By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Labour is meant to be the party of the working class. The clue is in its name after all. Despite calling itself a party "for the many, not the few", the name of their 2017 general election manifesto, the "many" they are trying to target may be slipping away. Its leader Jeremy Corbyn argues that Labour is "back as the political voice of the working class", but the numbers are suggesting otherwise.
The Economist argues that Labour's links with the working class have been weakening for the past 30 years, and it has played out in two phases: under Tony Blair, and under Jeremy Corbyn. When Blair was leader, he saw the future as being "the party of the professional middle class" - university-educated people who "worked with their brains rather than their hands". Under his leadership, the party was taken over by "identikit professional politicians" who had been to the same universities and worked for the same think-tanks.
New Labour saw the decline in working class MPs and the rise of career politicians. According to research by UCL, this shifted the party towards a more right wing policy stance on welfare. Career MPs, politicians whose background came from politics or a closely related profession, are "more likely to adopt policies for strategic political reasons to win over swing voters and win elections". On the other hand, working class MPs, who have a background in manual and unskilled labour, are more likely to support policies that benefit working class communities.
The latter is a dying breed in the Labour Party. When it first achieved its first electoral success in the 1920s, 70 per cent of its MPs were from working class backgrounds. Today, just eight per cent are working class. Most of the younger MPs are university educated, whilst 70 per cent of school-leavers are not.
The social class of its membership has also changed over the years. Membership figures from July show that 77 per cent of party members belong in the ABC1 social groups - in other words, they are middle class.
Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the Economist continues, there are three groups that are taking over the party: ethnic minorities, public-sector professionals, and frustrated millennials.
Constituency-by-constituency analysis of the 2017 snap election results by the University of Bristol's Paula Surridge surprisingly shows that "the more working class voters there were in a constituency in 2017, the more it tended to swing to the Tories". For every 10 per cent more working class voters in a constituency, there tended to be a fall of around three per cent for Labour and a rise of around five per cent for the Tories between 2010 and 2017, the New Statesman reports. Corbyn's Labour has seen working class support for the party rapidly fell to its lowest point ever.
The Labour Party insists that it is a broad church that welcomes a wide variety of people with differing backgrounds and views. Its traditional following, the working class, may be one of those slipping from its grasp.