A generation of property-starved millennials won't be voting blue any time soon
The Red Wall is the name given to the 50 seats across the North, the Midlands and Wales that went from Labour to Conservative at the last election. Though these areas are typically poorer than the country as a whole, they’re not quite as the London-based commentariat might imagine them to be.
As Weldon puts it, “the dilapidated high streets of former industrial towns, which are sometimes compared to the American rustbelt, are only half the story of Mr Johnson’s new domain.”
Even if the town centres have seen better days (something that’s increasingly true in the South as well as the North), they are “often surrounded by gleaming new suburbs: a British counterpart to the American dream.”
In recent years, however, it’s lost sight of this vision — allowing, indeed encouraging, house prices to inflate beyond the reach of aspiring home owners. And yet that problem is a lot worse in some parts of the country than others. Wage levels may be lower in the Red Wall regions, but as Weldon points out “these seats have some of the lowest housing costs in the country, and a greater share of home owners.”
Here, the British dream is still alive.
It ought to be said that James Kanagasooriam — the polling expert who launched the Red Wall into the political consciousness — was clear as to its true nature from the very outset. Looking at the economics and demographics of the communities in question, he argued that there was a huge stretch of northern Labour territory where the Tories ought to be winning some of the seats, but weren’t. He concluded that this underperformance was due to cultural resistance to voting blue.
Fortunately for Boris Johnson, the Labour Party embarked upon a programme of making itself even more repellent to these voters, thus enabling the Tories to activate the advantages of a still-affordable property-owning democracy.
However, that should make the Conservative Party all the more concerned about the barriers to home ownership in pricier parts of the country. Labour may have lost the Red Wall, but it will benefit from a ‘red wave’ of younger voters, who will remain red if they’re permanently priced-out by the housing market.
Make no mistake, this is an existential threat. The death of the British dream will be the death of the Conservative Party.