Is class voting a thing of the past?

By George Ware

A working-class Tory. That’s not something you hear every day. Since the creation of the Labour party, the idea of a working person to vote for a conservative was but a legend. There were mythical tales of such events taking place but only on a solar eclipse or if the planets aligned, or at least that’s what you’d think used to happen given the current reaction to such a thing happening in the modern political climate. The same can be said going the other way with upper middle class people deciding to vote for Labour. That being said, there has been a definite increase in the amount of people that are “switching sides”. It is much more common to see a person voting against the party their class stereotype says they should support, but why? There were stereotypes for a reason weren’t there? Labour was founded to help the working class and the Conservatives’ low tax approach has always been a favourite with the wealthy, so what’s changed?

In more recent elections, there have been some surprise exchanges of what would have been considered safe seats. Labour lost northern strongholds in places like Copeland, Derbyshire, and Macclesfield while the Conservatives lost ground in southern areas like Canterbury. What could be causing this fairly recent change in opinions? One of the key reasons for this transition suggested by Julia Partheymueller, a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Lecturer at the University of Essex and voting behaviour researcher, is globalisation and Brexit. She theorises that globalisation and the opportunity of a Brexit Referendum has played a key factor in the end of class voting. “Analyses have shown that the vote to leave the European Union was among other considerations strongly driven by the wish to reduce immigration – one of the significant side-effects of globalisation”. While immigration, which mainly effected the working class, was one reason for leaving the European Union, there were also the economic, business, and sovereignty issues. Both the working class and the middle to upper classes are affected by these different reasons for leaving or staying in the European Union but, rather oddly, the issues regarding the different classes have been taken up by their opposite parties in some cases.

Julia Partheymueller goes on to say that “the Conservative party has promised to execute the national-level approach to controlling immigration, willing to take the UK out of the EU to accomplish that. Labour has struggled to re-define its-self as the cosmopolitan alternative because many traditional Labour voters had voted to leave the EU in the referendum. Still, in the general election, Labour became the party standing for a “soft Brexit” that would assure access to the single market. As a result, even traditional Labour strongholds that voted Leave fell into the hands of the Conservatives, whereas on the other side, Labour was able to succeed in some of the Remain constituencies that previously had voted Conservative”.

As a result, class voting is beginning to disappear because the issues of modern politics cross the typical class lines. Although you are still more likely to vote a certain way based on your class, this is changing. Class politics is beginning to fade away and is instead being replaced by something else. Age. Depending on how old you are, you’re much more likely to vote a certain way. The Deputy Leader of the Colchester Borough Council and runner up for the Colchester constituency, where Labour saw a surprise surge in support, Councillor Tim Young agrees that age had become a key factor in how you are likely to vote. “In 2017 there was definitely an age divide. Labour won in all age groups up to 49 and the Tories were ahead in age groups older than that. In fact, the younger you were the more Labour was ahead and the older you were it was vice versa. Labour did very well in university towns and in London and in many seats where there had been a large ‘Remain’ vote in the EU referendum. The Tories did better than expected in some predominantly white, working class seats but the old UKIP vote seemed to divide fairly equally across the country. I believe that partially explains why the Tories gained Mansfield and a seat in Middlesbrough and why Labour was able to gain Canterbury and Kensington & Chelsea”. To find out more about how voting is affected by your age, I talked to Liam Gallagher, the President of the University of Essex Conservative Future Society, in order to see how a young person’s age determines if they are more likely to vote a certain way. When asked about if class or age effects the way someone votes, Mr Gallagher replied “I’d consider the fact that politics among the young has never been particularly about class. It has always seemed more ideologically based. Lots of young middle-class people are drawn to socialism, something which tends to correct itself once they grow up and pay taxes.”

While class voting my not be the most adequate way of predicting how people will vote anymore, the question remains if it will come back. We know that the EU Referendum and the following Brexit negations have been a driving force in the reduction of traditional class voting because aspects of Brexit like immigration has split both the left and right wing, but what happens when its all over? Although it may feel like Brexit will go on for ever, the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU in march 2019 and when or if that happens, will we revert back to the kind of class voting we saw before Brexit? Issues brought up by Brexit are polarising and it seems that sectors from each side of the spectrum are becoming disenfranchised with their traditional party for their opinion on Brexit but once the dust has settled and the before mentioned issues stabilise, there is a good chance people may just go back to their stereotypical party. If your working class and have negative views on immigration so vote Tory at the election to support Brexit, you would go back to Labour eventually because they are supposed to be the party that benefits your interests the most.

