The local election results show a further realignment in UK politics so that they converge on something more like the US model. Increasingly in the US, the Democrats are the left of centre party representing the urban elite, the educated literati, the media, and academe. Added to this is their support among the poorer sections of the big cities, minority groups, welfare recipients and those on minimum wages.
The Republicans increasingly find support from the affluent suburbs of the big cities, from those in nice houses in leafy areas on the fringes of cities rather than in their centre. Added to these are the populations of America’s small towns, more rural than urban. These are more right of centre and currently ally with workers who feel left out by the political class, the blue collar aspirational types who value the American tradition of opportunity and reward for hard work.
Increasingly, UK politics seems to be moving towards a similar divide, with Labour following the Democrat path, albeit more extremely, and Conservatives drawing support from groups similar to those that back Republicans in the US. Analysts question whether these somewhat unlikely partnerships are stable, or whether the different goals of the groups within the parties will drive them apart.
They suggest that the aims of the big city poor are at odds with those of the urban elite, creating a schism within the Democrats, and that the aims of America’s blue collar workers are similarly out of line with those who are already reasonably well off, leading to a divide within the Republicans. Some suggest that the same fault lines are being reproduced within UK politics.
One factor which might favour the Republicans is that blue collar workers aspire to be like their affluent counterparts, and therefore identify with them more than the urban poor identify with the urban elite. If true, this would make the Republican coalition more stable than that of the Democrats. Extending this to the UK, it might mean that in the longer term the Conservative coalition of the aspirational and the achievers could outlast the Labour one of the dependents and the intellectual left-wingers.