Broken Heartlands

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What to expect

Broken Heartlands is an essential and compelling political road-trip through ten constituencies that tell the story of Labour’s red wall from Sebastian Payne – an award-winning journalist and Whitehall Editor for the Financial Times.

The Times Political Book of the Year
A Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail and
FT Book of the Year
Immensely readable’ – Observer

Historically, the red wall formed the backbone of Labour’s vote in the Midlands and the North of England but, during the 2019 general election, it dramatically turned Conservative for the first time in living memory, redrawing the electoral map in the process.

Originally from the North East himself, Payne sets out to uncover the real story behind the red wall and what turned these seats blue. Beginning in Blyth Valley in the North East and ending in Burnley, with visits to constituencies across the Midlands and Yorkshire along the way, Payne gets to the heart of a key political story of our time that will have ramifications for years to come.

While Brexit and the unpopularity of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn are factors, there is a more nuanced story explored in Broken Heartlands – of how these northern communities have fared through generational shifts, struggling public services, de-industrialization and the changing nature of work. Featuring interviews with local people, plus major political figures from both parties – including Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer – Payne explores the significant role these social and economic forces, decades in the making, have played in this fundamental upheaval of the British political landscape.

‘Impressive and entertaining’ – Sunday Times
‘A must-read for anyone who wants to understand England today’ – Robert Peston

Critics Review

  • Broken Heartlands is the product of rich reporting on the ground . . . Payne tells many stories of many places and people with affection and respect, to weave a picture of the changing political fabric of England

    Laura Kuenssberg
  • A compelling chronicle of why English politics is undergoing such fundamental change. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand England today

    Robert Peston
  • The political book of the year about one of the most consequential elections of my lifetime. Essential reading

    Andrew Neil
  • A really fascinating and surprisingly moving book. Payne takes us on a journey that feels personal as well as political and helps us better understand what the red wall really is, who its voters are, and what politics has meant to them over the past few tumultuous years

    Isabel Hardman, author of Why We Get The Wrong Politicians
  • A must-read for all those who want to learn the lessons of Labour’s 2019 defeat

    Paul Mason, author of PostCapitalism
  • Sebastian Payne demolishes the clichés that smother debate about the north of England and provides a simultaneously tender and acute guide to the land that London forgot

    Nick Cohen

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