Whether the United Kingdom has a Labour Prime Minister by the end of this week remains to be seen. What cannot be disputed, however, is that among Labour’s traditional working-class constituency, much of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government’s programme remains surprisingly popular.
Four out of five trade union members, for example, told pollsters that they thought the £26,000 (NZ$52,300) cap on benefits was a good idea. Indeed, Matt Ridley, Member of the House of Lords and author of the bestselling book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, reports that “Tory candidates out canvassing tell me they are finding that welfare reform, while horrifying the metropolitan elite, is most popular in the meanest streets — where people are well aware of neighbours who play the system”.
This is the same in NZ. The 2011 NZ Electoral Study found (on a weighted average basis) support for the following:
- Unemployed should work for benefits 80%
- Benefits make people lazy and dependent 63%
- Most unemployed could find a job if they want 60%
- Most on dole are fiddling 59%
- Trade unions are too powerful 52%
And take work for the dole. Among those who voted Labour in 2011, 76% support work for the dole, and only 14% are against it. For Green voters it is 73% in favour and 16% against.
49% of Labour voters agreed most unemployed could find a job if they want, with 42% disagreeing.
47% of Labour voters agreed benefits make people lazy and dependent with 39% disagreeing. With Greens 46% agreeing and 38% disagreeing.
The problem for NZ Labour is the disconnect between the MPs and activists, and their voters, and potential voters.
What horrifies “metropolitan elites” has, however, come to dominate the policies of both the British and New Zealand Labour Parties. Highly educated and socially liberal, the party activists of both countries would rather see their parties split in two than endorse the “reactionary” views of their working-class supporters.
Long may it continue. Labour for the last two elections has campaigned on paying the in work tax credit to families not in work. And they wonder why they don’t get 30%!