Despite national tropes depicting London as full of radical metropolitans and the rest of the country as bigoted, new research shows that Londoners are surprisingly like the rest of Britain in their responses to a range of socio-political issues.
The Centre Holds, published by the think tank Global Future a week before local elections in the capital and elsewhere, finds that an overwhelming 83 per cent of Londoners believe it is important to “be aware of and attentive to issues of social justice and racial inequality” – the Merriam-Webster definition of “woke”. The rest of the country – 80 per cent – also strongly agrees, reflecting a clear, shared ideological approach across Britain.
This can also be seen in the nation’s response to gender discrimination. Over half of Londoners (59 per cent) think multiple causes, including sexism, explains why the gender pay gap exists in Britain, with 56 per cent of the broader country taking the same view. Although Londoners are slightly more likely to think that sexual harassment is a big or fairly big risk to women, 64 per cent of the country agree that it.
A similar near-consensus appears in relation to race too. Seventy-two per cent of Londoners compared 65 per cent of the country believe that multiple causes, including racism, explain why disparities between racial groups exist. These majorities stand regardless of whether someone votes Conservative or Labour.
The rest of Britain shows firm agreement about the prevalence of conscious and unconscious racism (46 per cent and 68 per cent respectively). The figures are slightly higher in London (52, 76) which could be a reflection of the higher number racial hate crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police between 2020/21 – 20,068 compared to the 7,914 of the next highest region, the West Midlands.
Our country is also united with our capital on Ukraine. Exactly 43 per cent of Londoners and 43 per cent of Britons more broadly believe the country should be taking in more Ukrainian refugees.
Yet despite these examples of national unity, Londoners are less likely to believe in it. Some 41 per cent of our city’s residents believe British society to be heavily polarised compared to 35 per cent of the rest of the population.
Interestingly as well, even though Londoners hold the strongest beliefs about the existence of racism and sexism, they are also the least comfortable discussing them. Just over one fifth of London’s population report being uncomfortable talking about race, compared to a national average of 15 per cent.
Divisive stereotypes of liberal Londoners and the reactionary rest only prevent us from having the kind of conversations which lead to genuine understanding. Our research shows that, underneath the noise, a hopeful, tolerant centre ground exists between our capital and our country. We would do well to spend more time talking about what draws us together than what pulls us apart.
Isabel Doraisamy is co-author of The Centre Holds. Image from cover of report.
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