The Economist’s political map of the UK: the north/south divide revealed

Here’s the traditional political map of the UK, each constituency colour-coded to the winning party:

UK-Political-Map1 (1)

It’s a map which flatters to deceive. The Tories appear to be the dominant force across pretty much the whole of England. The Lib Dems’ strength through the celtic fringe appears to put us pretty much on a par with Labour.

The Economist has this week done something very simple: create a political map which equalises the size of constituencies and colour codes according to the turn-out for the winning party…

economist 2 nations map

The result is stark: the two-party state of the UK is clearly revealed. It turns out that the UK is also divided into red states and blue states. As the Economist notes:

Save for a belt of Tory hills and dales across North Yorkshire and the Lake District, the north is red—as are, barring nationalists, Wales and Scotland. The south is deep blue, strikingly so in the surrounds of London (it gets more Liberal Democrat to the west). Only in London and the Midlands do the parties seem to be in real competition.

It’s a far cry from this famous 2001 Lib Dem poster:

poster-poll-large

Four points:

  1. The Economist map only shows results under first-past-the-post: it therefore exaggerates the extent of support for both Labour and the Conservatives.
  2. The map nonetheless highlights the retreat of the Tories from the north and Labour from the south. This is dangerous for both parties, as there is a likely spiral effect, with each becoming more remote from the concerns of the voters in the areas they don’t represent.
  3. This makes the case for both Labour and the Tories to consider proportional representation at local elections for their own sakes: to increase their representation at the grassroots in areas where otherwise they’ve been wiped out.
  4. Finally, the need to decentralise power from Whitehall: for almost all power to be controlled by Westminster when no party can speak for the nation as a whole is dangerous for democratic legitimacy.

PS: for anyone whose preconceptions have been up-ended by the new political map, here’s some solace courtesy of The West Wing and the Peters projection map of the world…


(Available on YouTube here.)

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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35 Comments

  • Graham Neale 21st Apr '13 - 2:32pm

    So the majority of our parliamentary seats border with Tories, which is why the grass roots think the party elite are shifting our party to the right?
    Simples.

  • paul barker 21st Apr '13 - 3:03pm

    A slight amendment, its a Northwest/Southeast divide & it affects everything from fashion to health. While there are fundamental causes in Geography theres no doubt that our Centralised, 2 Party dictatorship makes the problems worse. The Liberal Democrats actually represent the only solution, neither of the Big 2 Parties are going to give up Power now because of worries about their futures.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '13 - 9:15pm

    If you’re a working class person in the south-east outside London, how does the Labour Party come across to you? In the 1970s, it seemed to be all about northern heavy industrial culture, entirely alien to southerners. Since then there’s been a gradual shift to it being about a sort of metropolitan intellectual elite type, again entirely alien. Of course, if you’re a working class person in the south-east outside London, the Conservatives are aliens as well, a party of wealthy people who speak in a strange posh accent that is far removed from real southern English. This point is generally missed – it is supposed that working class southerners are more Tory because they identify with the Tories more. I think not, rather I think it is because they identify with Labour less. To the northern working class, elections may seem to be between Labour and the aliens, to the southern working class elections are between one bunch of aliens and another bunch of aliens. If the southerners should sometimes vote for the blue aliens, one should not draw from that the conclusion that the way to gain their support is to become more like a blue alien and less like a red alien (which much media commentary on winning the southern vote in effect says). The better way is to become less like an alien.

  • General Elections are won and lost in the Midlands, which is why the Tories may have misstepped over recent events.

  • I’m reading this differently. For one thing, I see that there are fewer dark blue and dark red constituencies than there are light blue and light red constituencies, suggesting vulnerability for both Labour and Tories. And almost all of the orange constituencies are pale orange, suggesting extreme vulnerability for the Lib Dems. It seems that — little though I relish the prospect — the long-term gainers may be smaller regional parties and extremist parties like UKIP. I think that dissatisfaction with both red and blue is rising, and unfortunately the Liberal Democrats are in no position to take advantage of it. Lacking a true centre alternative, where might disgruntled voters go but to the extremes?

