Does David Cameron have a problem in the North?

The inconclusive 2010 general election saw voting in the UK divide on regional (and to some extent national) lines with the Conservatives failing to make significant gains in the North of England.  An interesting article in this month’s Prospect magazine by Peter Kellner, head of YouGov, draws together a lot of data on attitudes in the North of England compared to those in the South, and reveals that on a diverse range of issues including welfare benefits, tax and spend, the role of the private sector, public ownership of the railways, and support for gay marriage, people in the North have more left-wing/progressive attitudes than those in the South. Some of this is quite striking, for example, unskilled manual workers in the South are just as likely to vote Conservative as white collar/managerial workers in the North. However, on most indicators, although the North appears more left-wing, the differences are marginal and probably not statistically significant, with one notable exception, attitudes towards Cameron and the coalition government. Northerners were significantly more likely to say that Cameron is out of touch and lacking in clear principles, and much more likely to say that the Conservatives care more about the rich.

It is possible for the Conservatives to secure a majority in the next general election without a significant increase in support in the North, particularly if they make gains against the Liberal Democrats in the South, which they might well do. However, whether that would be good for British democracy, or more particularly for the people of the North of England, is another question.

There is, of course, a land further North, where the Conservatives are even less popular, but that is a question for another day.

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