Deborah Mattinson: How about independence for London?

Written by Deborah Mattinson on 16 September 2014 in Opinion

Scotland is different to the rest of the UK. But is is perhaps rather less distinctive than somewhere closer to home for Westminster insiders...

The Westminster Village has recently noticed that some people in Scotland seem to favour going it alone. I’m writing this a few days before the vote and slight panic seems to have set in, PMQs was cancelled last week and there is much wringing of hands.

Should it have been so much of a surprise? Scotland is, after all, different in so many ways: different economy, different people, different politics, different outlook. Yet Scotland is perhaps rather less distinctive than somewhere closer to home for Westminster insiders – London.

BritainThinks’ recent survey contrasts Londoners’ views with the rest of the country. It confirms just how different London is. Londoners are more optimistic than the rest of the country and more likely to believe they have the opportunity to succeed. Londoners are twice as likely to feel their local area has improved and much more likely to rejoice in its diversity. Londoners are more likely than other Brits to feel they’ve seen an improvement in the schools and hospitals. Fear of crime is down too.

But Londoners also face their own challenges. Housing is a major issue. Eight out of ten Londoners bemoan the shortage of homes and an astonishing 70% of private renters don’t think they’ll ever be able to own their own home in the capital. Londoners are more likely than the rest of the country to feel that their local area is overcrowded and more likely to think it’s prohibitively expensive, too. Living in London takes a unique emotional toll: Londoners more often feel stressed, lonely and angry than those living outside the capital.

Unsurprisingly given all this, London politics are different too. Reflecting London’s youth and diversity, London is dominated by Labour, and is also one of  UKIP’s weakest areas. And UKIP voters are the angriest Londoners of all…

So could another separatist surprise be looming for Westminster? Our survey showed that many young Londoners are unhappy with the status quo and feel that they are getting too little reward for their hard work and higher stress levels. Across the board we found that Londoners were almost as likely to identify themselves as Londoners as they were to identify as British. Younger Londoners, life-long Londoners and non white Londoners were even more likely to feel loyalty and a sense of belonging to their city rather than their country.

So we asked the sixty five thousand dollar question and we chose the toughest framing we could find, learning from the lessons of the yes/no debate north of the border: would they be personally better of if London was independent? Some 20% of Londoners said ‘yes they would be better off’ – just 5% less than the Scottish ‘yes’ vote was scoring (with an easier question to agree with) just a year ago. Oh, and 17% of the rest of the country agree. Watch this space…



About the author
Deborah Mattinson is co-founder of Britain Thinks and former chief pollster to Gordon Brown in Downing Street


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