‘It was just a lie to get my vote’: MCG’s focus group on voter regret and feeling politically homeless.

‘It was just a lie to get my vote’: MCG’s focus group on voter regret and feeling politically homeless.

Catherine Neilan

07:09 12th June 2021

The failure of opinion polls to call elections right points to a greater level of uncertainty in our politics in recent years.

After the domination of New Labour, we saw parties coalesce and become almost indistinguishable: polished men in polished suits, giving polished speeches that had been run past focus groups first.

The rise of “I agree with Nick” Clegg’s Liberal Democrats and David Cameron’s rebranding of the nasty party as ‘cuddly’ Conservatives ran parallel with a surge in popularity of groups at the fringe, as typified by Nigel Farage’s various guises as leader of Ukip, the Brexit Party and Reform UK.

But with the odds stacked against challenger parties under the first past the post system, voter apathy set in. Brexit was, in part, a protest vote against the centrist, socially liberal, economically open paradigm of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Boris Johnson’s 80-seat success in 2019 may not have been unexpected, but the scale of his victory against Jeremy Corbyn recalled the early successes of Tony Blair.

However it also belied the reluctance that many people went into the ballot box with. It was, for some, a vote to end Parliament’s paralysis and, in the now-immortal words of the slogan, get Brexit done. For others it was a vote against Corbyn. Some voters may have bought into Boris’s boosterism and levelling up agenda, but for many it was a negative vote against something rather than a positive vote for.

Why does this matter? Because when the chips are down - as they have been in the last 18 months - the foundations on which those votes were won begin to look very shaky indeed.

For this week’s Making Common Ground focus group we talk to three Leave voters who backed Boris in 2019 about why they now feel “politically homeless floating around waiting for someone to be more centrist”, and why they are even starting to regret their 2016 vote as well.

Listen to the session in full below.

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