Thursday, February 11, 2010


'Motorway Man' More Bad News for Labour?

We all remember 'Worcester Woman, Basildon Man and Mondeo Man from previous elections when parties narrowed down a group of voters they reckoned would be critical to electoral success. What kind of 'man' or 'woman' is likely to grace the party political focus come the forthcoming campaign? The Observer ran a fascinating article last Sunday on a newly discerned floating voter called Motorway Man.
Data gathering company, Experian, have identified a group of voters, often couples, who are young(thirtysomething), childless, often professioinal managers, who live in modern homes close to motorways which they use to travel their separate ways to work. Their homes are often temporary as they will soon move on elsewhere. Richard Webber, from Kings College London, who has been involved in this analysis says:
"These people are much more politically and ideologically footloose. They look at political parties like some people look at cars. How they voted last time is not going to influence them this time. For them, it's purely a shopping experience."
They are likely to have bought at the top of the market and suffer or face negative equity.
The group comprises about 15% of the electorate, according to Webber. But it will have a disproportionate influence on the ­election because, according to this study, it is significantly over-represented in key marginals in constituencies such as Crawley in West Sussex, Milton Keynes South in Buckinghamshire, Eastleigh in Hampshire and Dartford in Kent.
A Yougov poll suggests that 44% of this transient group will vote Conservative with less than 28% opting for Labour. Because they are younger, they are likely to be influenced by celebrity culture thinks Webber, see Cameron as new and exciting, and Brown as yesterday's dour and boring has-been. Because they do not rely on public services and do not mix with people who do they are not likely to feel sympathy for high tax-high spend policies and 'don't see the point of all the tax they pay'. Labour will have its work cut out appealing to this crucial category of voter.

The other problem for Labour with this group - which I think I probably belong to in all respects bar the fact that I am currently unemployed and rent rather than have a mortgage - is of course that our youth means we tend to have only fairly blurry memories of the Tory government under Major, and none at all of Thatcher. On the other hand, we have a vivid, first hand experience of an economic collapse for which we blame Labour.

I would add to that analysis that the more Gordon Brown talks about the 1980s, the less appealing he looks, because he's talking about the past and we are thinking about our futures.
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