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Voters want action on living standards over Brexit, study shows

09 August 2019


A STUDY by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has revealed that low-income voters urgently want action on living standards and domestic issues, over and above the resolution of Brexit, writes Rebecca Paveley.

Low-income voters are increasingly important for political parties, as they are a section of the electorate most likely to switch between political parties. The study found that an ambitious manifesto that put forward policies to revitalise local high streets, create more jobs in “left be
hind” areas, and offer more skills and apprenticeships could win over millions of these voters at the next general election.

While these voters are frustrated at lack of progress on Brexit, they are even more frustrated at lack of action on domestic issues.

The JRF, with the think tank UK in a Changing Europe, brought together voters in parts of the country that have seen little economic progress in recent decades. They gathered voters into workshops which revealed that, though they felt that Britain was “a country divided”, low-income voters were united in frustration at the London-centred nature of politics and economic investment. Towns “overshadowed” by a larger neighbour, such as Bolton, Worksop, and Dudley, felt that they lost out twice: first to London, then to their nearest city.

Their priorities — local investment in jobs, improved adult education and training, better local transport and childcare, and an end to zero-hours contracts — represented a clear agenda that could unite the country again, the JRF said.

“Brexit has monopolised political and policy debate, leaving little room for domestic issues. Too much emphasis has been placed on how to appeal to Leave or Remain voters as separate groups, and far too little on how to bridge that divide. The focus should be on rebalancing the economy, making sure work pays, supporting local economies . . . and ensuring people have the skills to make the most of opportunities in their area. People are impatient for change. They have . . . provided politicians with a clear way forward,” the report concludes.

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