Geographically speaking, London is not overrepresented in British politics. London constituencies are overpopulated (see Kensington), and ethnically diverse (see East Ham) – meaning MPs are endowed with the responsibility to represent a broad array of constituents and satisfy their interests. Thus, London can be seen as somewhat depleted in terms of representation in parliament.
Though, the Brexit debacle brought about a sentiment that ‘Londoners’ are a breed of a ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ whose voices overpower those from regional constituencies.
The idea of ‘Remoaners’, a phrase used by the chief Brexiteer himself Mr Farage, created a divide between London, where 59% voted to remain, and regional towns. Certainly, with the current Labour Party leadership seeming to merely represent North London, this sentiment is regrettably correct – this is the party who is supposed to represent mining towns, whose voters previously would’ve retorted at the idea of voting Conservative. Therefore, problems with London’s domination in British politics has stemmed from the deterioration of the ‘red wall’ and Labour’s fundamental detachment from the regional towns and metamorphosis into the North London elite.
The Rother Valley constituency, for example, is a former mining community and was consequently a traditional Labour heartland. Corbyn, arguably the epitome of the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, failed to represent Rother Valley constituents, sitting on the fence regarding Brexit – infuriating the 66.7% of Leave voters in the area. Instead of appealing to the community feel that one held these mining towns together and acknowledging the need for investment and prosperity, Labour hurled largely unpopular manifesto promises to the electorate that seemed to be idealistic and unnecessary. For instance, nationalisation of broadband was an ill-conceived proposal supported by a bleak 32% of the public. Members of the ‘red wall’ constituencies were unlikely to be enthused by this – greater investment in the ‘northern powerhouse’, neglected community funds and education would have been much more appealing. This is emblematic of Corbyn’s detachment from the traditional working-class communities and is why his resignation has led to a potential resurrection of the traditional Labour party, and thus reconnection and revival of both the CLP and PLP with the ‘red wall’ constituencies.
(Rother Valley vote share – BBC News)
However, there is only one candidate who can successfully achieve this shift, and that is certainly not a Corbyn continuity candidate – it is Lisa Nandy. Self-proclaimed as someone who ‘looks different’ and ‘sounds different’ from anyone else who previously led the party, this opportunity for change is refreshing and exciting. The party’s movement to the left with the election of Corbyn in 2015 created mass disunity in the party, which only a centre-left candidate can rectify. Economic policies in the Party have focussed on cities in the hope that this will trickle into towns – it’s integral that this changes. In 2015, Nandy established the ‘Centre for Towns’, a thinktank specialising in investment in towns to boost prosperity and investment in infrastructure showing her commitment to the cause. Investment in these leave-voting towns, like Nandy’s constituency of Wigan where 62.9% voted leave, will extrapolate Labour support and will return to representing more than just the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’.
(Buzzfeed – Lisa Nandy Saying “Towns” Has Become A Meme)
Conclusively, much of London’s overrepresentation in British politics stems from the neglect of towns in favour of investment in the city. The cry for help from regional towns was vocalised through Brexit, and can be rectified through the election of Nandy as leader of the Labour party, whose support of towns is so profound that she has turned into a meme across social media platforms. Nevertheless, this is an important cause, and if Labour specifically have any desire to step foot into power in Downing Street, they must avoid descending further into the stereotype of avocado-eating, oat-milk drinking, metropolitan elite.
Written by Lottie Westerling