A new political party wants to form an independent North of England - but is it a good idea?
Though the events of the last few months may have brought it to the fore, there has long been a feeling in parts of northern England that the region is overlooked and neglected in favour of the south.
Northern Conservative MPs recently wrote to Boris Johnson, reminding him of his commitment to “levelling up” the region.
Hoping to provide another potential answer to this sense of unrest is a new political party which is calling for a referendum on the north of England becoming an independent state. But who’s behind it?
‘An open, warm, welcoming vision of the North’
The Northern Independence Party was set up just this week, and has already attracted almost 5,000 followers on Twitter, as well as “hundreds of volunteers,” according to acting leader, Philip Proudfoot.
Mr Proudfoot says his party takes inspiration from the political legacy of the miners’ struggle, and “working class traditions of mutualism, solidarity, fairness - other northern values.”
“We’re an open, warm, welcoming vision of the North,” he explains.
“The North has its own culture, traditions and history, if it was independent and able to form its own policies, well, surely that’s worth a shot? Nothing has solved the north-south divide so far.”
Policies are still being decided, but there is support for nationalising Greggs and banishing Dominic Cummings from the North, jokes Mr Proudfoot.
He says a parliamentary committee will be established to deal with “highly controversial questions,” like what the Independent North’s national dish will be.
Despite being lighthearted and jovial about the issue in person and on Twitter, Mr Proudfoot says his party is “dead serious” about northern independence.
“The idea of northern independence is both funny and serious,” he says.
“But we are going to create a democratic, socialist, independent North that is open and warm. And anyone who wants to move here and help us build that can.”
Candidates could stand in next local elections
The Northern Independence Party is currently looking to formally establish itself, and hopes to run candidates in some constituencies at the next opportunity, likely to be during local elections next year.
“I’ve already got a WhatsApp group with hundreds of people who want to be involved and want to do this,” says Mr Proudfoot.
The capital city would be York, but the party’s working interpretation of exactly where else the Independent North would include is currently “the Northumbrian definition,” which means everything north of the Humber and south of Scotland.
However, this would exclude a number of areas traditionally thought of as being northern, including parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, and the party acknowledges that ‘northerness’ is, in many ways, a relative concept, which is up for discussion.
‘An independent North might not be a good idea’
Lecturer at Newcastle University and author of book New Model Island: How to Build a Radical Culture Beyond the Idea of England, Alex Niven, says he’s “not sure” that independence is a good idea.
“Northern independence has a lot of potential as an idea and rallying cry, but it’s important to be subtle about these things,” explains Niven.
“I’m all in favour of radical regionalism, but I’m not sure an independent northern nation would be a good idea, largely because it would run the risk of just replicating the bad things about other nationalisms.
“That being said, it’s definitely important to cultivate feelings of northern pride and collective identity as a means of staving off a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. And it’s an evolving situation. You never know what will happen over the next half century.”