University of Bath

The New Politics of Class

University of Oxford Professor of Politics James Tilley discusses the influence of class on politics and voting behaviour.

15 Nov 20176.30pm
15 Nov 20178.15pm

On Wednesday 15 November, the IPR will welcome University of Oxford Professor of Politics Professor James Tilley to speak on how the influence of class on politics and voting behaviour has changed in recent years.

Abstract: The New Politics of Class argues that reports of the death of class in Britain are premature. In fact, there has been huge social continuity in class divisions over the last fifty years, both in terms of economic inequality and political attitudes. The change that has occurred is political. Party policies, politicians’ rhetoric, and the social composition of political elites have radically altered. As Labour and the Conservatives became more similar, and more middle class, in the 1990s class differences in mainstream party preferences disappeared.

It does not follow that class politics is dead, however. Formerly minor parties, notably UKIP, have taken disillusioned working class voters from the two main parties. More importantly, the middle class consensus offered by the mainstream parties has meant that working class people are now much less likely to vote. Britain, like the US, has followed a path of working class political exclusion, fundamentally undermining representative democracy.

The New Politics of Class also explains the dramatic pattern of class voting at the 2016 EU referendum: direct democracy meant that for the first time in decades there was a clear political choice which exposed the continuing divisions between the classes.