  • Peter Watson 22nd Apr '13 - 7:38am

    @David
    I share with your concerns.
    I’m always struck by this map that the Lib Dem seats demonstrate a geographical remoteness from London and perhaps reflect a political detachment from Westminster and the traditional parties in those regions. Now that Lib Dems are a party of government and give the impression of being closely aligned with one of those parties, might the Lib Dem unique selling point be weakened in those areas, opening the door for regional english parties, independents, or of course (and most likely), UKIP.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '13 - 7:55am

    David, what you’re observing is that there are very few constituencies where the winning party has 50% or more of the vote. First-past-the-post disguises this, which is why I think it’s such an evil system. It gives the impression that almost the whole of the south-east outside London is Conservative which is just not the case (and similarly for other parts that they are almost all Labour). If the Conservatives always get the most votes in any constituency in a region, they will win every seat, but that does not mean everyone living in that region is a Conservative supporter. The problem is then magnified because other parties wither away due to not winning any seats, even if they are achieving substantial number of votes. If people don’t see any MPs anywhere in their region from a party, they may start thinking that party isn’t interested in their region and its support drops further. This is what we have seen in the UK – FPTP creates a false impression of much more political division between regions and nations than is really the case, and that appearance of division causes a real division to grow. The Alternative Vote system does not solve this problem, because it still ends up giving representation only to whoever is the most popular overall in any constituency, like FPTP it denies representation to minority opinions.

    The fact that winning a constituency requires more votes than any other party is a substantial barrier to new parties coming into existence. You suggest small regional parties may gain, but they have to obtain more votes in a constituency than any other party, how are they to do that? If they achieve good third places all round, they get no representation and are likely to die down again. The only way to win under FPTP is to have your vote concentrated in small areas. UKIP may get a substantial share of the vote but obtain no seats because there is no one place where it emerges with more votes than any other party. This is what happened to the Liberal-SDP alliance in the 1980s. The Liberal Democrats obtained more seats in 2005 and 2010 with a lower share of the vote than the Liberal-SDP alliance had in the 1983 general election because more of the 2005 and 2010 votes came as a result of local campaigning concentrated in a few constituencies where they had built up a record of local support, and less from a uniform swing to the party across the country.

    I do believe that UKIP is a ridiculous party. If one looks at its policies, they involve many things which would require a substantial increase in state expenditure, and they also involve big tax cuts, mainly of taxes which hit wealthy people the most. Although they oppose freedom of movement, in all other aspects they support free market policies of an even more extreme than the Conservatives. So if people are leaving us because they think we have shown too much support for the economic policies of the Conservatives, why would they vote UKIP which supports even more extreme policies? The answer is because they don’t realise that because we don’t tell them. Why not?

  • The map has hardly changed in the post-war period. Urban areas vote Labour and the shires vote Tory. There just happens to be more urban areas in the north and midlands (where half the population of England live) and more rural areas in the south where there is little population outside of London. The only real change in the post-war period is in the regions far from London where the Torys have been all but wiped out and replaced with Lib Dems, thus making it virtually impossible for the Tories to win an election. To win they need to win back support in these areas, which is very unlikely now given the last couple of weeks of Thatcher worship.

  • “3. This makes the case for both Labour and the Tories to consider proportional representation at local elections for their own sakes: to increase their representation at the grassroots in areas where otherwise they’ve been wiped out.”

    This really makes no sense, because local government wards are considerably smaller than constituencies. Yes, there are some places where the Tories can’t come close to winning a ward (Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle etc.) and others where Labour aren’t in contention (overwhelmingly rural authorities, and bits of the Home Counties). But there are plenty of safe Tory seats where Labour win a ward or two in the larger towns, and the only reason there aren’t as many of the converse is that Labour seats tend to have larger wards (as they’re more likely to be in London, met boroughs or unitaries.)

    Proportional representation might help give Labour and the Tories council seats where they currently have none (although even under STV, there are areas where neither is likely to get anything). But those areas are not part of either party’s winning electoral coalition and it would harm their position in areas where they’re already dominant.

