning, insecure work and a drive to embed the living wage” and Paul Kenny picking up on “stopping abuse of zero hours contacts, preventing exploitation of temporary workers and outlawing recruitment only from abroad.”
And there was the commitment to a Job Guarantee for young people unemployed over a year and over-25s unemployed over two years. This is a real job, built on the lessons learned from the Future Jobs Fund. This is a long-standing TUC priority and it was great to see the re-affirmation of Labour’s plans to introduce and extend this embodiment of reciprocity.
And, talking of reciprocity and TUC priorities, there was the emphasis on revitalising the contributory principle. There were times in the last twenty years when it felt as if the trade union movement was the only institution that still felt that National Insurance was part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I know from talking to Labour politicians that Kate Bell and Declan Gaffney’s report on Making a Contribution, published as part of our series of Touchstone pamphlets, has helped in the development of Labour thinking on social security reform. Of course, there’s still a great deal of work to be done to take this from being a bright idea to a detailed plan for renewal, but the promise to look for ways to show that society values workers’ contribution is real.
And finally there was the language of the speech – this was a “One Nation Plan for Social Security Reform” and it was nice to hear the term “social security” being rehabilitated by a leading politician.
Ever since we imported the American habit of calling the benefit system “welfare” we seem to have moved closer and closer to American attitudes too. Mr Miliband made quite a few references to the “welfare state” or the “welfare system”, but the Labour leadership seems to have returned to talking about social security and benefits – I hope they keep it up!
Come September, schools will be able to introduce performance-related pay for teachers.
There have already been moves in this direction in the NHS and the Hutton Review proposed “earn back” for senior public servants – an element of basic pay at risk if key objectives are not met.
This is the wrong direction of travel. A survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that a majority of public sector workers are opposed and the evidence about the effect of performance-related pay on organisations’ performance is mixed at best. Of course, incentives influence workers’ behaviour – but that isn’t the same as getting the outcomes society would prefer.
Two recent US studies of piece-work underlined this.
One found that piece work and bonuses encourage workers to take risks with their health and safety, leading to a “substantially higher risk of injury.”
Another found that piece rates and monitoring workers can improve quantity or quality – but that there is a trade off between the two. Getting improvements in both “requires more committed workers.”
A 2007 review of research found that public sector workers do respond to incentives but sometimes this response takes the form of ‘gaming’: winning the bonus by “manipulation of behaviour that uses resources and does not increase productivity”.
And performance-related pay can have serious negative consequences. Earlier this year, an excellent post pointed out that arguments about the distribution of bonuses can be vicious and that “merit-based” systems can actually destroy morale and team working. And when a substantial element of pay depends on a manager’s assessment – often with a very subjective character – the risks of favouritism and unfair discrimination are enormous.
The TUC is going to be discussing these issues at a seminar next Monday, here at Congress House. Alice Hood, our new Director of Strategy, will be chairing the discussion and the speakers include Kevin Courtney from the National Union of Teachers and Ken Mulkearn from IDS.
We’ll also be looking at the disastrous record of “performance-related” pay for senior managers, with contributions from my Colleague Janet Williamson and Tom Powdrill from pensions and investment consultancy PIRC. The seminar will run from 12.00 till 2.00 and you can book a place
by Jonathan J Lindsell
Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, child abuse.
“Man fucks woman; subject verb object.”
That’s how Catharine MacKinnon, American feminist legal professor, characterised Western gender relations and savaged pornography. Women are objectified statues, men are aggressive actors.
But if you look at the media’s treatment of gender-related crimes in the past few months, you’ll see something different:
“Victim was assaulted; Object verb.”
That’s how sexual crimes are reported. ‘X children were abused’, ‘Y women are raped in India each day’. Discussion overwhelmingly uses the passive voice and focuses on the victim to the perpetrator’s exclusion, unless the aggressor is notable – an ethnic minority, a celebrity, a religious figure. Otherwise rape and abuse are described as if they ‘just happen’ like freak weather events.
This absolves the public from considering whether Diane Abbot’s ‘crisis’ is a genuine problem in their immediate community – rape is either a misfortune that happens to unwary women, or a vile crime committed by people so different from the reader that their motivations are wholly alien.
Society has a standard narrative for how rape ‘just happens’ – usually a young, attractive girl, alone at night, wearing inappropriate clothing, who indulged in excess, attacked by a stranger. Passive reporting feeds this trope by focusing on victims and minimising the rapist’s role. He just ‘happened’ to be tempted when all necessary factors were in place.
