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The University of Southampton

Putting towns in the centre

Exploring the political divides between towns and cities

9 June 2021

You might not realise it, but whether you live in a city, a town or a village can have a huge bearing on your political outlook. It’s a growing divide that became stark following the 2016 EU Referendum and the 2017 General Election. It’s a divide that a thinktank co-founded by a Southampton professor is thrusting under the spotlight.

British politics began to undergo major change in the mid-2010s. Labour started to struggle in its former strongholds but performed better in big cities, while the Conservatives made gains in smaller towns and rural areas.

Understanding these changes and the strong influence of place on politics has been a focus for Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, and Gerry Stoker, Professor of Governance, for the past seven years.

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, picked up the narrative of ‘Two Englands’, highlighting the gap between towns and cities. She, along with Will and data analyst and political consultant Ian Warren, formed the Centre for Towns thinktank in 2017.

The work we have done so far highlights the different experiences and contexts faced by people in towns and cities. Where we live massively influences our social mobility and economic opportunity.

Will Jennings - Professor of Political Science and Public Policy

Read the full story in Re:action, the University’s research and enterprise magazine.

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