Explaining Voters' Defection from Labour over the 2005–10 Electoral Cycle: Leadership, Economics and the Rising Importance of Immigration

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Abstract

We examine the significance of leadership, economic problems and immigration for defection from voting Labour over the period 2005–10. Vote switching at different points throughout the electoral cycle is estimated using discrete-time event history analysis models. Contrary to established expectations about the impact of the financial crisis and weaknesses in Gordon Brown's premiership, political leadership and economic evaluations had similar effects on defection during the early part of the electoral cycle, when Tony Blair was still in place, and the economy was still growing. In contrast, during the later period the economic crisis failed to impact on vote switching, which derived more noticeably from concerns over immigration or dislike of Brown. The emergence of immigration as a source of electoral punishment for Labour appears to derive from a particular dissatisfaction with the government's performance on an issue of rising salience; by comparison the economic crisis may well have been sufficiently global to have weakened attributions of responsibility to the government.

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