How can Labour win over aspirational voters?

With one year to go until the General Election, Left Foot Forward asked a selection of leading left-wing influencers what Labour can do to attract so-called aspirational voters.

Winning over so-called ‘aspirational voters’ is important at any election, especially when things are as tight as next year’s General Election looks like it’s going to be. Indeed, some in the Labour camp have been increasingly nervy in recent days, as the poll lead the party previously held over the Tories has all but evaporated.

In the past Labour assiduously courted ‘Mondeo man’ and ‘Worcester woman’ – swing voters that were won over by Tony Blair in 1997 but who largely switched to the Tories in 2010. Middle England, in other words.

So with one year to go until the General Election, Left Foot Forward asked a selection of leading left-wing influencers what Labour can do to attract the so-called aspirational vote.


Mark Ferguson, editor of Labour List markj

Talking about ‘aspirational voters’ can be a bit of a misnomer. Everyone has aspirations and dreams for their family, their community, their country or even just themselves. But for anyone to have any chance of achieving their aspirations, they need power over their own lives and money in their pockets. One way of achieving that is to tackle the intergenerational crisis.

Older people are increasingly reliant on a creaking care sector that has to be funded by selling their home, or by support from their children. Younger people are often trapped in an expensive private rented sector and locked out of increasingly unaffordable home ownership – leaving many reliant on their parents for support. In the middle are a generation used to cheap credit who are now having to pay for their parent’s care and their children’s deposits.

By building more homes and finding a way to fund social care – either through inheritance tax or through a combined health and social care service – that intergenerational crisis might be lessened, rather than intensified.


Emma Burnell, Labour List columnistEmmaj

What is an aspirational voter?

When Labour starts to lose votes, it is traditional to assume that we are losing the so-called aspirational voters. The comfortable, politically centrist middle classes who want to achieve more and do better. Those are certainly the voters we might lose to the Tories.

But though the General Election fight is between us and the Tories, the recent polls don’t show us losing voters to them but to UKIP. And I don’t think these are the same voters who want or need the same messaging from Labour.

The appeal of UKIP is not aspiration but a reflection of insecurity. Voters who are attracted to them are often not financially secure enough to aspire in the way the classic New Labour offer appealed to.

What is aspiration in the age of austerity? Is it what we used to think of as security? The understanding that we will have a roof over our heads and so will our children? That we will have secure employment and can be sure that hard work is properly rewarded?

Until we understand what it is that those who might – but currently aren’t – voting Labour aspire to, we should not jump to assumptions about them.


Robert Philpot, director of Progress OnlineRobertj

I’ve never been keen on the term ‘aspirational voters’. It’s normally coupled with the phrase ‘middle-class’ and contains within it the suggestion that Labour’s traditional working-class supporters are somehow without aspiration: that they are content to put up with poor public services, don’t want the opportunity to own their home, or see their children go to university.

There are two challenges for Labour today. First, to recognise that when it has rejected this false dichotomy – in 1945, 1964 and 1997 – it has managed to assemble a cross-class coalition which speaks to the aspirations of all voters for a better life. People voted for the creation of the NHS in 1945 – and to rebuild it in 1997 – not simply as an act of selfless altruism but because they recognised the virtues of pooling individual risk.

By contrast, the party has found itself in an electoral dead-end when it gets on the wrong side of the aspiration equation: as in the late 1970s when it dropped its own plans to introduce a ‘right to buy’ for council tenants thus ceding this territory to Margaret Thatcher.

Second, to understand that despite the immorality of the sight of food banks in 21st century Britain or the wastefulness of the ‘bedroom tax’, such issues alone are not going to win Labour power, and without power it can do nothing about them. As Victoria Groulef, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Reading West puts it, the party needs to talk as much about business rates as it does the bedroom tax. And the key phrase here is ‘as much as’, not ‘instead of’.


Richard Carr, Anglia Ruskin UniversityRichard Carrj

In short Labour needs to act less like a pressure group trying to get coverage, and more like a government in waiting forensically reviewing the landscape.

Firstly, though presentation matters, the election isn’t going to be won by selfies, hashtags and ‘no notes’ speeches. Miliband is running for prime minister, not Student Union president – he needs, frankly, to be more aloof and serious. There are shadow ministers who come off better anyway – Stella Creasy, Liz Kendall, Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna to name four – and who should be increasingly brought centre-stage. 2015 should be about the ensemble not just the leading man.

