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Tales from the cities

The Urban Vote.

To Westminster earlier this week for a Centre for Cities event on the state of parties in England's urban heartlands.

Overall, it is a gloomy picture for Labour, and Gordon Brown in particular, based on the findings of a year-long piece of analysis by Ipsos MORI. In one sense the data collected between February 2009 and February 2010 has been overtaken by events - namely the rise in popularity in of the Lib Dems and their leader Nick Clegg. But the figures remain instructive for a number of reasons, including one that may give rise to Labour optimism.

First, the study shows what the researchers call "latent" support for Clegg and his party that has now broken through. Across all the cites surveyed, Clegg enjoyed an aggregate net approval rating of 13 per cent, against 7 per cent for David Cameron and -34 per cent for Gordon Brown. Clegg's numbers will have certainly gone up; Cameron's likely to be in decline. And given today's fun and games Brown's poor ratings may yet fall lower.

 

 

 

Second, they show just how Labour has suffered in its traditional urban base (see figures 1 & 2). Paradoxically, "buoyant" cities such as Reading and Brighton (those with strong economies, private sector job growth and relatively high salaries) are far less likely to vote Labour in 2010 than they were in 2010, while "struggling" cities such as Hull, Stoke and Hastings remain Labour in bigger numbers.

 

 

 

Third, some hope for Labour. Assuming the Lib Dem surge is largely at the expense of the Conservative vote in urban areas which are home to key marginal constituencies, the Tories could be deprived of some target seats. In the Birmingham area, for example, the Tories have designs on Lib Dem-held Birmingham Hall Green and Birmingham Yardley. These have just got more difficult to win while seats such as Solihull are not beyond Nick Clegg's grasp.