Rethinking the Region

Rethinking the Region

Rethinking the Region

Rethinking the Region

Excerpt

The spectacular defeat of the Conservatives in the May 1997 general election is testament to one of the central claims of this book: the unsustainable nature of growth based on market values, entrenched inequality and strident individualism. What the election showed was the inherent fragility of the neo-liberal project, as the electorate, even in its heartlands, was no longer prepared to shoulder social division and insecurity as the price to be paid for economic growth—the fruits of which were always never quite within reach. The electoral map of the south east changed overnight, with larger than national swings reducing the Conservatives largely to the rump of the home counties, their traditional core before the neo-liberal shift. As an agenda of political and cultural change, the legitimacy of neo-liberal growth has not only been called into question by the electorate of the south east, it has been dramatically cut away geographically.

Ironically, it is the areas that they still hold in the south east which do now meet their much vaunted image of the nation—the rural idyll and its picturesque English ‘villages’. With the reorganization of constituencies, the Conservatives lost many of the middle-sized towns in the south east—Bedford, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Luton, Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Watford to name but a few. At the same time, they retained the rural and suburban seats in Buckinghamshire, the likes of which perhaps says more about what is quintessentially Tory than many other locations in the region. Although not absent from the town and cities in terms of individual votes, the Conservatives are perhaps now giving real electoral credence to the acronym—ROSE—as the rest of the south east.

More importantly, such a shift opens up the possibility for a new south east, in both representational terms and in terms of a new regional politics. In this book, we argue for the possibility of an alternative political project: one based upon the livelihood and fortunes of those who live in the south east, as much as those living beyond it. The recognition of a more balanced, even form of growth which recognizes regional differences within the wider, national and international context in which they have been formed represents just such a potential startingpoint.

Of course, new political settlements are not put in place by merely questioning the validity of regional or institutional boundaries, nor by willing a less divisive

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.