This time I really believed the country was changing. The moral zeitgeist of the nation had shifted, I told myself, as five years under a Conservative-led coalition had left the country devastated, with benefits being slashed, the most vulnerable in society being thrown to the dogs, the NHS being sold off piece by piece, and corporate big wigs getting away with daylight robbery again, and again, and again…
Here were the Tories, led by a weak David Cameron, fragmented by the backbenchers over Europe, and the growing rivalry on the extreme right from UKIP. Labour didn’t disagree much with them on most issues, including the great big lie about austerity, and the financial crisis that sparked it all in 2008 (for which Labour for some reason took the blame, despite it being quite obviously the fault of the financial system itself). Yet they had Ed Miliband, who I remember not so many years ago was put on the spot by Pete Postlethwaite and Franny Armstrong at the premiere of her documentary, Age of Stupid, in Leicester Square, and seemed to get some good climate change logic kicked into him by the end of it.
Then there was the Green surge after New Year, where membership of the Green Party shot up to 63,000 from just 12,000, enabling the party to field candidates in 90% of seats and make a real challenge for outright victory in Norwich and Bristol to go along with securing their seat in Brighton Pavilion.
I was at the seven-way Leaders Debate on April 2nd when SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett showed the four boys what real progressive politics looks like. While Cameron, Farage, Clegg and Miliband stoked the fires of fear, the three women spoke of hope, generosity and optimism. I was inspired. Surely others would be too? Surely others don’t want more community centres shutting down, food banks filling the gap in the market left by Tesco, and people having to pay if they happen to live in a house with more bedrooms than they need.
But then – BOOM – the opposite happens. There’s no Labour-SNP-Green coalition. Not only do the tight-fisted Tories get the most seats, but they even get a majority. This is largely at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, who, for some unfathomable reason have taken the entire blame for the way the country has been let down in the last five years, despite being only a minor fraction of the coalition government in office.
And then there’s UKIP which, despite not making any gains, received the third largest amount of votes in total, coming second in a number of constituencies. What was going on? Why had the country responded to greedy millionaires hijacking the country by just voting for even more of them? Why had we gone right instead of left?
Of course, you could argue about Proportional Representation, but I’ve had enough. I propose that instead of putting up with more evil austerity that bites at the poorest and most vulnerable in society, just because a bunch of wealthy southerners want it that way, we in the north of England go it alone. Labour support comes from largely urban, multicultural areas. Its power base is in the north of England and always has been.
Generations of people up here have voted Labour time and time again, but find themselves stuck with some toffee-nosed Tory in 10 Downing Street instead.
If the Scots can negotiate their own devolution and possibly their own independence, then so should the North.
Up here the politics is vastly different than down south.
Here the Tories are a great minority and even UKIP, which attempts to play on the insecurities of working class Brits and certainly has a large appeal to northerners, hasn’t really got a decent shot at a seat. So instead of our country being run by people we haven’t elected, my fellow northerners, let’s be bold, chop off the gangrene and go it alone.
I know, I know, most people won’t want to become radical separatists and leave the United Kingdom. Plenty of people up here still like the union, some even still like the monarchy.
But I say let’s forget all that feudal rubbish and focus on the huge parts of history that Northern England should really be proud of: the first passenger railways, the first canal, the first computer, the splitting of the atom, Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, John Lennon, Uhtred of Bebbanburg (okay, he’s fictional) and Jodrell Bank.
Of course, we’d stay friendly with Southern England, but we’d have a lot more in common with Scotland. Those parts of Birmingham that have always voted Labour could join us if they wanted to, but they’d have to do a land-swap with blue parts of Staffordshire or the border system along the motorways would be a nightmare. And they can get rid of that bloody M6 toll-road for a kick off.
Of course, those parts of the north that lean towards the right-wing could stay, just to keep the democracy dynamic. George Osbourne could become leader of the opposition from the safety of his mansion-filled Cheshire constituency. He won’t be grinning so manically as much but I’m sure he’ll get by.
