Shropshire is lovely, but not often big news. Last week’s byelection there, with a large swing from Tory to Lib Dem, is particularly huge news because in many constituencies the business of politics is about electing the same party election after election.
Critics of first past the post as an electoral system point to this as a big democratic problem but maybe it’s got a silver lining… for those moving house because it appears our political views don’t just drive how we vote, but also where we move. So concludes new research published by Warwick University that examined population movements between 346 local authorities from 2002-2015. It turns out there are significantly more moves between areas with similar political preferences.
The reason why isn’t very encouraging for anyone concerned about political polarisation. The researchers used data to show that we like to live around people who share similar values – those living in areas where their politics are dominant are more likely to say they “feel at home”. Hence the advantage of constituencies rarely changing hands – it avoids disappointment for those migrating into them.
Obviously, there are negative social consequences, too, chief among them the reinforcement of group thinking. It is also bad politics: in a first-past-the-post system the last place you want to move is one where your party is already winning.