The New Class War: the marginalisation of the working class in British politics

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Evans

This project is about the politics of 21st century class exclusion in Britain. It connects research on the changing shape of class structure (simply put, from a ‘pyramid’ to a ‘diamond’) with political parties’ changing policy options.

We argue that these social and political changes have meant that the working class has become increasingly marginalised from mainstream politics. Our research examines these arguments reviewing evidence on the changing nature of inequality, perceptions of inequality and political attitudes since 1945. This has not changed, and people’s lifestyles and political attitudes are still divided along class lines.

What has changed are the policies that the mainstream parties offer to voters and the rhetoric they use to attract those voters. Using data from manifestos, party leader speeches and newspaper editorials, our research shows that the political choices open to voters changed radically in the 1990s and are no longer structured around class. This meant that the historic link between classes and parties also changed, leading to a huge reduction in class based voting from the 1990s. Instead, we have in fact seen increased class based non-voting, with people in working class jobs now much less likely to turn out to vote.

Funded by: Department of International Relations, Oxford University