We could have a flag with a Yorkshire Pudding on and loads and loads of hills, just to rub it in. The national anthem could be written by Noel Gallagher, Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft, and The Lancashire Hotpots. We’d have to decide where the capital would be, but we could get away without having one. Maybe we could have a pan-city administration driving the Northern economy, but a real one – not that “northern powerhouse” rubbish Osbourne keeps trying to fob us off with.
We’d do away with fracking, which, let’s face it, is largely scheduled for the North anyway because our shale gas deposits run so deep.
Fracking is just another method whereby American corporations can pillage our land, continue to ruin our climate, and give generous handouts to politicians who don’t see it in their own backyard anyway. We’d put Bez Berry to oversee that.
Instead of the boat race we’d have brass band contests. We’d explore our Viking roots and have a Yule festival every winter instead of the consumer-driven crap we have now. We’d also have a TV gurning competition, which would still be more entertaining than The Voice, and host our own Strictly Come Dancing permanently from the Blackpool Tower.
We’d definitely win the Eurovision, that’s all I’ll say about that.
We could have our own space program, run from Jodrell Bank, but instead of sending up spy satellites we’d have humongous mirrors stretching across the sky in all directions, reflecting views of the Peak District, Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, so that wherever you are you can always be reminded that we have the best National Parks.
Media City can stay, but our BBC won’t have an agenda, will show DEC appeals on behalf of the Palestinians, and will definitely not have Jeremy Clarkson. And we’ll get rid the TV licence because that’s just a hidden tax.
We’d have Corrie but block any incoming signals of Eastenders. Less of that depressing rubbish and we might come out of this sane.
We’d revel in our better house prices, better football teams and better music. We’d eat chips with gravy and curry sauce. We’d reopen the docks at Liverpool and Newcastle for our imports and get the great shipyards running again.
We’d kick the American Air Force out of Menwith Hill and have better relations with countries that reflect our ethnic diversity – Pakistan, India, Ireland, Poland – and less with regimes that do not, such as the US, Russia, Israel and the Saudis where the relationships are based purely on geopolitical control. We’d knock down the coal plants and make proper use of our offshore wind. We’d go carbon zero by 2025. Maybe. Well at least we’d try.
Okay, so maybe I’m getting carried away, but all the minor details will sort themselves out. What is important is that this is no joke.
Since the days of Empire, the working people of the North have been exploited.
We were the brawn of the country. Our shovels powered the steam engines. Our hands were raw working cotton. Our pickaxes produced the coal. All the while, the riches of the empire were being sucked into London. Walk through the capital today and you can see the immense wealth that has been poured into the city since the eighteenth century. Now walk through Manchester, or Liverpool, or York, or Newcastle, or Leeds. They have but a handful of grand municipal buildings between them. Seriously, compare and contrast.
And now that industrialisation is over with, the North is neglected. We toil on but the gap between us and the South is growing still. At some point we’re going to have to wake up and realise that we’re getting a raw deal. We cannot continue to follow like disenfranchised zombies wherever the selfish right-wing lead us. It’s time to stand up to London and Westminster.
It’s time to take back what was lost to Ã†thelstan more than a thousand years ago and which we never won back.
In truth, I don’t believe in nationalism. Nationalism is prejudice permitted. But something I believe in even less is this ferocious capitalism sweeping the planet, causing the 1 percent to gain where the 99 percent lose out. The capitalism that gives us crashes and allows the Conservatives to sneak in their own privatisation agenda under the guise of “austerity”. The capitalism that allows posh stockbrokers like Nigel Farage to make overtly racist remarks about immigrants and divert attention away from the real cause of the nation’s problems. The capitalism that feeds on the division of society, sets working class people against each other, and ceases to allow the wheels of progressive politics to set into motion.
The UK has never been more divided. The Tories don’t represent the people of the North and they don’t care about us. So for that reason I’m going off the grid on this one.
It’s time to get brave, get angry, and kick them out.
Long live the Republic of The North!Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by Oliver Lewis Thompson