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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > June 2017 > A crumbling heartland

A crumbling heartland

Away from the biggest cities, the north can no longer be relied on to deliver landslide Labour victories—or even narrow ones

It was on the badminton court at Thornaby leisure centre on the morning after the local elections that the full extent of the Labour Party’s problems were laid bare. Most media organisations hadn’t bothered to send a journalist to Teesside to cover the count of the Tees Valley mayoral election. There are no direct trains from London, after all, and everyone assumed that Labour had it in the bag. Like it always did.

I was at my local count in Manchester waiting for Andy Burnham’s victory speech when a colleague told me the Conservatives had won the Tees Valley mayoral race. I laughed in his face. It took a few seconds before I realised he was serious. A Tory was now in charge of Middlesbrough: a place so blindly devoted to Labour that its former MP, Stuart Bell, got away with not holding a single constituency surgery from 1997 until 2011. The victor could hardly believe it either. “We are seeing a massive trend towards the Conservatives. We have started to turn the Tees Valley blue,” said 30-year-old Stockton councillor Ben Houchen, who beat Labour’s Sue Jeffrey by 2,178 votes.

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In Prospect’s June issue: Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Martha Gill and Helen Pidd examine the election chances of the three main political parties. Wheatcroft explores the Tories’ remarkable ability to rise from the ashes and assert dominance, Gill questions why the Lib Dem revival isn’t quite getting off the ground and Pidd examines Labour’s prospects after poor performances in the recent council and mayoral elections. Also in this issue: Christine Ockrent asks if France’s new President Emmanuel Macron can charm the parts of France that didn’t initially vote for him, AC Grayling assesses whether the rise and rise of drone warfare warrants a new ethical code for conflict and Francine Stock explores whether Pixar can continue to captivate modern audiences.
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