All in all, the whole situation seems to look like this. Class, before Brexit, effected how you would vote. If you were working class you voted Labour and if you voted Conservative its because your upper class. The middle class, especially since the Blair era centralised the Labour party, became the typical swing voters. Age is also a key factor in how someone votes. The younger they are the more likely they will support Labour, as seen by typical voting on university campuses, and visa versa. However, with the introduction of Brexit, typical left or right wing issues were put on the back burner. Cross party issues have become the main talking points and therefore all the classes are more likely to vote for the opposition party rather than what would be expected of them. This has caused the appearance of an end to class politics but, when the issues and repercussions of Brexit have settled, the likelihood is that we will revert to the way things were. When the Conservatives and Labour begin to slide back along the political spectrum back to how they were in the late 20th century, as their current leaders appear to be doing, the middle class will begin to have less of an easy time to decide who to vote for and a new or revitalised party, such as the Liberal Democrats, may take the slack left behind.

Candidates Clash at University’s European Election Hustings

By George Ware

Candidates standing in the East of England constituency for the upcoming European parliamentary election attended a hustings hosted by the University of Essex last night.

The upcoming European election, which is set to take place tomorrow, is shaping up to be one of the most exceptional elections in recent years, despite the results deemed lack of importance. As part of the extension to the government’s Brexit negotiations, the UK is required to take part in the European Union’s Parliamentary election. The UK is currently set to the leave the EU on the 31st October 2019, which limits the effectiveness and the impact UK MEPs will have when elected. However, even though MEPs will only be in office for around 6 months, the election is an important measuring stick for the public’s satisfaction with political parties and the Brexit negotiations.

Each main party is putting up 7 candidates, in order of preference, in the 12 regional constituencies around the UK and the East of England is no exception. The East of England, which houses the counties Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire will be voting to elect 7 MEPs out of 54 ranging from numerous parties.

In order to help students, decide on who they should vote for and why they should vote, the University of Essex, along with the University and College Union, hosted an East of England European Election hustings on their campus last night. Located at the university’s STEM building, candidates from the largest parties were invited to speak.

Perhaps one of the most important candidates in the country, Richard Tice, who is the Chairman of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, was invited to take part. Formed in January of this year, the Brexit Party is predicted to be a serious force in the upcoming election with YouGov polling them at 37% of the vote at the time of writing. However, despite this, Richard Tice failed to show up to the event, much to the amusement of the other candidates.

The rest panel was made up of 5 candidates from the biggest parties in England. The candidates were: –

  • Stuart Agnew MEP (UKIP), Incumbent, First Choice
  • Joe Rich (Conservative), Third Choice
  • Christopher Vince (Labour), Second Choice
  • Stephen Robinson (Liberal Democrat), Fourth Choice
  • Catherine Rowett (Green), First Choice

One of the criticisms of the Labour party during the UK’s process of leaving the European Union has been the party’s indecisiveness as to whether they support remain or leave. However, Christopher Vince was quick to point out that he’d like to see a vote on the final deal but ultimately wants to see the UK remain in the EU. Vince said: “I believe that we should stay in the EU, I campaigned for remain in 2016, and personally I don’t think were going to leave the EU in 6 months time, I think actually we’ll be in a situation where we stay there much longer. I’m very much for a confirmative vote on a deal that Labour sets out for the people and then we can actually be in a situation where the public make a decision and I will be campaigning for remain when that comes along”.

Aside from the Brexit Party, another party polling well are the Liberal Democrats. Strongly in favour of remain, the Liberal Democrats, and their candidate Stephen Robinson, are in favour of seeing a second referendum on the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Robinson spent much of the evening talking about pushing for a second referendum, stating that “there’s no such thing as too much democracy”. When challenged by an audience member who compared the Liberal Democrats’ thirst fir a second referendum to Theresa May repeatedly bring back her Brexit deal to parliament, Robinson said: “The reason were arguing for a peoples vote is that in 2016 there was nothing on the table for what you were actually getting in fact some people from the leave campaign said, like Daniel Hannan, ‘we’re not talking about leaving the single market’ and others said that we are leaving the single market so the leave campaign was full of people saying completely opposite things”.

