Regional inequalities and the collapse of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ (Soundings 76, Winter 2020)

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Publication date: January 12, 2020

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Danny MacKinnon

This article seeks to explain the Conservatives’ capture of traditionally Labour-voting ‘red wall’ seats in England and Wales, looking beyond electoral trends and cultural characteristics to place it in the broader context of patterns of regional inequality and regional policy in the UK. It outlines the political attitudes and values of ‘red wall’ voters in order to assess these areas’ future political prospects, particularly in terms of the Conservatives’ ability to deliver their ‘levelling up’ agenda and Labour’s future strategy. It discusses the focus of regional policy on cities, seen as engines of economic growth, especially in the Northern Powerhouse (NPh) initiative, at the expense of towns. The idea of ‘levelling up’ was central to the Conservatives’ strategy for the ‘red wall’ seats, but their approach during the Covid-19 pandemic has tended to undermine faith in this promise.

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