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Fragmentation in English local elections, 1973-2018

Fragmentation in English local elections, 1973-2018
Fragmentation in English local elections, 1973-2018
Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, much academic attention has been devoted to the fragmentation of English elections and the emerging ‘new divides’ of English politics, with a number of competing narratives seeking the best way to characterise the emerging electoral landscape. What many of these narratives have in common is a focus on polarisation, prioritising a binary categorisation of society between, for example, towns and cities, or the winners and losers of globalisation. It is the contention of this thesis that the prevalence of these narratives, as well as the focus on general and not local elections, obscures the true heterogeneity of the fragmentation of English electoral politics, with local systems fragmenting to different extents and at different rates to one another. Using a huge dataset of ward-level electoral and demographic data to generate a combination of descriptive statistics, regression analyses, and case studies, this thesis demonstrates that the fragmentation of English local elections is, in itself, a fragmented phenomenon, occurring at different rates and to varying extents across a multitude of local contexts. Fragmentation is not limited to one type of place, such as towns or cities, and the regression models of the demographic drivers of fragmentation show that no one single group is responsible for higher levels of fragmentation, with both the ‘squeezed middle’ and ‘left-behind’ demographics being associated with higher fragmentation. Furthermore, the case studies showed that even though there are clear demographic indicators that a place might be more prone to fragmentation, local contexts can easily override national trends. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that the story of fragmentation in English local elections is a far more nuanced and complex one than much of the literature has acknowledged, and that while both the ‘left-behind’ and ‘squeezed middle’ are associated with a higher likelihood of fragmentation, local context can play an even more significant role in determining fragmentation levels in certain cases.
University of Southampton
Shorto, Samuel
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Shorto, Samuel
6ac152c7-2dcd-4a64-a926-e3d8871ef5a5
Jennings, William
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7
Boswell, John
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Spada, Paolo
aa830424-63f7-4baa-aecc-0bba595b8221

Shorto, Samuel (2023) Fragmentation in English local elections, 1973-2018. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 256pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, much academic attention has been devoted to the fragmentation of English elections and the emerging ‘new divides’ of English politics, with a number of competing narratives seeking the best way to characterise the emerging electoral landscape. What many of these narratives have in common is a focus on polarisation, prioritising a binary categorisation of society between, for example, towns and cities, or the winners and losers of globalisation. It is the contention of this thesis that the prevalence of these narratives, as well as the focus on general and not local elections, obscures the true heterogeneity of the fragmentation of English electoral politics, with local systems fragmenting to different extents and at different rates to one another. Using a huge dataset of ward-level electoral and demographic data to generate a combination of descriptive statistics, regression analyses, and case studies, this thesis demonstrates that the fragmentation of English local elections is, in itself, a fragmented phenomenon, occurring at different rates and to varying extents across a multitude of local contexts. Fragmentation is not limited to one type of place, such as towns or cities, and the regression models of the demographic drivers of fragmentation show that no one single group is responsible for higher levels of fragmentation, with both the ‘squeezed middle’ and ‘left-behind’ demographics being associated with higher fragmentation. Furthermore, the case studies showed that even though there are clear demographic indicators that a place might be more prone to fragmentation, local contexts can easily override national trends. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that the story of fragmentation in English local elections is a far more nuanced and complex one than much of the literature has acknowledged, and that while both the ‘left-behind’ and ‘squeezed middle’ are associated with a higher likelihood of fragmentation, local context can play an even more significant role in determining fragmentation levels in certain cases.

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Published date: 9 May 2023

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 476977
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/476977
PURE UUID: 9bb5bb01-1e81-43a3-be66-33942ec29f3d
ORCID for William Jennings: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9007-8896
ORCID for John Boswell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3018-8791
ORCID for Paolo Spada: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7050-2079

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 23 May 2023 16:31
Last modified: 29 Sep 2023 01:45

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Contributors

Author: Samuel Shorto
Thesis advisor: William Jennings ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: John Boswell ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Paolo Spada ORCID iD

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