1/ Let's assume that this is true and the Tories are ahead by 17 points in Hartlepool. What does it mean? (A very short thread in lieu of the long one this really deserves.)
2/ Most people assume that people vote for policies or, if not policies, then ideology, but decades of research by political scientists reveals that this is rarely the case.
3/ And why should the people of Hartlepool care about policies? They've had decades of being let down by everyone. My guess is that they don't think whoever gets elected will make any difference to their fortunes.
4/ So what determines their votes? Political scientists point to two important factors: blind retrospection and identity (which, when aligned with historic voting patterns, looks like ideology but isn't).
5/ What is blind retrospection? It's simply looking back and deciding whether you feel better now than you did before. The reason is irrelevant (it could be and sometimes is the weather). Positive blind retrospection favours the government of the day.
6/ It's the beginning of summer and everyone is emerging from lockdown after a year of being shut inside. This is producing a surge in optimism. Blind retrospection favours the Tories more than at any other time this century.
7/ Identity it is about who you feel you are, which tribe you think you belong to and IMPORTANTLY what you think the other tribe is like (human beings tend to automatically have negative attitudes to people outside their tribes).
8/ In the twentieth century, Labour was the identity of the working class, but that ceased about 20 years ago because of changing demographics - higher numbers of ethnic minorities and especially higher numbers of graduates.
9/ Nearly 1/3 of us are now graduates who, crucially, live mainly in metropolitan areas and tend to vote Labour (there are well-established correlations between IQ, education and leftist attitudes, probably because these attitudes require ability to understand nonzero sum games).
10/ So Labour is no longer the identity of the working class, but the identity of metropolitan graduates with professional roles. One missed issue is how these people (me!) are perceived by the other tribe.
11/ You can find the answer on Twitter. We're perceived as smug, pompous, self-important, and sneering towards the working class. And to be honest, we (me!) sometimes (not deliberately of course) behave in ways that reinforce this stereotype.
12/ So, in sum: I guess that many people in areas like Hartlepool are feeling good, attribute that to the government, and have a strong emotional antipathy to some aspects of the modern Labour identity. They don't think policies matter. No wonder they are going to vote Tory.
13/ Whatever happens in Hartlepool, that die is cast now, but there are many lessons to be learnt going forwards. First, arguing policies won't be enough (any more than telling leavers about the economic harms of Brexit is enough).
14/ But looking forwards, the blind retrospection effect will not bless the Tories to the same extent again, and there is probably a lot that progressives can do about identity.
15/ First, the Tory identity is vulnerable to attack. That's why sleeze allegations are cutting through: they tell ordinary people that the Tories are selfish, do not care about them, and only care about getting more money in their own pockets. So keep up that message!
16/ At the same time Labour needs to do some hard thinking about how to make its own identity more attractive to nongraduates in places like Hartlepool.
17/ Labour can't turn back the clock - trying to do so will be disastrous because it will lose the metropolitan vote. Pretending its an old style working class party will fail. Instead, something must be done to make the Labour identity broader and more inclusive.
18/ (Similarly, mimicing the Tories on flag-waving pseudopatriotism will fail. It looks insincere - lack of genuiness will kill any political movement - and, anyway, you can't out-fascist the fascists.)
19/ The Labour identity needs to be more inclusive. It needs to visibly include people from all walks of life - Starmer, despite his ordinary roots, looks a bit posh, which is ok, but can we see more of Rayner?
20/ Also, identity may be an area where policy can help a bit. Can Labour loudly articulate tangible policies that benefit working class, nongrad kids? Is there a way of promoting Labour ideas to shop workers, plumbers and van drivers (all of who do jobs vital to the economy)?
21/ Going forwards, Labour has a job of work to do on identity (as do remainers, but that's a story for another thread). This will require a lot of research and careful thinking.
Footnote 1: I've just read this excellent article in the Guardian. It says much the same as I am saying in a different way. Note people dismissing Labour as a party for students but also, that being a party for the young could be turned to advantage. theguardian.com/commentisfree/…

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More from @RichardBentall

17 Apr
1/ Some thoughts about Brexit, remain/rejoin, Europeanism and identity.

This thread has been stimulated by a discussion with a political scientist friend, Thomas Stocks, and also by reading an article in the @Daily_Express today:
2/ Thomas and I have collected a lot of data on the psychology of Brexit and we were wondering what to do with it. I suddenly realised we were trying to find out "what was wrong" with leavers, which led Tom (not so committed to remain) to ask my why the EU was so important to me?
3/ This turned out to be a good question! Whatt is the psychology or remain?