    I don’t agree with proportional representation in local government, but there are coherent arguments you can make for it. This is emphatically not one of them.

  • The main thing the map shows is the importance of local campaigning in marginal seats .

    As for UKIP they reflect a national discontent about immigration. Their other policies are more or less irrelevant to their voters. Truth be told immigration is popular with politicians but has never been that popular with local populations. I can’t see UKIP taking seats because their support drifts in general elections as other issues become more important.

  • Steve – your point above is not correct. If you read the article, the really striking thing is that geography is increasingly trumping class. In other words, middle-class professionals in the north tend to vote Labour much more than in the equivalents in the south and working-class voters are the reverse. I think Matthew Huntbach identifies some of the reasons for this above. (The equivalent for the middle-class in the north is that tories sound too southern and rich and appear more heartless because those people tend to see deprivation on a daily basis). That’s why divisions are much stronger these days than in the immediate post-war period.

    The Economist’s proposals are all very well but (a) not likely to be supported by any party apart from the Lib Dems and (b) don’t say that much about how to reduce the economic divide. In my view, it is ironic that this comes immediately after they advocated expanding Heathrow to the west. If airports really do generate economic growth, why do we want our hub there? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to locate north of London towards the Midlands?

  • Julian Tisi 22nd Apr '13 - 2:00pm

    Matthew Huntbach – agree, totally.

    ECB: The case for PR in local elections is extremely strong, perhaps more so than for electoral reform in general elections. If Here in Windsor the Tories have almost all of the seats on the Council (after we were all but wiped out in 2011) and we now have a Council that even Tory supporters say is too powerful and almost unaccountable. Implementing PR, particularly STV, would be very easy – we already have multi-member wards for example. Under FPTP the likelihood is that all of the councillors in any ward go to the same party. More importantly there are some wards where no party campaigns because everyone knows that the Tories will win. Everyone focuses their efforts on the marginal wards and other areas and their voters are ignored.

    Under STV even the safe areas would become a lot less safe – if you look at what’s happened recently in Scotland where they’ve implemented it in local elections, it’s been a complete game changer. All parties (even the Tories) are now saying the same thing – that they’re fighting more seats than they were before because they have far more chance of winning the odd seat than they did previously. As Stephen Tall says this is particularly true in areas which might have once been no go areas for a party – suddenly they’re now fighting these wards. The voters in these wards are the beneficiaries – for the first time, politicians are fighting for their votes.

  • @MarkG
    “Steve – your point above is not correct.”

    The great and mighty Wizard of Oz has spoken.

    However, the evidence backs me up. The political map of the England simply hasn’t changed in the post-war period. See , for example, this map from one of the 1974 elections which is identical but for a few extra Labour seats:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_October_1974

    “The equivalent for the middle-class in the north is that tories sound too southern and rich and appear more heartless because those people tend to see deprivation on a daily basis”

    Nah, I think because they all wear flat caps and own whippets – I can do speculation as well. As for the article, the basic premise – that the Tories now have few seats (43) in the northern ‘region’ compared to before(?) – is fundamentally flawed by the fact that they haven’t even bothered looking at the number of seats the Tories used to win in the same region. As you can see from the 1974 map, it was marginally less (or at least it appears marginally less as it’s hard to know exactly where the boundaries of the regions are and it’s difficult to count the smaller seats). So, how have the Tories strengthened their position in the North since 1974?

  • “The political map of the England simply hasn’t changed in the post-war period.”

    OK, so I’m exaggerating slightly there. It has changed marginally with a few more Lib Dem seats in the south-west and Labour seem to have lost a few seats to the east of London in Kent and Essex but gained a few in inner-city London. It would be interesting to know the net change in seats for Labour in the south-east and London combined. However, there is very little difference in the political map of England. The most noticeable change in the post-war period, as I stated earlier, is the loss of Tory seats in Scotland.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '13 - 4:00pm

    Steve

    However, the evidence backs me up. The political map of the England simply hasn’t changed in the post-war period. See , for example, this map from one of the 1974 elections which is identical but for a few extra Labour seats:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_October_1974

