Last year Unchecked UK carried out a series of teleforums with swing voters in five “Red Wall’ constituencies that changed hands from Labour to Conservative in the December 2019 election. They explored how the constituents felt about regulation and standards in general, and specifically in relation to both food and climate change.
In the report A view from the ‘Red Wall’: Swing voters’ attitudes to regulation and food standards researchers found that the “red wall realists” they interviewed were easier to engage on food standards than on climate change and that local issues, such as pollution were of more concern to them, as an immediate danger.
There was no appetite to change or trade away standards and in fact those surveyed wanted the government to do more to support farmers and level the playing field to see off any cheap, lower quality products from countries like the US. Many of those who took part in the research stated that they had voted Conservative believing that Brexit would benefit British producers.
One who took part, Jane, 49 of North West Durham said: “Should the priority not be this country and helping farmers in this country so we can get healthy meat from our country? I don’t see why we need to go out of our country when we’ve got loads of farmers, who could get help off the government to make them better.”
The survey found that the swing voters try to British when shopping and assume others will do the same. Supporting British farmers was an important political stance to them and was bound up with a belief that British really is better. However, there was less agreement on labelling with many of those surveyed admitting they didn’t have time to check labels for country of origin or to determine how meat was reared.
The research concludes that protecting national identity and high standards were big motivators for swing voters, but their biggest concern was the impact of decisions on their local communities. In terms of behaviour change, the “red wall realists'' don't like to be lectured and felt that rather than making people feel bad for eating some meat for example, the government should put the necessary policies in place to make change happen further and faster.