London party

The myth of “progressive” London

London is often presented as a city defined by its “progressive” politics. More than two-thirds of London’s parliamentary seats have Labor MPs. And the Labor Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, still flaunts his loyalty to woke causes. Just last week he criticized the UK government for its approach to trans rights. But do the people of London really share these kinds of views?

In 2020, Christian think tank Theos published research showing that London is more religious and socially conservative than the rest of Britain. His findings challenge the common perception of London as a bastion of liberal secularism.

The Theos study found that 62% of Londoners identify as religious, compared to 53% in the rest of Britain. He also revealed that one in four Londoners attend a church service at least once a month, compared to just one in 10 outside the capital.

This shows that faith and religion are more likely to play a vital role in the daily life of a Londoner than in the lives of other British citizens.

Theos’ findings have been confirmed elsewhere. An UnHerd/Focaldata analysis ahead of the 2019 general election found that the UK constituency most supportive of the idea that ‘all morality is based on religious teachings’ was Westminster North, along with other London constituencies including Hackney North , Stoke Newington and Edmonton, close behind.

Given the prevalence of religion in London, it’s no surprise that it’s now home to some of the most socially conservative communities in the UK. Theos shows that, compared to those living outside the capital, Londoners are more likely to say premarital sex is at least sometimes wrong and more likely to be skeptical of same-sex relationships. Londoners (38%) are also more likely than the rest of the UK (27%) to say assisted suicide for an incurable condition is sometimes a mistake.

These results may surprise some, given the socially “progressive” image of the Labor vote in London. But London is also a city that has experienced high levels of internal migration in recent decades. It has large ethnic minority communities, who often value faith and tradition more than the average Briton.

Indeed, there is evidence that black African communities in London almost single-handedly revived Protestantism in modern Britain. The Anglo-Nigerian writer Tomiwa Owolade even claimed that “the town centers will be the saviors of the Anglican Church”. ‘[If one is looking for] a connection to Britain’s ancient Christian past, you are more likely to find it eating jollof rice in a big tent in Kennington than eating a Yorkshire pudding in a small room in Harrogate,” writes- he.

As well as being home to notable Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist communities, London also has a large Muslim population. Theos says that while one in 10 Londoners identify as Muslim, only one in 50 in the rest of Britain do.

This could possibly pose problems for Labour. The reason British Muslims vote Labor in large numbers is certainly not because of its socially liberal stances on gender self-identification or abortion. It is far more likely that it is because British Muslims tend to trust Labor to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice. Or because they support his foreign policy positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir.

A major culture war could therefore be about to unfold among Labor supporters in London. On one side are the young “progressive” Labor voters, who support gender self-identification and other woke causes. And on the other are the conservative Muslim voters in Labour, who traditionally vote left and live in city centres. Labor cannot be both the political arm of Stonewall and the party of Britain’s traditionalist Muslims.

As the next general election approaches, Labor would do well to remember that.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of the forthcoming book, Beyond grievancewhich is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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