    Yes, but that’s almost 30 years into the post-war era. The 1974 general elections mark the big change. Try looking at the 1950s results to see the difference. Back then there was a much bigger Labour vote across the south than there is now. Even then FPTP meant it rarely translated to seats, but there were a few Labour-held seats and more close second places in places where Labour would never stand a chance now. The miners’ strike of the early 1970s was perhaps the most significant event in pushing Labour to look less like a nationwide party and more like a party which cared only for the industrial north. I remember then how angry I felt that there were people like these going on strike for more pay when they earnt hugely more than my dad, a manual worker in the south. My dad (whose own parents moved from the north to find work in the 1930s, hence my northern surname) would tell me tales of men coming down from the north to find jobs, and heading straight back again when they saw how low pay was for working class people in the south and how much more expensive housing was.

    By the way, my biggest political regret is because of that, I had little sympathy with the miners on strike in the 1980s. I just remember being angry that upper middle class intellectual types who called themselves “socialists” I mixed with at university (by then, back home, taking my PhD at Sussex) seemed not to care a stuff for people like my dad and instead were always going on about the miners and other well-paid northerners, and that attitude was dividing the working class and losing the support from people in the south who needed a political left party on their side.

    I’m really sorry that back then I didn’t realise as I do now that this was the end of the line for the northerners, their well-paid jobs were going. But perhaps I wouldn’t have felt like that had there been more sympathy in the north for working class southerners whose industries weren’t so easy to organise on a union basis as industries like mining.

    “The equivalent for the middle-class in the north is that tories sound too southern and rich and appear more heartless because those people tend to see deprivation on a daily basis”

    Er, ever looked at just how many Tories are northerners who’ve moved down to the south, taken posh professional jobs, and think everyone in the south is like the sort of people they move with? Come to think of it, likewise so many journalists, the Guardian is one of the worst offenders. How many people in the north realise that to working class southerners Margaret Thatcher sounded exactly like what she was – a pushy northerner, who’d come down south and made good, and adopted a ridiculously fake “southern” accent as part of that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '13 - 4:08pm

    ECB

    I don’t agree with proportional representation in local government, but there are coherent arguments you can make for it. This is emphatically not one of them.

    So do you feel it’s healthy for local government that in so many councils almost every councillor is from one party? I grew up in what was almost a one-party Tory state, living in the one Labour-held ward in the borough, every other ward being Tory. When I was first elected a councillor in London, I was in the reverse situation, one of just three LibDem councillors (and one Tory) sitting alongside 60 or so Labour councillors. How on earth can you, ECB, think that a good thing? It led to laziness and an undemocratic mentality in the ruling party, and occasional corruption, as there was no electoral challenge to most councillors – being elected didn’t involve appealling to the people, it involved appealling to the party; as in the old Soviet bloc countries, the actual public election was just a formality, as were council meetings because the real business was done in private party meetings and just rubber stamped by the public elected council.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '13 - 4:12pm

    Steve

    The most noticeable change in the post-war period, as I stated earlier, is the loss of Tory seats in Scotland.

    If it had not been for SF/IRA, the orange Tory vote in Northern Ireland would probably have gone the same way.

  • Mathew.
    Margret Thatcher was not a Northerner. She is from the Midlands, Leicestershire to be precise,. Home of fox hunting and lush countryside.
    The 1970 strike was the result of a report that showed miners were earning well below average wages. The property. and living cost divide between the North and South was also relatively small until the property boom of the the 1980s.There was never a time in recent British History where Northerners were better off than Southerners. Look at films, reports.. health records and livinging standards.. This is the reason a lot of people moved and continue to move South.
    I agree that Labour lost ground in South but I suspect that this had less to to with its strength in the North than it has with changing demographics and more home ownership , along with an ingrained belief that civilizations ends at the Watford gap, Also The Conservative Party tends pretty much ignores or worse targets it’s policies to punish none Conservative voters. Imagine the outcry if Labour decide it could forget the South and invented clever ways of clobbering the home counties.
    Like you I do not think the Lib Dems vote in the South means that the Lib Dems are appealing to a more conservative electorate. There is just less party political loyalty amongst what are loosely a centre left voters. The Greens also do notably better in the South, even though they have a lot of policies that are old school socialist.