Equally, Labour do need to watch the class rhetoric. The electorate knows Cameron and Osborne had an august education. But if Labour actually want to win in places like Brighton, Cambridge and Norwich they need to get over it, and fast. Is the public school a symbol of inequality? Yes. Does every voter who went to one eat swan for dinner and bathe in Bollinger? Probably not. If Labour wants to win in southern marginals they need to nuance their message on this one.

That is not a call to go easy on the affluent. At present, rapacious elements in the City actually get off scot-free through brushing off criticism as just Labour ranting imprecisely. To deliver one million homes by 2020 Labour will need significant private sector help. This will also be needed to re-skill our economy through University Technical Colleges and such like. It is time to re-engage the responsible capitalist.


Wes Streeting, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Ilford NorthWesj

In his speech to Labour’s conference last year, Ed Miliband laid out a choice between two economic futures for Britain, promising to lead a ‘race to the top’ in contrast to David Cameron’s race to the bottom, which has seen living standards squeezed and working conditions threatened.

I’ve got a lot of families in Ilford North who are ambitious for their kids, but worried about their prospects, and thousands of small business owners who’ve made it through the recession and want to prosper from growth.

I’d like to see Labour build on its pledge to cut business rates for small businesses by creating a small business apprenticeship scheme to provide job opportunities for young people and support for small businesses struggling with the cost and red tape involved.

It’s practical, easy to understand and would illustrate how Ed’s race to the top really speaks to the aspirations of our people.

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14 Responses to “How can Labour win over aspirational voters?”

  1. Ruth Ockendon Laycock

    Labour can win the votes of 500,000 women, along with their families and friends, if they promise faithfully to reverse the last unfair discriminatory state pension age rise. Those women who were promised retirement at 60 when they started work at 15 years of age when there was no equality of wages with men and no chance to save for a private pension, accepted the first age rise and adjusted their plans accordingly, but were then hit with the second age rise without enough notice to do so again. How can they, many with age related complaints, work to 66 years of age,? Many with hard physical jobs won’t reach that age, they will have worked 45 years by then! While young people are living on benefits for lack of jobs. It’s unfair on both the older women and the young people. Will Labour reverse this cruel unfair age rise? Many voters hope so.

  2. tanith

    totally agree with yu ruth /im all for LABOUR and ED has a good heart /i do see him winning AND OUR NEXT PM x

  3. Dave Roberts

    He could have a word with Sadiq Khan who seems to be going down the ethnic minorities are the only ones deprived path that cost Livingstone the mayoralty twice. His latest speech is a gift to the Tories. Most deprived people in this country are white.

  4. treborc1

    I’m going to stick with not voting or if I do it will be UKIP, good old fashioned protest vote.

    I’m not middle class, and I’m not hard working anymore, so to be honest it would be wrong for me to vote labour, after all they are the party of the hard working.

  5. treborc1

    I’m going to stick with not voting or if I do it will be UKIP, good old fashioned protest vote.

    I’m not middle class, and I’m not hard working anymore, so to be honest it would be wrong for me to vote labour, after all they are the party of the hard working.

  6. Alan59

    Liebour can win over Inspirational voters by listening to what the vast majority in this Country want.Controlled Imigration , a curb on EU interference with our lives and a return of Democracy to these shores .

  7. blarg1987

    The way to win and maintain aspirational voters is to remind them to never forget where they came from and to help the next generation to get there.

    Society has made us greedy, with one generation having right to buy, but want to scrap it for the next, or having final salary pension schemes, yet expect the system to be reformed for the next geration if it keeps there outgoings and taxes down.

    If people are reminded more and held more to account on their actions, then this may encourage people to think more long term.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah, so you think that making sure the left have nothing to vote for, that British people are trapped in a decaying economy, without basic rights..that the 1% get all the votes…well…

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    Try appealing to the left wing voters you moved away from. The 1945 Labour manifesto is a good starting point.

  10. Arthur ASCII

    Why do you xenophobes always think you are in the “vast” majority?

  11. Arthur ASCII

    1. Field some candidates with a bit of life experience outside of politics
    2. Stop privatisation of public services
    3, Re-nationalise our railways, gas, electricity, water and postal system
    4. Introduce a Robin Hood Tax

    Not likely is it? That’s why I’ll be voting for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

  12. Alan59

    Voting UKIP LOL.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Exactly…there’s already a party for that.

  14. David Quinn

    As it becomes apparent to all that infinite growth is impossible in a finite world, redistribution in the right direction might be a good way forward. Most new voters can only aspire to a lower standard of living under capitalism.

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