John Harris

Journalist & Author

Britain’s insecure towns aren’t ‘left behind’. They hold the key to our future | John Harris

The desire for community and stability should not be dismissed as nostalgia. It’s our politicians who need to get with the times

It can be found in the opening pages of a book published in 2014: one of the most influential ideas in modern British politics, given its first airing in the days when Ukip was on a roll, and the forces that would propel Britain towards Brexit were decisively coming into view. “Over recent decades,” goes the text, “deep social and economic changes have hit particular groups within British society particularly hard: older, less skilled and less educated working-class voters. These are the groups we describe as the ‘left behind’ in modern Britain, who could once rely on the strength of their numbers to ensure a voice in each of the mainstream parties.”

Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain was written by the academics Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford; its thesis was that the two main parties had ignored these people for decades, and their resulting resentment was now exploding into the open. In this sense, the term “left behind” was initially focused on neglect by politics and politicians – but it also implicitly referred to matters of culture and economics, and as the national media became newly interested in people and places way beyond the M25, the concept was quickly stretched.

Related: Here’s the science behind the Brexit vote and Trump’s rise | Michele Gelfand

Related: Our new measurement of poverty gives a greater understanding of those in its grip | Philippa Stroud and Campbell Robb

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