Middlesbrough: Just Another Brick in the Red Wall?

“Nothing they do in London makes any difference to what happens in the Boro.”

The 2019 general election result appeared to confirm a long term trend: the red wall is now crumbling. Middlesbrough still returned a Labour Member of Parliament, Andy Macdonald, but by a far smaller margin than in elections held in previous decades. Some of Middlesbrough’s voters shifted allegiance to the Conservative Party but many simply did not bother heading to the polls at all. The ‘None Of The Above’ candidate won by a landslide.

This essay explores the views and experiences of these non-voters through interviews carried out in one ward of the town in March 2020.

Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, there was a national focus on how the economy of the north in general and the Tees Valley region in particular could be developed. Such discussions have taken place for almost a century, although only occasionally with positive impact on the ground. However, the need to invest in the region seemed to become more urgent when securing the votes of recent Conservative converts was at stake.

Post-Covid, there is likely to be an even greater need to get the economy of the region back on track. The risk is that in the clamour of competing priorities, the voices of Middlesbrough’s residents are overlooked. History shows that the most successful attempts at economic regeneration in the town have drawn upon local knowledge rather than distant interests. Restoring faith in democracy, and allowing the residents of Middlesbrough greater control over their destiny, is integral to achieving this aim.