The United Kingdom 2017 election: polarisation in a split issue space

After decades in which party competition was fought in the centre ground, the 2017 UK General Election witnessed a return to more conflictual politics. This article assesses public support for the electoral strategies of the main parties and examines the extent to which the issues the parties campaigned on resonated with their own supporters, as well as with the wider public. Drawing on the issue-yield framework, the article shows that the Conservative campaign – generally considered to be badly run – did not focus on issues that would fully exploit the opportunities for expanding support that were open to the party. Labour, by contrast, played a much better hand. While taking a clear left-wing stance on many policies that were popular with its constituency, the party also skilfully emphasised valence issues that Labour is often seen as more credible on, such as healthcare and education.