The pandemic will bring changes, but they will be perceived through the filter of an all-pervasive culture war
The shock of the 2019 election has tended to obscure its implications for the future of British cities. This was the first “American” election in the UK’s history, in that it produced an electoral map that appeared to resemble the political geography of Republicans and Democrats. In England and Wales, multicultural cities and inner suburbs voted overwhelmingly Labour, while smaller towns and outer suburbs, other than in south Wales, voted overwhelmingly Conservative. This, like the emergence of age as the biggest predictor of how people vote, is new.
In the 1980s, cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield and London may have been anti-Thatcher holdouts, but Bristol, Cardiff and Nottingham had a substantial Tory vote. Not only has this decisively ended, but areas such as Southwark, in London, or Newcastle, where the Liberal Democrats were once in convention, are now overwhelmingly Labour. In 2019, only one seat in the “core cities” group – the most powerful cities outside the capital – went Tory, and that was Birmingham Northfield. Many metropolitan seats across the country saw a swing to Labour and, notoriously, the only seat the party gained was in the London suburb of Putney.