Monthly Archives: May 2014

They live in a town in the central belt, a few minutes off the M8 motorway that runs between Glasgow and Edinburgh. On the rare occasions when they talk about their national identities, they say they feel both Scottish and British; they cheer for Mo Farah and the Scottish football team. They are instinctively cynical towards politics and pay it scant attention but the referendum coverage has been unavoidable. Traditional Labour voters, they broke with the party in the Scottish elections of 2011, when she opted for the Scottish Nationalists and he stayed at home. She liked what the SNP had to say about childcare while he could not trust any pledge. Like up to one-fifth of Scots, they have yet to make up their minds about independence. 

On Wednesday, Alex Salmond said that Scottish households could expect an “independence bonus” of £2,000 by 2030 if they voted Yes in the referendum in September. What is the first minister talking about? And does this seem likely?

These questions matter. Voters’ perceptions of the economic consequences of independence will be crucial to the outcome of the vote in four months’ time. This is especially true of undecideds. The UK government understands this. Elsewhere on Wednesday, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, presented a report that claimed Scots benefit from a “UK dividend” worth about £1,400 each. 

Supporters of the United Kingdom Independence party are in the right place if they ever have to fulfill their pledge to protect Britain’s borders. The map below from Robert Ford and Ian Warren depicts the parliamentary constituencies where there are relatively large shares of UKIp-leaning voters. The darker the shade of purple, the higher the number of would-be Farage supporters, the psephologists say.

The consequences of this geography on the general election are unclear. (One could add that it will all come out in the Wash.) Labour and the Conservatives may have lost similar numbers of votes to UKIp, according to Steve Fisher, a political scientist. Whether Mr Farage’s party loses their support in equal measure at the general election will help determine whether he can affect who forms the next government.

The political map can also tells us something about how Britain is changing. Nigel Farage’s party is relatively popular on England’s coasts; its target seats at next year’s general election are mostly southern and eastern littoral constituencies. This is partly down to demographics. In these areas live above-average numbers of what Ford calls the “left behind”: older, white working-class voters with less formal education.

 

Regular programming will be resumed on May 26.

Britain has an urgent need to build more homes. This much has been obvious long before the current wave of house price rises. The real question is therefore not whether Britain should build more, but why it has consistently fail to do so?

In any other market, rising prices would be expected to trigger a supply response. But this doesn’t happen with homes. Successive price booms have only led to small increases in building at best. Perversely, though, this market is extremely responsive to downward swings: if house prices soften, supply plummets immediately. The result is that supply ratchets downward with every turn of the boom-bust cycle.

The reasons for this peculiar market behaviour are complex. But it comes down to land and competition. House building is different from other markets because it requires land – a uniquely scarce, fixed resource. As a result, competition between house builders works differently than in other industries. 

As well as revealing how British pluralism is more popular among minorities, Tuesday’s Policy Exchange report into diversity in the UK includes data on educational performance across different ethnic groups. Two trends stand out.

First, the poor average performance of white Britons. Second, the success of Indians.


 

What do the data below tell us about Britain?

The table is taken from A Portrait of Modern Britain, a report published on Tuesday by Policy Exchange, a think tank. It presents the answers of respondents from the six biggest ethnic groups in the UK to the question how would they describe their national identity given the following options: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and Other (respondents were asked to identify what they meant by Other.)

The data, taken from the 2011 census, suggest that only about 14 per cent of whites report a “British only” identity. Respondents were allowed to list more than one identity but the figure only rises to a quarter when a dual British identity is included. Sixty-four per cent, however, say that they have an English-only identity.