Friday, May 04, 2007

Local Elections: North vs. South or Urban vs. Rural

It has long been the conventional wisdom that the Conservatives need to do better in the Northern cities. However, this begs a question. Not all of the North is urban and not all urban areas are in the North. Is the Conservative problem urban or Northern performance?

I think these elections answer that question. We would expect that if the problem were primarily the North we would see more progress in Southern areas not already voting Conservative.

In the North the Conservatives have done rather well. They have gained councils and councillors.

By contrast, look at places like Stevenage (a city in all but the technical sense) where the Conservatives have stood still despite it being surrounded by blue councils. Cambridge still has no Conservative councillor. I think that we were led astray by the strong Tory performance in London at the last General Election. That suggested that the North was the problem rather than urban areas in general. In reality it may just have been that London is exceptional.

I'm unsure why the Conservatives have such a problem gaining traction in urban areas. However, the geographical picture is becoming clearer. The rural areas are voting Conservative across the country, the urban areas are still largely Labour strongholds and the main battle is in the suburbs, whether these are the edges of cities or small towns in their own right.


Anonymous said...

very good point. USA is about urban/rural not red/blue, too. France seems to be different for some reason -- probably because it's cities are royally screwed up, and Royal's politics are the problem not the solution.

John Page said...

Er ... Birmingham's a city.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Yes. But aren't we mostly doing well around the suburban edges? If I'm wrong you're right that does undermine my point somewhat.

John Page said...

Maybe (I didn't look) but it can't be the only city with edges?

Matthew Sinclair said...

We're doing well around the edges of all the cities. Take a look at Manchester. What I'm trying to get at is that those are the battlegrounds.