Rather than simply trying to win back disaffected ‘red wall’ voters, Keir Starmer must widen his focus

In politics, an ascendancy is often strongest when it seems natural. Ever since Britain became a full democracy in the early 20th century, most of southern England outside London has habitually elected Tory MPs. Politics here has effectively shrunk to a choice between the party’s prospective parliamentary candidates.

This arrangement has worked well for the Conservatives and some southerners, but less well for everyone else. The Tories have built on their southern supremacy to frequently dominate national politics, and the south has increasingly dominated the economy. As Tom Hazeldine pointed out in his recent book The Northern Question, only a century ago the southeast and the north “were roughly on level pegging” in their share of our economic output. But by 2000 the southeast’s share was twice that of the north. Britain has become one of the most imbalanced countries in Europe, and the closeness between the Conservatives and the south has played a central role.

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