One of the most hotly debate topics brought up during the debate was that of immigration. As a lecturer at the nearby University of East Anglia, Green candidate Catherine Rowett recognised the importance of immigration to universities saying: “Immigration is not a problem, its an asset. Immigrants are a net contributor to our economy but also out universities and our research”. However, one person very much against the Green parties open boarder policy was Stuart Agnew MEP. The UKIP MEP, who has been serving in the European parliament for 10 years, disagreed to uncontrolled immigration saying: Yes, immigration is a good thing, we’ve benefited from it for the past 2000 years but we feel it should be controlled. Most western economies across the world have a very tough immigration system and it is very important to know who is coming in to this country and it’s not unreasonable to want that and we are a very full country”.

Arguably the party under the most pressure in this election are the Conservatives with the Tories polling at just 7% of the vote. Many believe the party will be punished by much of its voters for the government’s inability to deliver Brexit with many of them moving to support the Brexit Party. However, despite this, Conservative candidate Joe Rich was optimistic that Brexit would be delivered and when asked why still supports leaving the EU Rich said: “There really isn’t all that much democracy in Europe is there. It is only possible to create legislation in the European Parliament through the Commission and I think that pretty much everybody can see that this is a really bad idea”.

The hustings was a useful tool for those in attendance to get an idea of what each party stands for and who they think they might vote for when the polling stations open on Thursday. All of the candidates walked away from the evening knowing what they were up against. With the Brexit Party predicted to suck up the disenfranchised leave supporting voters, it seems that both UKIP and the Conservatives could suffer devastating loses when the results are announced on Sunday. Labour could also suffer loses, having a votership comprised of both Leavers and Remainers, with the Liberal Democrats eyeing up the remain votes.





The Haxey Hood 2018 – Just when I though my local area couldn’t get any weirder

By George Ware

In the winter, outdoor sports aren’t really my thing. It’s simply too cold and the ground too hard for me to be bothered. That being said, I’m not really the toughest of people. In my opinion that title is reserved for the eccentric (crazy) village community of Haxey. The first time I visited Haxey, in the hills of north Lincolnshire, it was so hot that I passed out from heat exhaustion and, while there on January 6th, it was so bitterly cold that I genuinely feared for my wellbeing. None the less, it didn’t stop the Haxey locals, and people from nearby villages, from competing in the annual event of the Haxey Hood.

I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of the Haxey Hood. It’s one of these old archaic sports from the middle ages that the locals still uphold. The game itself is full of pomp and showmanship but once it all kicks off it can be brutal. A rough explanation of how it all began is that when a noble lady from the 14th century lost her hood while riding a horse, farm hands competed to get the hood for the lady to win her favour. The game involves all the competitors, of which there are probably a thousand or two, getting in to a massive scrum and trying to push a leather tube, representing the lady’s hood, to one of the pubs in the area. The four pubs that compete, the Carpenter’s Arms, the Duke William Hotel, The Loco, and the Kings Arms, will even put their own teams forward to get the hood to their pubs. The winning pub will then keep and display the hood for the year until it all happens again.

After I was convinced to go see it, I went to Haxey and walked from the village up an exhaustingly steep path until reaching an open field atop the hill. This was the starting area for the match. People were already pouring in to the field from the centre of the village where they had “smoked the fool”. The fool was one of the original farmhands, too scared to approach the lady after he won. A person represents to fool and they light small fires around him, and his ridiculous outfit, to “smoke him”. It was at the point of watching a grown man dance around wearing a frankly foolish outfit and with soot smeared on his face that I began to think that visiting Haxey for the second time may have been a mistake. However, to be honest, I’m glad I did.

The field, despite the cold weather, was extremely wet and muddy. Your feet sink about 4 inches in to the mud so imagine my frustration when I had to trudge through the stuff in new, flat soled, Converse trainers. They weren’t new for very long. Its at this point that I should probably explain that the pubs serve free drinks to anyone that is competing, so you can probably image the state of some of the people. Before the main event, the children got a chance to play their own, neutered version of the game. I say neutered but that is an overstatement. At this point I had been trudging around in the cold and sticky Lincolnshire countryside for just over ran hour. Like most of the people there, especially since I was a Haxey Hood newbie, I couldn’t wait for the main game to begin.

