David Cameron is having a full blown mid life (term) crisis. After three years in office he is looking around for a bit more fun in his life hoping to trade up to a younger better looking set of supporters! It will not amaze you that the Conservative Party draws much of its support from the older generations, in fact Tory support trails Labour in all the age profiles except the over 65s. As common sense dictates, conservatism is something that we grow into as we age.
Interestingly, the old tend to be more politically motivated and at the last general election, 76% of over-64s voted, compared with just 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds. Like the chap above, doggedly determined to participate in our democracy!
The coalition government recognising their importance have tried to support the elderly poor maintaining universal benefits for pensioners of free television licences, free bus passes and winter fuel payments. But quietly the coalition has been less kind on middle class pensioners who have savings of their own. The policy of QE / asset purchasing has has the effect of keeping interest rates very low reducing returns for savers and probably driving up retail prices by artificially devaluing the Pound. So this group is hurting and they feel let down, they won't be voting Labour any time soon but are there other siren voices that will be more difficult to ignore?
To try to re-balance the demographic support in the party David Cameron has pursued a modernising agenda with Gay Marriage as the flagship policy. Unsurprisingly old people are overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage a YouGov poll on the eve of the vote found that 80% of 18- to 24-year-olds support changing the law to allow gay marriage. Among people aged 60 or over, support stands at just 31%. Mr Cameron attempts to improve his appeal to younger voters is based on a firm belief that he is, when confronting Labour, his parties strongest electoral asset (probably correct). By setting himself against the core vote and many of his MPs, Mr Cameron believes he will have improved his standing with the under 60s and boost his prospects of re-election in 2015.
Cameron's tactic might have worked in a straight two party scrap but the rise of UKIP raises all kinds of uncertainties. Specifically, UKIP have targeted David Cameron as a "poor excuse for a Tory" and his strategy to attract young voters may backfire badly if UKIP can get traction beyond being a protest vote. Many disaffected older voters might be tempted to switch allegiance if they feel that "their Party" is now led by a man enthralled to the younger generation - They certainly don't see Nigel Farage as a hoody hunging, computer games addict who supports equal marriage.
|Farage - flag waver for the Right|