There's been much talk about how the US Republicans are demographically doomed unless they reform themselves, due to the rise of Hispanics alienated by their harsh line on immigration, and a Millennial Generation that generally believes in collective enterprise and is alienated by the GOP's cynicism and rugged individualism.
Some Tories have noticed similar trends happening this side of the Atlantic, and have begun to devise strategies for countering it, however I just want to present some statistics over the fold that show the scale of the Tories' problem.
The first issue confronting the Tories is growing diversity. The number of non-white people grew from 9% in 2001 to 14% in 2011. Not only this, but as has been seen in the US, minority populations have a ratchet effect, whereby growth leads to more growth. The minority share of British society has reached the point where it could start to take off pretty quickly.
Let's say the minority ethnic population is 21% by the time of the next census in 2021, and the Tories have done nothing to win them over, meaning they still vote for Labour by a 60% margin. If they vote for Labour by a roughly 75-15 margin, then for every 1% of growth, Labour gain a net 0.6% over the Tories. If they grow by 7% in ten years, Labour gain a net 4.2% over the Tories. That kind of change could swing 30-odd seats in Parliament, especially as ethnic minorites are beginning to move to the suburbs and become more strategically placed to flip marginal seats.
Secondy, generational change. I've just gone through the last 12 Populus polls and aggregated the voting intentions of people under 35. For 18-24 year olds, the combined sample size was about 1000, and they favoured Labour by a whopping 27%. For 25-34 year olds, the combined sample size was about 2000 and they favoured Labour by 20%. Generation turnings take 5-10 years to cross the Atlantic, so people aged 25 or more are probably the British equivalent of Generation X, however they seem to have different partisan preferences to their American counterparts.
Over a ten year period about 15% of the voting age population will pass on. If these 15% are mostly older people who favour the Tories by 10%, and are replaced by younger people who favour Labour by 20% then the Tories could lose a net 5% over the next 10 years. And no, generally don't move dramatically to the right as they age. That's a tiresome old canard from the 60s & 70s when people compared the Boomers to the Silent & the Lost.
Obviously the two trends are not independent of each other and some of the younger generation's Labour preference will be down to greater diversity, however nonetheless when they're combined the picture looks pretty grim for the Tories.
This is a familiar problem for right-of-centre parties all over the world. Many of them manage to stay relevant by re-inventing themselves and winning over new cohorts of voters. Others however struggle to do this and when I look at the Tories I think they may struggle.
They achieved it to an extent in 2010 and won over a respectable number of new voters, however they learned all the wrong lessons from their failure to win outright. They failed to win outright because the modernisation project began unravelling after the financial crash.
During 2007-08 they were riding high in the polls because David Cameron was coming across as a pretty liberal Tory, and many people who hadn't voted Tory before or hadn't voted for them since 1992 were beginning to look at them in a new light. Since then they've gradually reverted to type and large numbers enough think their main problem is they're not banging on about immigration enough and if they could just win back their supporters who have defected to right-wing protest party the UK Independent Party they could sweep to victory. They fail to understand that the immigration issue is already baked in to their image. To chance perceptions they need to change their image, and banging on about immigration is emphatically not the way to do it. They're like the deluded Bennite left (I should add that I actually greatly respect Tony Benn) in the 80s who said Labour's only problem was they didn't want to nationalise enough industries.
For those of us affiliated to Labour, or on the broader social democratic side of politics, it's win-win whatever the Tories do. If they stay in their ideological comfort zone we'll thrash them at the next few elections. If they reform themselves and stay competitive however, that won't be the end of the world either, as it'll be as a result of becoming a much more modern, moderate party.
In 1997 and 2002 a pair of very prescient books were published in the US. They were caled 'Millennials Rising' and 'The Emerging Democratic Majority' respectively. They were widely scoffed at, but their predictions have overwhelmingly come true, and are only just starting to come true here after the standard 10 years or so it takes for major sociological & generational changes to cross the Atlantic.
The Tories have got a thing or two to think about if they wish to stay relevant.