John Harris

Journalist & Author

Could England’s future be a left-leaning south facing off against a conservative north? | John Harris

The pandemic has accelerated the movement of people, creating clusters of like-minded, homogenous communities

London is changing, and so is the south of England. Whether recent predictions of a lasting drop in the capital’s population and emptied-out office districts will come true is still unclear. But something has definitely been happening, for the best part of a year: thanks to Covid and its disruptions, a sizeable number of people are deciding to leave the city and head elsewhere, chasing space, greenery – and, in many cases, the company of like minds.

Former Londoners, it seems, have recently set up home as far afield as Devon and Cornwall. Estate agents report relocations to such commuter-belt towns as Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, Reigate in Surrey and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. At the same time, people seem to be pitching up in and around places associated with a liberal, remain-ish view of the world: Oxford, Brighton, Bath, the more affluent parts of Bristol. In Frome, the Somerset town where I have lived since 2009 and which is now a byword for a broadly Green political outlook and a trailblazing town council, you can hear the endless crashes and clunks of house renovations ordered by new arrivals from the Big Smoke.

Related: That wasn’t quite the resounding Conservative election victory it seemed | Martin Kettle

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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