Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Conservative Party is the party of suburbia - we should remember this and build more suburbs

I remember canvassing with my Dad in true-blue Beckenham. At one house the woman who opened the door explained here reasoning in a strong Cockney accent - "we've always voted Labour before but we was in a Labour area. Now we're in a Tory area we'll be voting Tory." Who am I to argue with such a profound argument especially since further study - not least what us direct marketers call the 'Bestseller Effect' - tells me that this sort of decision (not necessarily expressed as bluntly) really is influenced by social geography. Here's Joel Kotkin & Wendell Cox on voting in suburban 'red state; USA:

Even if the tide is turning, it’s happening slowly, and the GOP has political and cultural advantages in both Texas and Florida that will delay any turning of the tide even if they don’t finally stop it. Latinos in Texas, for instance, are considerably more GOP-leaning than their counterparts elsewhere. And surely some of the blue-state refugees won’t be inclined to support the same policies that led them to leave these states in the first place. The suburban areas that attract newcomers still tilt decisively GOP, and in 2016, turned out mostly for Trump.
The assumption (and we've seen similar arguments in the UK about millennial suburban migration) is that the left-inclined young urban vote, when it moves to suburbia to do that old-fashioned raise-a-family thing, will carry on voting left despite this likely being against their economic and social interests. Moreover, the millennials cycling out from inner-urban places are, I suspect, more likely to be conservative in outlook if not in current voting choice.

Of course, other demographic factors (not least ethnicity) are significant too - like US Republicans, the Conservatives have less support among non-white voters and, in particular, among two established and economically bettering groups - Pakistani and Bangladeshi voters. This may change but right now these groups remain overwhelmingly Labour voting despite the Conservatives having both the first Pakistani-heritage Home Secretary and the first female Muslim minister.

It's still the case, however, that the left - influenced by its inner-urban core support - is inherently anti-suburb and anti-family providing conservatives with a core message to new arrivals in suburbia. Here's Kotkin & Cox again:
Contempt for suburbia, so common among Democratic-leaning academics, planners, and media, could make appealing to these voters more difficult. Many party leaders support forced densification, anti-car strategies, and the annexation of suburbs—ideas that lack broad appeal in a country where most people live in single family homes and rely on cars and roads to conduct their lives.
If UK conservatives want to build a future base, it will be in suburbia (just like it has always been - we are the party of the suburbs). This means we've got to be brave enough to recognise that building new suburbs and more family-housing should take priority over protecting agricultural monoculture, especially in the Home Counties.



Curmudgeon said...

And Conservative councils need to stop following the Labour/LibDem toolkit and abandon anti-car policies.

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon is absolutely right.

The current 'blood-bath' of big names on the High Street has little to do with on-line selling - it is more to do with decades of town planners deliberately creating environments which make the folk with spare cash (i.e. car owners) take their trade elsewhere. Get real - the pedestrian poor do not have the wealth to sustain those services and never will have.

Best thing to do with vacant House of Fraser and M&S stores would be to turn them all into free multi-storey car-parks, then sit back and watch the shoppers return to the High Street.

Curmudgeon said...

It's not the sole factor in the decline of the High Street, but it's certainly a significant one. If people have an alternative, whether in out-of-town centres or online, they will vote with their wheels if councils make access to town centres more difficult and expensive.

Stockport has recently lost its anchor M&S store, which had been there since the 1930s. The town centre is looking increasingly down-at-heel, with a mixture of vacant units and low-rent retailers. The same is true of the people you see there. So what do the council do? Oh yes, hike town-centre parking charges yet again.