  • Matthew – I think your statement is based on false premises. There are councils with almost no political diversity – Knowsley, Eastleigh, Fenland and the like, but they’re the exception, not the rule. It mostly stems from situations where the preference of the electorate has a substantial preference for one party over the others, or from utterly somnolent political cultures.

    The former is a fact of life, because votes aren’t going to be uniformly distributed. The latter can be fixed by activism, which also happens to have an effect on political preferences (I’ll grant this is harder in London because the electorate is less stable from year to year and harder to contact). My experience of Scottish local elections is that STV hasn’t eliminated safe seats, or led to any more activism (because they’re all-out elections, it leads to almost no work being done in non-election years). It’s just meant that rather than one party being guaranteed three seats, two parties are guaranteed a seat each, with one having a strong likelihood of getting the remaining seat.

    Julian – As I’ve said to Matthew above, I just don’t see STV as a panacea. In Aberdeen last year most of the campaigning came down to marginal wards in roughly the same places as the marginals were before STV, and that’s a city with a relatively high level of political diversity for Scotland. If you look at places like Lanarkshire, the number of contests that were over after two rounds is eye-opening.

    If you imposed STV in Windsor, it’d just mean that wards that elect three Tories elect two Tories and a Lib Dem, or perhaps in really good years two Lib Dems and a Tory. That might make the council a bit more politically balanced, but that’s because several parties gets safe seats rather than because there are no safe seats. If you want to encourage people to chase every vote, you need to elect at-large, which loses the link between elector and representative. That trade-off might be worthwhile for Westminster (I’m not convinced, but it might be), but it’s problematic for a role as dependent upon casework as a councillor’s.

    Plus there’s the issue that Stephen was saying this was a reason Labour and the Tories should back a switch to PR in local government. You’ve produced arguments that PR would make local government more proportional, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives benefit from local government not being proportional in different areas, that’s not an incentive for them to change tack.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '13 - 11:46pm

    ECB

    Matthew – I think your statement is based on false premises. There are councils with almost no political diversity – Knowsley, Eastleigh, Fenland and the like, but they’re the exception, not the rule. It mostly stems from situations where the preference of the electorate has a substantial preference for one party over the others, or from utterly somnolent political cultures.

    And I think you are wrong. In the two cases I mentioned, it wasn’t that no-one voted for the other parties, it was that in almost every ward the biggest party was the same party – other parties obtained a substantial number of votes across the borough, but few or no seats. I simply do not think this is right or healthy for democracy. You say it is caused by somnolent political culture, but I would say it is the others way round, it causes political somnolence, because if FPTP distorts the vote so that one party always wins almost all the seats, other parties tend to give up and wither away, and the party that wins almost all the seats stops bothering.

    While these examples are the extreme, there are plenty of cases in local government where FPTP results in an unhealthy dominance in representation by just one party.

    I’m not saying that STV is a panacea, but I do think it is a help towards a better political culture.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '13 - 12:04am

    ECB

    If you imposed STV in Windsor, it’d just mean that wards that elect three Tories elect two Tories and a Lib Dem, or perhaps in really good years two Lib Dems and a Tory. That might make the council a bit more politically balanced, but that’s because several parties gets safe seats rather than because there are no safe seats.

    Even if all it does is ensure there’s a substantial second party presence in a borough where representation under FPTP would be almost all from one party, I think that’s a good thing. However, it also has the advantage of making it easier for a third party or an independent candidate to break through and win representation, because there’s no longer the “Got to vote X to avoid splitting the vote and letting Y in” factor. In theory, the competition between candidates of the same party for first preference votes is also a beneficial issue, though I appreciate parties often discourage that factor being used.

    If you want to encourage people to chase every vote, you need to elect at-large, which loses the link between elector and representative.

