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Strangers in their own land

From the mall at Bluewater to the caravan sites of Hastings, the people I met in the southeast of England feel a quiet disaffection that could find a voice in the election

By Michael Collins   167

A family walk on Margate’s seafront

Identifying the territory of southeast England—minus London—is simple; articulating its identity is harder. Officially it includes Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey and Kent. But like most regions of the country, its characteristics become fuzzier the closer you look. The southeast counties incorporate many Englands: the Surrey of the professional, commuting class; the Kent of London’s working-class diaspora; the postwar new towns; the southeast coast; Oxford’s dreaming spires and so on. The region lives in the shadow of the capital and many of its inhabitants are ex-residents—but it is almost…

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