Low earner Liberal Democrats: the rural dimension

In talking about the low earner Liberal Democrats this week, I have emphasised the urban aspect:

It’s a group of people that is not that often explicitly addressed in Liberal Democrat policy debates or campaigning and messaging discussions, expect in as much as they are part of the millions who would benefit from the party’s policy of raising the income tax threshold to £10,000.

Yet these low earner households have been the bedrock of many of the party’s biggest electoral successes in the last decade. The party’s control of a string of large cities – Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol and so on – has often rested heavily on the support from ‘low earner Liberal Democrats’.

However, urban areas by no means have a monopoly on low earner households. In fact, if you look at the 50 seats with the highest proportion of low earner households the ones with an obvious Liberal Democrat interest are overwhelmingly rural:

1. North Devon
6. Torbay
25. Hereford
29. St Ives
35. Truro and St Austell
42. Kingston upon Hull North
47. North Cornwall
48. Ceredigion

(Figures based on existing Parliamentary boundaries.)

The eight seats ‘of interest’ in the 50 with the highest proportion of low earner households is neatly similar to the nine in the 50 seats with the lowest proportion of low earner households.

A high or low proportion of low earner households in an area does not dictate that the Liberal Democrats will necessarily do well or badly. Rather, there are significant numbers of low earner households right across the country, both urban and rural, and in many areas they have been a key part of a successful move from being a fringe party in the politics of the constituency or council to being one of the dominant ones. How well the party appeals to Chris, Jane and Julie is certainly influenced by national factors, but is also heavily shaped by the choices made locally.

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4 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Mar '10 - 4:35pm

    i replied to your earlier article before I saw this. But yes, doesn’t this indicate what rubbish it is when we are told that to fight and win seats like Torbay we must adopt the sort of pro-stinking-rich policies which are all the Tory Party is about?

  • What sort of occupations do these rural types have? Are a lot of them farm labourers or otherwise having to do with the land? Are a number of them Poles? They will have their own set of concerns.

    I would be interested to see what concerns people in Akenfield have, politically. It always vaguely confused me that people seem to take for granted that they are Conservative areas, because that can’t be all there is to it.

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