Mortality relates to voting patterns within areas: mortality is higher the greater the proportion of the electorate who vote Labour or abstain and the converse is the case with regard to the percentage of the electorate who vote Conservative. This reflects the socioeconomic characteristics of individuals who vote for these parties, with Labour being identified with the working class and the Conservatives with the middle class. In the 1997 election, Labour was returned to office after 18 years in opposition. The government has released targets for reducing health inequalities and made it clear that such a reduction is a principal policy aim. These targets may be difficult to meet for two reasons. Firstly, factors influencing inequalities in adult health act from an early age onwards and may not respond rapidly to social change3; secondly, there has as yet been no reduction in social inequality (as indexed by income inequality) under the Labour government.4 Here we use premature mortality as an indicator of which population groups have fared best under the present government
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