I suddenly realised that I was always arguing about economics of Brexit but the truth is that I FEEL passionately European (it's just fortunate that the economics supports the remain side).
Read 21 tweets
21 Feb
1/13 It is hard for a remain/rejoiner not to feel frustrated by @UKLabour right now. Starmer's silence on Brexit is deafening. theguardian.com/politics/2021/…
2/13 I wrote about what remain/rejoiner's attitudes towards @UKLabour should be a little while ago, urging patience and for party members to put their weight behind @Labour4EU.
3/13 I am continuing to hold my nerve right now, but I think @Keir_Starmer is in danger of making a bad mistake, losing the support of remain/rejoiners while failing to regain the trust of the red wall leavers (who were fewer in number than commonly supposed anyway).
Read 13 tweets
10 Jan

I am pretty annoyed about Starmer's statement about FoM on the Marr Show today, but I'm still not sure what the thinking behind it is. If it's just that this is not the time to talk about EU allignment, fair enough, but it could have been expressed in a more nuanced way.

Because, rest assured, there will have to be a reallignment with the EU. This will be necessitated not only by the economics but also, most likely, by unfolding events in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I am not convinced that complete endorsement of the Tory's Brexit is required to win back the red wall seats; its not what a careful analysis of polling says and it's, frankly, treating red wall voters as idiots while pandering to their supposed idiocy (pretty patronising).
Read 19 tweets
25 Dec 20
1/20 This is a Christmas message to my wonderful pro-European friends, especially but not exclusively #FPBE. This is a difficult time for our movement, as it is at last confirmed that the UK will be leaving the EU customs union and single market in a few days time.
2/20 Maybe you are feeling demoralised. Maybe like me you acutely feel the pain of having your European citizenship and identity stolen from you in an act of naked vandalism. Maybe you feel that a hole has been torn in your heart that will never be repaired.
3/20 At this time, it would be easy to rant about the economic lunacy of cutting ourselves off from our nearest, biggest market, or about huge losses that we will suffer in excluding ourselves from EU projects like Erasmus, Galileo and REACH. But that can wait for another day.
Read 21 tweets
6 Dec 20
1/ This is a completely dishonest account of the events that led us to this point, but (I will give Barrister's Horse this) cleverly crafted. At each stage, the pathway is misrepresented to blame remainers for the catastrophe that is about to be inflicted on the UK by leavers.
2/ For example, in tweet 5 we are told that the Benn Bill was 'allegedly' drawn up by EU lawyers. Nice conspiracy theory. Which EU lawyers?

What is the argument against the content of the bill (none presented that I can see)?
3/ In tweet 6 the issues surrounding prorogation are completely misrepresented. It was a deliberatey antidemocratic attempt to suppress Parliamentary debate on the most important issue of the age and found illegal by the Supreme Court (but, hey, Barister's Horse knows better?).
Read 14 tweets
5 Dec 20
1/4 At this point in the Brexit process, when we remainers can only wait in horror, like passengers in a bus with defective breaks that is hurtling towards a cliff, it’s important to remember three simple but utterly fundamental truths.
2/4 Truth #1: The only possible way of maintaining our economy, our individual rights, peace in Ireland, our global reputation and the Union was to stay in the single market and customs union.
3/4 Truth #2: We could have stayed in the SM and CU while leaving the EU (and possibly had more control over fishing), although there would be some small (to my mind trivial in the scheme of things) sacrifices over sovereignty.
Read 5 tweets

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