An exodus of university-educated, middle-class professionals seems to have improved Labour's prospects across the South East. But money always talks at the ballot box eventuallyby Chaminda Jayanetti / July 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
When Rosie Duffield stunned the political establishment by winning Canterbury for Labour at last year’s snap election, it slotted neatly into the “youthquake” narrative of the time.
The base for two universities, the Kentish cathedral city turned red for the first time on a gigantic swing from the Conservatives, for whom it had served as an impregnable fiefdom even in the wipe-out years of 1997 and 1945. It seemed self-evident that the students had taken the seat for Jeremy Corbyn.
Subsequent research has cast doubt on the youthquake theory, with the British Election Study indicating that voters in their 30s, not their 20s, were critical to Labour’s election advance.
And research published this spring by the political consultant Ian Warren reinforced the importance of those on the cusp of middle age.
Warren identified large movements of people in their 30s and 40s out of London and into the Home Counties and elsewhere in southern England, driven out of the capital by unaffordable housing costs.
Here they settled in what were often Tory-held commuter towns and regional hubs—and brought their liberal outlooks with them.
Polling by Warren’s consultancy, Election Data, found these ex-Londoners who had left the capital since 2013 were even more pro-Remain than the Londoners they left behind.
The ex-Londoners recorded a hefty 7 point swing from Tory to Labour between 2015 and 2017—contributing to a 10 per cent rise in Labour’s vote share across southern England and East Anglia.
One of the main recipients of these ex-Londoners was Canterbury.
Seeing the long-term picture
The electoral impact of this trend is not uniform. The Conservatives once more clung onto Thurrock, while defectors from Ukip maintained Eleanor Laing’s solid grip on Epping Forest.
Huge entrenched Tory majorities prevented the Corbyn surge from turning Surrey seats like Esher and Walton or Reigate into marginals.
Each of these seats has seen thousands of ex-Londoners move in—but with very different electoral consequences last June.
The Labour conveyer belt
However, the long-term picture seems clear: Labour is on the march in southern England. Older Tory diehards will die out over time, replaced by streams of youngish liberals.
Warren argues that unless the Conservatives can resolve the imbalances that lead to London sucking in students from the…