John Harris

Journalist & Author

Beyond the Red Wall by Deborah Mattinson and The Northern Question by Tom Hazeldine – review

Why did the Red Wall collapse? Voices from the heartlands on Labour and the north-south divide

In mid-2019, a former employee of the Conservative party called James Kanagasooriam began looking at recent electoral statistics for parts of England long associated with support for the Labour party. As a teenager, he had been fixated with a duvet cover featuring a map of the UK, and the fact that, in political terms, “the bottom half was blue while the top half was red”. Now, he realised, that was becoming much less certain.

Support for the Tories in the north of England, north Wales and the Midlands had grown by around 15% over the previous decade, and Kanagasooriam saw the possibility of a truly historic shift. Everything, he surmised, came down to the “degradation of historical memory: Mrs Thatcher, heavy industry, coal mining. The economics that had driven those places to group together was being replaced by a cultural sense of belonging that was more proximate to the Conservatives”.

According to the people Mattinson asks, Labour is a party of the south – of ’scroungers’ and ‘middle-class students’

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