    It’s often not realised that with STV that’s not the case. All that’s required to win a seat under STV is to win a quota of votes. There’s nothing saying that if it is done with a large number of seats with large wards or constituencies, you have to get your quota from votes evenly distributed across the entire ward or constituency. If you have a strong local following in just one corner of it, enough to get a quota of votes just from there, you can get elected on that basis, concentrating your campaign in just that corner, and consider yourself the representative of that corner.

    If STV were used for Parliamentary elections in a prosperous southern county which under FPTP elects all Tory MPs, with the county forming a single multi-member constituency, a Labour candidate might choose to concentrate his campaigning on the small council estates scattered across that county, and regard them as his constituency. In that way, the people of those estates would get the voice they are denied under FPTP. This ability for candidates to chose their own constituency, which may not be a geographically contiguous area, is a way in which STV can increase the link between elector and representative.

  • Forgive me, but that’s not what I said. I said that STV does not encourage people to chase every vote. You’ve then said that under STV you can get a quota by only targeting a subset of voters. Exactly how is that different in any way?

    As for STV enabling competition within parties, that isn’t going to happen in the UK. It happens in Ireland because their parties are more amorphous and because voting is more dependent upon geographical factors (ie people vote a candidate from their town, regardless of party). Whereas in Scotland, no party puts up candidates to compete with each other – if you believe you have one quota, you only put up one candidate. If you believe you have a shot at two councillors, you put up two candidates, but you divide the polling districts in order to ensure that your primary candidate has a definite advantage. This isn’t as psephologically interesting as the Irish experience, but none of our parties are as godawful as all of theirs, so I’ll take the trade-off.

    I’d also note that the number of voters who filled out a complete set of preferences in 2011 was notably small. I doubt that’s because of ignorance, because this was the second time round and 90% of election leaflets from all parties explained the process. There does seem to be limited desire amongst the electorate to express multiple preferences. I’m unsure how to deal with that issue, though at least at local council level it doesn’t seem to have impeded local independent campaigns – witness the various local hospital campaigns, for example.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '13 - 1:01pm

    ECB

    What you actually wrote was “If you want to encourage people to chase every vote, you need to elect at-large”, and I replied by suggesting that does not mean every candidate should feel forced to campaign across the entire multi-member constituency. That is a separate issue from what I’m concerned about, which is that every voter has at least one candidate who wants to chase their vote. You are, however, confirming what I’m saying when you write “you divide the polling districts in order to ensure that your primary candidate has a definite advantage”.

    Sure, I agree that once the parties work out how STV works (and despite the claims by many in England that it’s so difficult a system to understand they never could, the Irish seem to have no problem with it, and as you report, the Scots seem to have quickly grasped it) they tend to put up just enough candidates to fit the number they think they’ll win rather than a larger slate to give real competition. I would prefer STV to have constituencies/wards with at least five members, which makes the number a party will win a little less predictable than a three-member constituency which is inevitably going to be two-one, plus it gives more proportionality.

    In the main, however, even if the introduction of STV would not lead to quite the competitiveness it is often suggested it gives, I feel it is better for a council to have significant numbers of members from smaller parties, rather than the pattern FPTP often gives of almost all members coming from one party.

  • Mike Falchikov 23rd Apr '13 - 5:11pm

    Glenn – you’re wrong. Thatcher was not from Leicestershire, but from Lincolnshire, which is a somewhat cut-off part of
    England with is own culture and has been politically slightly more volatile (and less Tory) than Leicestershire. Though she
    boasted of being a “grocer’s daughter from Grantham” in her ultimate persona she actually did her best to appear as
    someone much further up the scale, with that dreadful accent and, perhaps more seriously, with the abandonment of her
    parental Methodism in favour of the obviously more establishment-minded C of E. These are the two things I disliked most about her personally. And I don’t think she was as much of a “liberal” on personal issues as made out – did nothing for women or gays and was, I believe, still in favour of the death penalty.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    As a chippy northerner, I’ve always held a prejudiced view that southerners are unaware of the geography north of Watford Gap. The fact they often incorrectly refer to Watford Gap as Watford confirms this to me. So does describing Grantham as being in the North when it is in the Province of Canterbury rather than York and is south of the historic border of the Council of the North. Thatcher was born and raised a southerner before she migrated to London and Finchley via Oxford.