The time for the main event came just as the sun was beginning to set and the large Haxey crowd had packed themselves in to a tight group called the “sway”. Before going to the Haxey Hood, I had no idea what the game would be like. I’d heard some simple explanations from family but the rules and the shear savagery of the game was something I had no grasp on. After hanging around for a while, I learnt that the hood was moved in the big scrum but no one was aloud to actually pick the thing up. The weather and the preposterously muddy field had, up until the start of the match, kept me in a bit of a sour mood but when the game began I was entertained to no end. I had been tempted to join in myself but watching the carnage soon changed my mind. The revellers pushed and heaved, battling for possibly the most important thing in their village. Not the Hood, but their favourite pubs. With no real teams, the match is a bit of a free-for-all. The massive scrum is somewhat of stampede. One man even said, “a couple of years back the sway collided with a parked car. They actually managed to move it! Pushed it down the hill in to another car”. In the end, after much in the way of blood, sweat, and beers, the Hood went to the Carpenter’s Arms.

The Haxey Hood, actually turned out to be a great day out. The charm and character of the event and the locals made it a memorable experience. I would definitely recommend trying out some of the quirkier local events in your area because, if there anything like the Haxey Hood, you’ll have a great time.




Wenger Retires: Was Arsene Wenger a Great Manger?

By George Ware

On the 20th of April 2018, Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger announced to the world that, at the end of the season, he will be stepping down from his role and retiring. Joining the London club back in 1996, Wenger has remained a stalwart in the otherwise consistent managerial merry-go-round of the premier league for 22 years, that is approximately 7,888 days. This makes the 68-year-old Frenchman the longest serving manager in premier league history, even beating out former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who stands at a total of 7582 days in the managerial hot seat.

However, despite the lengthy tenure and arguably some of the most historic moments in premier league history, most notably the fantastic 2003-04 season which saw the “invincibles” team win the premier league without suffering a single defeat, fans of late have been less than happy with their manager’s performance. There is no doubt that in the last couple of seasons Arsenal’s results have been less than impressive for a club of their size and this has led many to speculate if the decision of retirement was less made by Arsene Wenger but rather by the club itself.

Given the chanting of Wenger out and the somewhat frequent protesting of his tenure in the latter stages, the question that comes to mind is whether or not Arsene Wenger is really that good of a manager. When compared to his managerial rivals, is Wenger anything special?

Having served for 22 seasons as manager, it is unsurprising that Wenger has the most number of premier league matches under his belt with him standing at the touchline, or in the stands, for 824 games. 474 of those games were wins, although there are still a few to go this season, that leaves Arsene Wenger with a 57.5%-win percentage. If you compare that with his rivals of past and present, it leaves Wenger in 8th place behind former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellagrini who has 61.1%. Long term rival Sir Alex Ferguson, and one of the few managers able to come close to Wenger’s impressive games tally has a superior win ratio placing 3rd out of all premier league managers with a 65.2%-win rate.

Wenger Graph

Aside from win percentages, Wenger has a considerable list of honours. 3 Premier League Titles and 7 FA Cup Wins along with the first ever undefeated season and the first ever English league title won by someone from outside of the UK. This makes Wenger the third most decorated manager in premier league history as well as one of the most consistent, having only dropped out of the top 5 once, at the end of the most recent 2017-18 campaign. However, having not won a premier league title since 2004, you can understand why the fans might be frustrated with Wenger.

Wenger’s departure is a potentially risky one. Having witnessed the collapse of Manchester United for several seasons after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, as shown in the graph above, you could understand if fans of Arsenal were worried about the future prospects of the club. That being said, many are just as likely be glad to see the back of Wenger, no matter the consequences, because they believe things can’t get any worse. In a poll aimed to boil down the Wenger In or Wenger Out dispute, we found that 60% of those who participated in the poll we worried about the consequences of Wenger leaving will 40% where happy to see their long serving manager retire.

Wenger was a stalwart of the premier league for 22 years and kept Arsenal consistently in the top 6, winning the title on 3 occasions. While he wasn’t as successful as his main rivals, Wenger should still be considered one of the best managers the premier league has ever scene. It is yet to be seen if Arsenal will collapse after his departure or thrive but it is certain that a this is a historic moment in English football that could change the landscape of the premier league.