Our report Time to Move Out, which makes the case for greater civil service relocation, continues to be covered in the media:

Elsewhere in the media:

Our Head of Levelling Up, Adam Hawksbee, spoke to GB News to discuss how the Levelling Up White Paper might work in practice. 

Senior Researcher Francesca Fraser was quoted in an article for Schools Week, arguing that Ofsted must have additional powers to inspect Multi-Academy Trusts.

The Higher Education Policy Institute cited our report Levelling Up Innovation, in a piece exploring the future distribution of R&D spending, following the Levelling Up White Paper.

Writing for The Guardian, Jonathan Liew cited our Social Fabric Index, in an article discussing the return of Hartlepool’s football team to the Football League this season. 

Our report Double Devo was mentioned in an interview with Jackie Weaver, where she called for more hyper-localism to revitalise local government. 

Last week, Deputy Director Adam Hawksbee spoke on a panel for Centre for Cities, and Director Will Tanner spoke on a panel for the launch of a report by UK in Changing Europe. In case you missed it, you can catch Adam’s panel here, and Will’s here.

Onward Note

If the Conservatives want to avoid losing ground, or even power, at the next election, they need to pay attention to voters who say they “don’t know” who they will vote for. Because low turnout could spell disaster.

James-Blagden-Onward

There has been lots of talk among pollsters about Conservative-to-don’t-know switching in recent weeks. Labour’s lead – as high as 10 points in some polls – is largely due to 2019 Conservative voters ticking the “don’t know” box on surveys when asked who they’d vote for.

Should the Conservatives be worried about these “don’t know” voters? There is every chance that previous Conservative voters will support the party again in 2024. But the 1997 General Election shows what can happen if they don’t.

Tony Blair’s 179-seat majority was driven as much by non-voting among Conservatives as by enthusiasm for New Labour. We sometimes think of this landslide victory as a national about-face, with a massive swing from Conservative to Labour. And it is true that Labour went from being 7.5% behind in 1992 to 12.6% ahead in 1997. It is by anyone’s measure an astonishing reversal. But look a little closer and you see that, while Conservatives lost 4.5 million votes, Labour only gained 1.9 million.

Where did the rest of those Conservative votes go? To “Don’t Know”. 

The proportion of the electorate that actually voted on polling day fell by 6.4 percentage points (equivalent to 2.3 million people) from 78% to 71%. Millions of previous Conservative voters decided they would rather stay home than put a cross in any box on election day.

In a scenario where the Conservatives face a 1997-style defeat, then non-voting among their 2019 coalition could become a much bigger problem for the Tories than direct switching to Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

What might this mean for the next election?

The good news for the Conservatives is that this is not the 1990s. Even if we replicated the same 32% drop in the Conservative vote and 17% increase in the Labour vote that we saw in 1997, the Conservatives would lose a catastrophic 139 seats (to 226 MPs in total). But Labour would still only get 318 seats, shy of an absolute majority.

So the electoral mountain that Labour have to climb in order to win power is enormous. Whereas Tony Blair managed to win a full hundred more seats (418) than Labour would in this hypothetical 1997-style scenario, Keir Starmer would need to negotiate a coalition with smaller parties before he could start measuring the curtains at 10 Downing Street.

And Keir Starmer faces a problem that Blair did not: the SNP. Labour won 78% of Scottish constituencies in 1997. They now hold just a single seat, while the SNP hold 48 (81%). Without recovery in Scotland, Labour will struggle to form a government on their own, even if the Conservative Party collapses.

James Blagden, Chief Data Analyst at Onward

Policy Bites


The UK and Scottish governments have made a landmark agreement to create two new Green Freeports in Scotland. The new hubs will support community regeneration, job creation, and prosperity in Scotland. Link

The Government has announced a £23 million boost in funding to the AI sector, to support conversion courses that help underrepresented groups and new entrants upskill and enter the market. Link

As a part of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme, aimed to end all rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament year, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced a £174 million boost for councils to provide 2900 homes and provide other assistive services to rough sleepers. Link

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