    Thatcher attacked people that didn’t vote for her. The areas of the north that despise her didn’t vote for her anyway. There was no reason for the political landscape (in parliamentary elections) of the north to change as a result of Thatcher and it hasn’t other than the previous Labour areas becoming more solidly Labour.

  • Mathe,
    ,My bad. I always thought Granthem was in Leicestershire, It;s still in the rural east Midlands not the North. Just past the outer edges of Leicestershire, 26 miles from Nottingham and 24 from Lincoln. Lot’s of open farmland. As for the accent there is no reason for Thatcher to have sounded any different. The traditional middle classes don’t and didn’t tend to have strong regional accents. In Thatcher’s time speaking proper were part of a standard grammar school education. From what I gather rather than sounding too regional, she originally had a pronounced lisp and actually spoke a lot like her daughter, I’ had a couple great Aunts of a similar age and from a similar Market Town who sounded s Thatcher I grew up in the East midlands, and that part of the country is actually pretty horsey,. I went to school with members of the Quorn hunt and none of them had regional accents either, Dude, the area is posh.
    And anyway what on earth is a “pushy Northerner”! No E-by-gum, Dennis, pack t’ tripe, we’re of to London t’ teach them southern softies bout neoliberalism, I don’t see it . somehow.

  • Sorry Mike, misread your nane

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Apr '13 - 12:46am

    Steve, yes, I am aware of the fact that Lincolnshire is one of those places which northerners feel is in the south and southerners feel is in the north. I’m describing what it feels like in simplistic terms, not attempting to make a geographically and historically accurate statement. You do need to realise that for me, coming from Sussex, London is north never mind anywhere further north …

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Apr '13 - 12:59am

    Glenn

    Imagine the outcry if Labour decide it could forget the South

    But by supporting FPTP it HAS forgotten the south. Or at least lazily assumed the south is all Tory voters. That was my point.

    There was never a time in recent British History where Northerners were better off than Southerners.

    On average, yes. But you have missed my point – just because the average is wealthier in the south does not mean everyone is wealthier. The poor in the south are forgotten, even assumed not to exist, because FPTP gives the impression the south consists only of Tories and the type of person who votes Tory. I can assure you, when I was young and the miners were going on strike, their wages WERE hugely more than my father’s. Do you think if you are poor and living in the south you are supposed to feel better about it because you are surrounded by people who are wealthy? You go on about the south benefiting from the housing boom. Well, those who owned houses benefited from it. My family didn’t, we lived in a council house. The house price boom just squeezed us even more.

  • Matthew,
    I’m not disputing that your father like a lot of working people in the South earned less than a miner., I was merely suggesting that miners wages were not actually that high .
    As for the North South argument, I’m from Leicestershire and virtually no one in the Midlands sees the Midlands as being the North or South.. It’s the Midlands. My point about Thatcher is that she was from a rural market town set in masses of open country and was not a “pushy northerner”, but in fact a solidly middle class woman with a mistrusts of industry and manual work. I think it’s funny that people talk about where she was from, how she sounded and her gender but ignore the fact that the bulk of her pre-political career was as Barrister in a private law firm specialising in TAX and how to avoid paying it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Fair enough. However, Thatcher’s birthplace fits in to my thesis about the political divide in England being urban/countryside rather than north/south throughout the post-war period (noting that 9 out of 10 of the largest conurbations in the UK are outside of the south of England). Grantham is a market town in a rural, Tory area.

    I have difficulty finding political maps for different general elections, which is the reason I only posted a link to the 1974 one earlier. Here’s one I’ve just found for 1955:

    http://thepolitikalblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/britain-1955-general-election.png

    The red/blue divide in England looks similar to me. Labour have lost a handful of seats in the south-east in Norfolk/Essex/Kent, but seem to have gained a few in London. I’d guess that that urban/rural divide has become more polarised over the last few decades as a result of cheap oil, with the wealthy fleeing the urban areas to the countryside. The biggest changes are in Scotland and areas far from London where the Lib Dems and nationalists have picked up seats and made things less polarised. The Tories used to be the party of rural England, Scotland (especially so, where they polled over 50% in the 1950s) and parts of Wales, Where the Tories have lost support in England is to the Lib Dems in rural areas far from London – and that’s happened mosstly in the south-west rather than the north.

