The EU referendum debacle has shown clearly which group of voters we ought to target most: the creative sector. According to the Creative Industries Federation, 96 per cent of its members voted Remain. It’s one of many political battlegrounds where Lib Dems and creatives are on the same side. Creatives habitually call for freedom of expression, freedom of movement, free markets, greater diversity and more support for the self-employed. The Liberal Democrats is the only party to consistently call for those things too, as evidenced by our opposition to the Snoopers’ Charter and support for immigration.
Already, many if not most creatives consider themselves liberal. It’s simply a case of putting a capital “L” at the start of the word and adding “Democrat” after it. Incidentally, the same is probably true of scientists, most of whom also voted for Remain.
There are signs of “class consciousness” emerging: People in the creative sector tend to be highly educated, at least to graduate level, and a Populous Survey from 2014 shows we receive a disproportionately high level of support from people with degrees. In the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats received more endorsements from actors, musicians and other celebrity creatives than the Conservatives, Channel Four found. We lost most of them by the 2015 election, mostly to Labour, but this ought to be seen as a blip, a sense of annoyance with us for getting into a coalition with the Conservatives and failing to abolish student loans, even though we kept other promises, such as raising the income tax threshold, which benefits budding painters, writers and other low earning creatives.
As a constituency goes, the creative sector is not large; only about 2.8 million people work as designers, chefs, publishers, dancers, filmmakers and so on, which is about 6 per cent of the UK’s total electorate, but it’s growing and they are an articulate bunch who punch above their weight in the popular imagination and receive above-average media attention. In other words, when they argue in favour of something other people listen. If they come to see us as representing their interests (which we do), then they may help attract other liberal-minded internationalists, the 20% of voters described by David Howarth and Mark Pack in their report, “The 20% Strategy: Building a core vote for the Liberal Democrats”.
Just as Earth has an inner and outer core, so the Lib Dems have a potential inner core of “creative” voters and outer core of “internationalist” voters. Also, becoming the voice of the creative sector would ensure we become a party of interest as well as a party of values, which would give us greater solidity.
So, just as we put creative industries at the heart of our economic plans in 2015, let’s work closely with the Federation of Creative Industries and similar bodies now to produce a programme of initiatives that will help their members. That way, creatives may more readily associate themselves with us, leading to votes, membership, and even leadership. Our key word ought to be “Freedom”: We offer it and every creative needs it.
* Richard Warren is a journalist who is a member of Richmond Park Liberal Democrats.