Claire Ainsley’s The New Working Class: How To Win Hearts, Minds and Votes was published by Policy Press in May 2018.
The concept of the “working class” voters, who are key to election success, is a perennial political topic, with the majority of British people still identifying as working class. There’s a clear idea of who they look like across media, politics and popular culture: older, white men who work in manufacturing jobs, probably in the North of England, and live in small towns and the suburbs. So when Claire Ainsley’s book upended these stereotypes, it caused an immediate stir.
Drawing on research from the British Social Attitudes survey, Ainsley presents a very different picture, of lower- and middle-income voters working in the service and hospitality industries, as teaching assistants, cleaners, admin staff, and so much more. They’re younger, more diverse, and most importantly, not being reached by any of the political parties, who don’t seem to recognise how British society has changed. This working class feels unseen, unheard, and with no one in politics representing their views, needs and aspirations.
When the book was launched in May 2018, the marketing strategy was simple: to get Ainsley’s message spread as widely as possible, but especially to the politicians and opinion-shapers who needed to hear it most. And the tactic worked, as the book was covered by all the major newspapers and across political websites, with various discussion about implications of the work, bringing the invisible majority sharply into focus. It’s been especially interesting seeing how people from all over the political spectrum have seen the opportunities for their side to use the new knowledge to their own advantage.
As Ainsley includes practical recommendations for how politicians can reach this new working class, with messages that could resonate and repulse, and policy ideas to adopt for quick wins and long-term change, it will be interesting to see how her work will be reflected in the upcoming political strategies, manifestos and campaigns. The impact of her work has only begun.