Now that we’re officially into the campaign, I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed by the rather prickly response of many people if you try to shift into talking politics or by the wide open attitude they have, should you manage to make that shift.
Almost twenty years ago when I first began street work upon my return home to Scotland, most people were pretty clear about their politics. Their positions were dominated by pro- and anti-Thatcher stances and elections were head-to-head contests between Tory and Labour, with other parties scarcely taken seriously by the media.
But even then, the class basis of voting was eroding. Thatcher had persuaded many ‘working class’ to vote Tory. And in the following decade, Blair persuaded a huge swathe of the ‘middle class’ to vote Labour. But, in so doing, both lost much clarity among their grass roots and other parties like the SNP found increasing numbers choosing them. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde has made a career out of analysing this effect.
Now, when neither once-dominant party can avoid an undignified struggle for support from the ‘middle ground’, the chickens of party disloyalty are darkening their skies in great flocks, coming home to roost all over the political spectrum. Given that many ex-Tory/Lab, then Lib-Dem voters are also now fizzing over the UK’s Con-Dem coalition, it’s little wonder that the ‘Don’t Know’ party is still streets ahead of any other at this stage.
It’s all to play for.