    Anyway, my criticism of the Economist’s article still stands:

    “Over the years the Conservative Party has been expelled from most of the north of England (and almost all of Scotland). Labour has been virtually driven from the south.”

    Nonsense. I can’t see a trend of the Tories losing seats in the north of England to Labour – things are as they have been for decades. Again, the Tories dominated the largely rural south of England decades ago and they do so now. The big changes are in the ‘Celtic fringes’.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Apr '13 - 10:36am

    Glenn

    As for the North South argument, I’m from Leicestershire and virtually no one in the Midlands sees the Midlands as being the North or South.

    Sure, but in the South we would tend to think of what you call the Midlands and what you call the North as just “the North”. Of course it’s true that the closer you get to a place and the more acquainted you get with it, the more you can see the way it subdivides. But I’m talking here about how it appears to working class southerners who don’t travel much and don’t have much in the way of outside links – if that’s your background, it’s all just “the North”. In just the same way, working class northerners obviously have a stereotypical image of “the South” and imagine the whole place is full of people with well paid professional jobs speaking what they think of as “southern English”, i.e. Received Pronunciation, which to working class southerners is as alien an accent as a northern accent (RP actually derives from the English of the south-east Midlands).

    The point here is to note how the FPTP electoral system accentuated the division. Working class people in the north saw Labour MPs who spoke like they did and spoke for their interests and so saw the Labour Party as their party. Working class southerners saw no MPs who spoke as they did, neither Labour nor Conservative, and Labour MPs elected for northern constituencies inevitably would be speaking in terms of their locality, which may not always come across as any sort of speaking up for working class people as a whole. So the division accentuated by FPTP became even more accentuated as working class people in the South were less likely to vote Labour because they didn’t see Labour as their party.

    The Economist article doesn’t make enough of how the electoral system distorts representation and so hides the presence of a substantial number of people even in the south-east outside London who do not vote Conservative – in fact over half those who vote in most recent elections. I also dispute the Economist’s suggestion that working class southerners have more of a liking for Conservative Party ideology. If you see the Labour Party and the Conservative Party as equally alien and removed from your real interests, you are more likely to vote Conservative than you are if you see the Labour Party as the party of your sort of people and the Conservative Party as a party far removed from your sorts. But that does not mean an actual identification with Conservative Party policies, it’s just that the voting choice is more random. Therefore when we are told, as we often are, that the way for the Liberal Democrats to win votes in the south is to become more right-wing politically, I think that is wrong.

    Funnily enough, where I was brought up, the Brighton and Hove conurbation, there were enough big council estates for Labour to retain a local government presence, and the trendification of Brighton and collapse of central Hove into squalid multiple-occupied properties was enough to allow Labour to revive from the lowpoint it hit in the 1980s. So we see a sharp distinction from the surrounding parts of Sussex where Labour was wiped out and the Liberal Democrats became the main opposition – eventually leading to Liberal Democrat MPs in Lewes and Eastbourne. Had there been proportional representation in local government, I doubt this sharp distinction would have developed.

    Mind you, I’ve not yet heard a proper explanation of the spectacular implosion of the Liberal Democrats in Adur (the district council immediately to the west of Hove, from 1973 and many years after a flagship Liberal-run council, and rather suddenly just a few years back the party seemed just to disappear).

  • Matthew.
    I understand what you were saying , but as a midlander I’ve always found it slightly irritating to be called a Southerner by some Northerners and a Northerner by some Southerners or to have them insist that the Midlands is Birmingham , And sure it is mostly a working class polarized view of how the country is divided. The South is rich, the North is poor is a gross simplification. There are some very rundown areas of the South and some very effete areas in the North. and huge differences even within individual cities.
    As for FPTP it’s just pity electoral reform is off the agenda at the moment.

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