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Cambridge Institute for Public Policy Seminar

TOWNS, CITIES AND THE TILTING OF BRITAIN'S POLITICAL AXIS With Will Jennings, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton
When Feb 20, 2018
Where Room GR06/07, Faculty of English
Contact Name
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A new cleavage is emerging that is fundamentally changing politics in
the early decades of the twenty-first century. The divide is between
citizens residing in locations strongly connected to global growth and
those who are not. In geographical terms, it is between those from big
cities - the densely populated urban centres of the emerging knowledge
and creative economy - and those who live beyond that world in suburban
communities, post-industrial towns, and coastal areas. Populations of
the former tend to be young (and getting younger), better educated, more
diverse (and increasingly so), more likely to work in
professional-creative 'cosmopolitan' occupations (such as finance,
science, public administration, education, health, arts and recreation),
and less likely to own their home. They are also more socially liberal,
pluralistic in their identity and relaxed about social change (in
particular immigration). In contrast the populations of smaller towns
and rural settings are more prone to nostalgia, uneasy about immigration
and tend to be more authoritarian and socially conservative in their
views. These dynamics impacted on the result of the EU referendum in
June 2016, and the 2017 general election as well. Contrary to some
claims, there has not been a 'Brexit realignment' of British
politics, but rather a longer-term tilting of the political axis that is
manifested in the geographic polarisation of voting behaviour and which
stems from trends in economic development, education, and social values.
This talk will explore how trajectories of social and economic decline
of different places shaped the result of both the referendum and the
general election, and what the implications are for public policy after

Will Jennings is Professor of Political Science at Public Policy at the
University of Southampton and Co-Founder of the recently launched think
tank The Centre for Towns. His research explores questions relating to
public policy and political behaviour, specifically in relation to
agenda-setting, public opinion, elections, democratic innovations,
political geography, policy disasters, and anti-politics. He was a
member of the independent inquiry instigated by the British Polling
Council and Market Research Society to investigate the performance of
the pre-election polls at the 2015 general election. He is co-author of
Policy Agendas in British Politics (Palgrave, 2013), The Politics of
Competence: Parties, Public Opinion and Voters (Cambridge University
Press, 2017) and The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political
Interaction and the Rise of Anti-Politics (Cambridge University Press,

Free admission. Sandwich lunch from 12.00 - 12.30 pm.
To register your interest for this event email:

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