While many in England feel equally British and English, large minorities identify more as one than the other—and it’s not random. The “more English” are older, whiter, more socially conservative and less often university educated. That’s reflected in the towns, cities and counties that lean each way on the map: rural villages are more likely to be “English” than cosmopolitan suburbia.
The “more English” have always been somewhat more conservative, but they never used to be so different. In 2001, when Tony Blair was 6 points ahead of the Tories across all English seats, he was also 2 points ahead among the “more English.” But over 20 years, this small gap has opened up into a chasm: by 2019, Boris Johnson was nearly 50 points ahead among the group. The “more British” have moved somewhat leftwards in parallel. But it is the “more English”—70 per cent of whom backed Brexit—who have remade politics.
At the same time as “more English” voters have made their voice count, they have—perhaps by dint of their age—become thinner on the ground: the “more British” now outnumber them. But progressives hoping time’s tide will wash their English problems away face a problem: the large chunk of us who feel “equally British and English” has actually grown, from 37 to 43 per cent over the last two decades. And for now, this group is voting in a more English and less British way.