EA 4399 >> EA 4399 - CREW >> Activités Scientifiques


The Left Behind: People, Places and Policy in twenty-first-century UK

le 10 novembre 2023

The Left Behind: People, Places and Policy in Twenty-first-century UK


09:30-10:00 Welcome refreshments



1) Edwige CAMP-PIETRAIN (Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France, LaRSH)

Child poverty in Scotland under Nicola Sturgeon: distinctive public policies under constraints

2) Susan BARRETT (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne, UR 4196 CLIMAS)

Left-behind and forgotten: the severely mentally unwell in 21st century England

3) Nicholas SOWELS (Université Paris 1, UR 4399 CREW)

The paradoxes of poverty and inequality in low-growth Britain


11:30-12:00 refreshments




4) Stéphane REVILLET (Université de Bourgogne, UR 4182 TIL)

The definitional genealogy of the term 'the left behind” from David Cameron to Rishi Sunak during PMQ

5) Raphaële ESPIET-KILTY (Université Clermont Auvergne, UR 1001 CHEC)

The Conservative Party and 'Culture Wars' from Johnson to Sunak


13:00-14:00 lunch




Danny DORLING (St Peter’s College, Centre for the Environment, University of Oxford)

The Left Behind and the Shattered Nation: Inequality and the Geography of a Failing State


15:00-15:30 refreshments




6) Justine Wary (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, UR 4399 CREW)
'A prolonged baptism of humiliation': What MPs' first speeches tell us about the 'Red Wall'

7) Maya Rousseaux (Université Savoie Mont Blanc, UR 3706 LLSETI)
The Conservatives and the Red Wall' in the 2019 General Election: appealing to left-behind working-class voters


Maison de la recherche Sorbonne Nouvelle

4 rue des Irlandais, 75005 Paris, France 

Scientific Committee :
Dena Arya (Nottingham Trent University), Emmanuelle Avril (USN), Bob Colenutt (Oxford Brookes University) David Fée (USN), Sarah Pickard (USN).

Organising Committee :

Sophia Abidi (USN) David Fée (USN), Habiba Jelali (USN), Sarah Pickard (USN), Esther Waugh (USN).

Call for Papers

The 'Left behind' is a concept that covers people and places spanning several decades. Following the Great Depression, it became obvious to observers (Orwell, 1937) and policymakers during the inter-war years that certain areas in the United Kingdom were not recovering at the same speed as the rest of the country. This growing realisation led the government of the time to set up the Barlow Commission in 1937 to investigate those depressed – left behind – areas, as they came to be known. Almost a century later, in 2022, another UK government published the Levelling Up the UK White Paper, starting from the premise that it was urgent to do something about those “areas that have for too long felt left behind” (HM Government, 2022, viii). These were defined by the Conservative government as places where skills, productivity, life expectancy and pay are low, and therefore call for area-based policies and investment.
Already in 2016, the results of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) triggered much reflection about places and the motivations of non-voters. The outcome pushed to the fore the concept of the ‘left behind,’ as academics poured over statistics and data. Some suggested that the vote for Brexit came largely from areas sidelined by globalisation and beset by multiple problems, as well as places where residents did not identify with the liberal values dominant in big cities (Goodwin and Heath, 2016, 331). Out of these reflections came dichotomies, such as the “somewhere vs anywhere Britons” (Goodheart, 2017)
However, the left behind can also refer to categories of the UK population and not just places. Following a succession of crises, academic literature has highlighted how some Britons do not share in rising or renewed prosperity and no longer enjoy the same prospects as previous generations. Indeed, steady economic growth and optimism at the start of the twenty-first century were shattered by the global financial crisis that began in 2007, followed by the Great Recession of 2008. This caused the 2010 incoming Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to break with previous New Labour policies by introducing policies designed to reduce public spending, state intervention and strengthen local initiatives. The 2010 Emergency Budget announced spending reductions on welfare of £11 billion by 2014-2015 (out of a total of £30 million) and the October 2010 Spending Review an additional £7 billion of ‘savings.’ These cuts entailed reducing benefits levels, making certain categories no longer eligible or tightening eligibility rules. Furthermore, the decision to link benefits to the consumer price index meant that most benefits were eroded in value by 2015. During this “long squeeze” from 2010 to 2017, local authority finances also underwent severe cuts. On top of this came the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU), and then the cost of living crisis.
Those austerity measures introduced by the central and local governments brought back to the fore fundamental social and political issues of inequality, poverty and precarity. Various segments of the population were especially affected and divisions widened, e.g. the poor and young people. In this shifting political arena, it became clear that some people were disproportionately negatively impacted by decisions from central and local governments in terms of priorities, policies and spending. They were left behind.
The successive events mentioned above did not hit the UK with the same force. The geographical effects of these crises convinced the Conservative Party in power of the electoral urgency to address the question of spatial inequalities and formulate specifically designed policies. The dominant political rhetoric shifted from localism to renewed state intervention and the Johnson government put forward its “levelling up” agenda.
This study day will focus on the particular segments of the population and geographical locations that were left behind over the past decades in the UK as a result of particular policies. It will address the concept, causes and consequences, along with subsequent policy attempts to redress inequalities.

Papers could deal with but not only:

a) Concepts: Defining the Left Behind: are the left behind the same as the ‘just about managing’ to get by (JAM)? Are there historical precedents?...
b) People: Focusing on particular segments of the population that are Left Behind, e.g. Young people, the poor, lower-income workers, immigrants, refugees, local communities...
c) Places: Looking at specific regions and areas that have been Left Behind, e.g. neighbourhoods, red wall areas; the centre-periphery divide; the rural-urban divide, the North-South divide…
d) Policies: Examining local, regional or national policies linked to the Left Behind, e.g. the “Levelling up” agenda, area-based as opposed to national policies, new policy objectives as opposed to refashioned ones…

Selected bibliography

Banks, C. (2021). Left Behind: A Decade of Intergenerational Unfairness. London: The Intergenerational Foundation.
Goodhart, D. (2017). The Road to Somewhere - The New Tribes Shaping British Politics. London: Penguin.
Goodwin, M. J., & Heath, O. (2016). The 2016 referendum, Brexit and the left behind: An aggregate‐level analysis of the result. The Political Quarterly, 87(3), 323-332.
McKay, L. (2019). ‘Left behind’ people, or places? The role of local economies in perceived community representation. Election Studies, 60.
Her Majesty’s Government, Levelling Up the UK, White Paper, CP 604, London: HMSO, 2022.
Orwell, G. (1937), The Road to Wigan Pier, London: Penguin.

Please note: The conference papers and discussions will take place entirely in English with a view to a future publication in an English language journal or edited volume.

Please submit a proposal in English of no more than 500 words followed by a short biography of each author (including institutional affiliation and any relevant publications) in a single World file (not pdf please).

Please send your proposals only to the conference email address:

left-behind-conf-crew@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr +
david.fee@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr +

Deadline for proposals: Monday, 10 July 2023.
We will acknowledge receipt of proposals by email.

Type :
Colloque / Journée d'étude
Lieu(x) :
Maison de la Recherche - 4 rue des Irlandais - 75005 PARIS
Partenaires :
v 2023-10-11 SP

mise à jour le 11 octobre 2023