The people of the ‘Red Wall’, that band of loyal Labour constituencies across the north of England which crumbled under a Tory onslaught in the 2019 election have been rewarded, not with jobs or wealth but with a plague and with death.
A Tory leadership which they sadly thought might help them more than their complacent, incompetent, Labour predecessors had done over decades in power, has talked of ‘leveling-up‘ but instead has given them weak, confuse and inconsistent management of a pandemic strategy and a contracted-out contact-tracing system, both unreliable and distrusted by many of their people.
They now have infection and mortality rates many times higher than their neighbours in Scotland and in the more affluent parts of England to the south. Only London with its own poor Labour constituencies has suffered more death:
When they voted the Tories in, less than a year ago, I feared they would be disappointed but this harsh lesson, once the media have let them see it, is worse, far worse, than they deserve.
And now, heaping pain upon pain, they hear:
One in three working-age families in so-called “red wall” constituencies won by the Tories from Labour at the last election will be £1,000 a year worse off if government plans to cut universal credit benefit rates go ahead.
The potentially dramatic impact on low-income households’ in “left behind” former industrial areas in the north of England, Midlands, Northern Ireland and Wales is highlighted in an analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank.
The hit would fall disproportionately on families in areas the government has promised to “level up” economically. These include 62% of working-age households in Blackpool South, and 44% in Great Grimsby, Birmingham Northfield and West Bromwich West.