The narrative is dangerous. In the eyes of the public and of juries, it discredits stories which don’t fit. Abused male or trans*people are ignored. Likewise accusations from women who are unattractive, sensible, or lived with their assailant face ridicule. The myth thrives despite SlutWalk’s efforts to dispel the idea that women’s clothing or actions constitute ‘asking for rape’ and UK government statistics showing that 90% of serious sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Whereas most sex-crime coverage investigates what personal failures caused a horrific ‘accident’ to happen to the (culpable) female victim, there’s a flip-side. When the perpetrator is different, comfortably distant from the largely white male middle-class world of today’s writers, then it’s fine to pick them apart.
This is especially evident in recent stories: Dehli bus rape, Oxford abuse ring, Catholic Church scandals and Operation Yewtree. In each case, the perpetrators are either foreign, non-Christian, or live highly atypically. Priests are celibate and secretive; celebrities extremely extrovert.
This was highlighted in Joseph Parker’s piece, It’s time to face up to the problem of sexual abuse in the white community. Parker was satirising the media, I’m not. By deploying the passive tense in ‘normal’ sex crimes and demonising minorities in sensational cases, we blind ourselves to that fact that, statistically, we almost certainly know such people ourselves.
Supporting victims is important, but so is acknowledging and exploring how violent misogynist attitudes flare in all communities, and run deeper than we’d admit. Rape culture exists, and until we start to think about the rapists, it will continue. That’s unacceptable.
Jonathan Lindsell is a freelance writer who has written for Bluffers online, Trinity College Oxford’ Broadsheet and the Leamington Courier. As a research fellow at Civitas thinktank he also writes a weekly blog there.
A few months ago I pointed out that when it comes to controversial issues such as immigration, people don’t pay attention to facts and evidence. They only remember and listen to emotional arguments that fit their views. I came under a lot of criticism, mostly from lefties who said we must appeal to evidence and facts or we have nothing.
But this debate over social security and universal benefits illustrates that even politically-engaged people don’t care much for evidence either.
The key principle that underpins most leftwing views on social security goes like this: ‘Universal benefits are worth protecting because they maintain broad support in the welfare state’.
For example, Peter Hain said this the other day:
if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through some of the few universal benefits that are left, how can we convince them to fund the larger part of that budget through their taxes?
Owen Jones too has said a similar argument:
Stripping the welfare state of its universalism will breed a middle-class that is furious about paying large chunks of tax, getting nothing back and subsidising the supposedly less deserving. It will accelerate the demonisation of the British poor.
Both these claims are constantly made across the left… and both are wrong.
It’s important to explain why they’re wrong because I want Britain to have a strong, well-funded social security system. But for that we need to focus less on arguments that sound good to us and more on how Britons behave and react to public policy.
Here’s the problem: there is no evidence to support the view that middle class taxpayers will happily subsidise the ‘less deserving’ if they get universal benefits themselves. You can offer them universal childcare or universal winter fuel allowance or universal education, but it doesn’t mean they will be more willing to subsidise unemployment benefits for example.
So even as overall spending on social security has risen over the last 50 years, and universal benefits have been expanded, support for some types of benefits has continued to fall
Exhibit 2: Percentage prioritising specific areas for extra spending (BSA) (via Daniel Sage)
These charts show that people are more nuanced than we think. They support the specific benefits they get and drop support for benefits they don’t get. As spending on benefits for pensioners has risen, so has support. But support for the ‘less deserving’ continues to fall.
This leads me to two conclusions:
First, we should absolutely support some universal benefits (health, social care, pensions etc) – but accept that not all benefits need to be (or can be) universal. Therefore, cutting one doesn’t necessarily mean support in universalism is undermined. In other words we can be as nuanced as the public themselves.
Second, we need to push a social security system that focuses more on universal services than cash benefits. As I’ve said before, our aim should be to restructure the state to reduce inequality, not rely on small handouts to wealthy pensioners in the hope it buys support for other benefits such as for the unemployed. The cash handouts only increase support for… those cash handouts. They don’t increase support for univeral social security more broadly.
The public’s attitude towards social security is changing, and if we want to maintain universalism we have to understand that and change our approach accordingly.
Just sticking to soundbites that aren’t backed up by evidence doesn’t help us in our goals. That said, I’m betting that most lefties will ignore my appeal to the evidence base and choose to stick to emotional arguments that have always appealed to them. In that sense they’re simply doing what the broader public do.
There is no evidence that offering universal pensioner benefits preserves support for universal benefits more broadly. Basically, people support benefits they get, but not other types of benefits such as for the unemployed or low paid.
Indeed, hurrah for evidence-based policy.
Here’s more evidence, from HMRC’s 2010-11 review of the take up of Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit ad Working Tax Credit:
The central estimate of the Child Benefit take-up rate in 2010-11 is 96 per cent.
The central estimate of the Child Tax Credit caseload take-up rate in 2010-11 is 83 per cent.
