The Blue Wall's Green Pragmatists

  • Research
  • 29 September 2022

New focus group research shows ignoring ‘green pragmatists’ could cost the Conservatives the Blue Wall

Since Liz Truss became Prime Minister in early September, More in Common conducted four focus groups across the so-called ‘blue wall’ to test initial reactions to the new government’s policies and direction on energy bills and energy security.  

The blue wall seats of Guildford, Witney, Watford and Altrincham and Sale West are traditional Tory voting seats (held by the Conservatives since 2010 at least and in many cases much longer) but where support has been drifting away from the Conservative Party in the last two general elections to both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party.  

In More in Common’s segmentation of the British public, the Established Liberal segment best reflects the voters who have been turning away from the Conservative Party in recent elections. They were the only Conservative-leaning segment and support has been falling consistently since the 2017 General Election.  

Screenshot 2022 09 29 At 18.21.29

When it comes to climate and the environment, Established Liberals aren’t the kind of people to attend Extinction Rebellion protests nor do they see net zero transition as an opportunity to upend or transform the economy. However, they do consistently rate the environment in their top three issues facing the country. Offering the best climate policies in the next election manifestos will be key to winning this group’s vote.  

Our recent focus group research shows that if the Tories want to stem falling support among this group, and start to win them back, they need to continue the course they started with their commitments to net zero under the last two Tory governments. 

Key Findings 

These blue wall voters consider renewables vital to the future of our energy security and reducing our dependence on ‘mad men’ like Putin. 

I think, unfortunately, while there's this megalomaniac in Russia, he's turning the screw because we've banned him from this and that and he's getting his own back on us by doing this. It's very simple. He's damaging all the economies of the West, of Western Europe and Poland and it's just like a tsunami. And until he is stopped, and we're going to have this problem. We're talking about this, this and that, but Putin is the problem.

Roger, Established Liberal, Guildford

It's not being dangling on the end of a string by Mr. Putin or whoever. Yeah. It's getting into a situation where you're in control of your own destiny. And I think right at the very beginning of this conversation, one of the panelists here was talking about control. And this is a perfect example of that, taking control of a situation that can help the overall picture

Phil, Backbone Conservative, Altrincham and Sale West

They will punish any party that reneges on net-zero commitments – they don’t see reaching net zero as a choice, but as a necessity. Any party that pretends otherwise will appear out of touch with reality. 

I see a lot of the political parties think short term between the next election and I'd like to see a party that's proposing some real sort of long term plans, investment and change. I mean in the summer wasn't it, it was 40 degree heat and parts of London were burning and everyone was horrified. And then, it seems like the focus has shifted away from that now and we're talking a lot more about the cost of living crisis and things. And I think it needs, I would like to see it back higher up the agenda, I think.

Dale, Established Liberal, Guildford

They agree all options should be on the table to get Britain through the cost of living crisis and to build up our energy security, even using fossil fuels, but they want to be reassured that there is a long-term plan that has renewables front and centre.  

There's always alternatives that can be explored, some better than others, some more scalable than others. But this knee jerk reaction and windfall taxes is not in the spirit of things like the climate pledge or a more sort of structured approach to where we need to be, both from an economic perspective but also from a sustainability perspective.

Simon, Established Liberal, Guildford

I think we've got a look at it as some sort of solution. I think, like Janet said, we've got to look at renewable sources if we're going to try and become more independent with things. And fuels are going to run out at some point, so we've got to look in the long term at future plans and what we can use from a renewable point of view.

Karen, Established Liberal, Altrincham and Sale West

They think that investing in insulation and energy saving measures are just simple fiscal good sense – helping ordinary people to save money and not wasting taxpayers money. Many think renewables are generally a better bet and they worry about continuing to bail out energy companies.

I'd rather spend that money on actually future proofing sustainability for the longer term. So, any political party that has a longer term view rather than this ‘me, me, me, selfish, bail me out view’ is somebody that will get my vote.

Simon, Established Liberal, Guildford

I think we can do wind farms quicker than we could do fracking. So I'm all in favor of the green. Rather than wind farms, I think what we should all be given ... What happened under the Blair government, which is when I got my solar panel, or the coalition government, is we should all be given grants to put solar panels on the roofs of our houses. That is why I've got solar panels and I'm making money, not just for myself, but for the rest of the country.

Tony, Established Liberal, Watford

They are not opposed to fracking if it works, but most don’t want it in their area and are worried about some of the risks of  fracking like earthquakes. 

Personally, I'm against fracking. I think it's not a good idea. They have done some exploratory drilling near Gatwick , and then we just have a lot of wave of those mini earthquakes, whether that was related or not, I don't think in a populated area it's a very good idea. I do think that we should be looking at more renewable, more sustainable energy, and not rushing for this possible source of non-renewable.

Dale, Established Liberal, Guildford

They see their climate commitment through the lens of the impact it will have on their children and grandchildren 

Definitely anybody that's got a good plan that's a long term plan. But I just would really like it if they actually meant it and not just going to pay lip service, because they're going to get our vote. So it would be nice if there was just some trust there that they would actually do something useful, something long term, something beneficial. I would be listening intently to somebody who's got a plan that involves helping our planet so that it is still here and is sustainable for our kids when they grow up.

Shonagh, Established Liberal, Guildford

Well, I've got a baby on the way, and to think what their life will be like over their lifetime. So I'd like to think it's quite high up about the sustainability and the climate and the effect that climate change is going to have on everything. But then also there is that aspect of getting through and how everything is affecting us right now. And I'd like to think in two years time, I'd be thinking about 2030 or 2035, but actually, will I'll be thinking about 2025 or the end of 2024? So it's that balance, isn't it?

Ross, Established Liberal, Witney

They think the Government should be supporting people to make green choices – like bring back grants to support green homes. 

Can I just butt in there, because a friend of mine, you're talking about the heat pump. He was going to get one which would've been subsidized by the government, and they've canceled it and they've taken away the subsidy and this is literally two days ago? The money dried up basically. They weren't going to go ahead, but that's obviously because they're spending all this money now and obviously, they've cut grants for the pumps. Simple as that. And that happened to my friend, because he was waiting for the company because they used contractors to obviously do the work and they said, "Well, we can't do it because the government have cut off the money." And I think we're going to be getting a bit more of that on that side.

Roger, Established Liberal, Guildford

They want to see more investment in new technology to reach net-zero and bring the price down for consumers  

I read an article the other day how basically car companies can't get rid of all these new cars they're buying because everyone's essentially moving with the times, whether they agree with it or not. The electric car, I think the technology is advancing very quickly and there's more charge points. The cars can go longer now. It's like with so many things like Tesco self-service checkouts, I remember years ago, I’m like refusing ‘No keep people’s jobs, I refuse to use them’ and now they’re everywhere

Helen, Established Liberal, Watford

They want to see a well-managed transition to net zero rather than a radical green revolution. They want a long-term, realistic and consistent plan that sets out how we will reach net zero in the coming decades.  

I think unless there's a long-term plan with renewable energy in mind, I don't think anything will change. I think they've said next year is going to be similarly difficult. So I think, yeah, there's no magic wand. I think that's us now, that's the cost of energy. And it's kind of a shame that it's taken like a massive crisis almost, but if the world is more conscious of trying to use less, then that can't be a bad thing.

Gareth, Established Liberal, Witney