The central estimate of the Working Tax Credit caseload take-up rate in 2010-11 is 64 per cent.
That is, take up be families who are eligible for benefits are much lower when they are mean tested, and even lower when that means testing becomes complex.
Then there’s Free School Meals
More than a quarter of children entitled to free school meals take a packed lunch instead because they fear being stigmatised, according to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
The idea, then, that a means testing policy for winter fuel targeted at the richest pensioners will end up just affecting the richest pensioners is fanciful; the much greater effect will be on pensioners who, for whatever reason or set of reasons, don’t feel able to submit themselves to the means-testing process.
It is also reasonable to conjecture that there will be a negative correlation between vulnerability/poverty and take up.
Of course, in a more socially just we wouldn’t need winter fuel allowances at all, because fuel would be affordable to the poorest, but given where we are it is highly irresponsible for Labour to be signing up to policy which may result directly in cold, dead pensioners.
But cold, dead pensioners aside, the continuing distance in the Labour party between policymaking and the reality of policy implementation – of the type which brought us the Lord Freud Welfare to Work Narnia in 2008 – continues to be a disappointment.
This was the kind of thing that wasn’t supposed to happen after the Refounding Labour process, because policy was supposed to become grounded in the experience of those implementing that policy and those living with its consequences.
The decision by Ed Balls yesterday to ditch Winter Fuel Allowance for the top 5% of pensioners has two major political consequences.
First is the ‘what would you cut?‘ test. In the past, Tories have constantly taunted Labour at PMQs and elsewhere with that question when Labour talk about the economy.
It’s a tricky one for Labour because polls continue to show (despite Labour opposition to austerity) that most voters think they are necessary and more blame Labour than the coalition for them.
If Cameron asks the question now, Labour can turn around and say ‘we would cut benefits for rich pensioners, will you?‘. After all, 74% of Brits support cutting it.
The test is to see if it shuts down that line of questioning or whether the Tories carry on regardless. I suspect the latter.
The second big test is to see if the public respond to Labour’s new position. Here, I’m more sceptical.
Voters rarely pay attention to Westminster debates. Plus, I don’t think Labour’s economic credibility problem is to do with voters wanting the party to make cuts, but to demonstrate they’ve learnt from the financial crisis that happened under their watch.
But lots of other people on the right of the party say that unless Labour promises cuts, voters won’t trust them with the economy.
Well folks, you’ve got a politically massive cut to spending, and one that hits voters most likely to vote. Let’s see if this restores some economic credibility. If it doesn’t then people on the Labour Right may need to assess their assumptions.
A bunch of humus-eating, London-dwelling, middle-class, Masters-holding Guardian-readers. That’s the stereotype of Green members anyway. How true is it though? The answer is – not entirely.
The results of the Green Party Equality and Diversity membership survey are in, and some of the results are fascinating. 1100 members took the survey, a decent proportion of the party (especially for a voluntary questionnaire) and around the sample size of most polling.
Bearing in mind that non-compulsory surveys, especially online ones, generally over-represent wealthier people – those with more spare time on their hands and generally the most politically engaged – the findings are surprising.
Nearly a quarter – 23.4% – of Green Party members earn less than £10,000 a year. This category was by far the plurality – i.e. the largest group. Over 17% live on between £10-15k a year, another 12% between £15-20k and 10% between £20-25k – still below the average income nationally. In total, this means well over 60% of Greens earn below the median income of £26,500.
Since the median income, by definition, means there are around 50% on either side earning more or less, for 60% to be earning less than this in the party means Greens are actually over-representative of people from lower-income background.
Only 9% slotted into the top-rate of tax band of more than £45k a year, probably explaining why we’re so skint all the time. So the stereotype of the Greens as middle-class hippies seems just that: a stereotype.
Yet class is a messy concept, of course, and income isn’t always the best indicator. Occupation, background, housing type, education, culture – all are factors in many definitions of class. Sadly the survey didn’t look into all of these, but the figures for education are less surprising than income.
The proportion of members with a university degree is 57%, far above the national figure of 26%. Within the 57% figure (since you could tick more than one box), 37% of all respondents had a Masters, PhD or other ‘higher’ degree. A pretty huge figure. Given the stats earlier about income, it seems the Greens are becoming a party of the precariat – educated but poor, especially given a higher proportion of members compared to the general public who are private renters (20%) and living with family or friends (nearly 8%).
On the whole, this seems to be borne out by how members described themselves in class terms. 56% responded as ‘lower middle class’, and just under a quarter (23%) identified as ‘working class’ of some form or another.
Shout it loud – the Greens are becoming the true party of the working-class. Even if most of us are humus-eating Guardian readers.
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