Earlier this month a group of daily newspapers in the North of England, many of them long standing rivals, joined forces in a rare show of unity in order to call for the Tory leadership candidates to pay more attention to the North. The #powerupthenorth campaign is being backed by over thirty publications and wants Westminster to take urgent action to tackle England’s growing North / South divide.
Attempts by the national media to be less London centric have met with mixed results. The BBC has moved some of its output to Salford while Channel Four is in the process of (very reluctantly) relocating to Leeds. Last week C4 announced that they expect around 90 per cent of their staff to refuse to leave London. This isn’t too much of a surprise given that last year The Guardian described C4 as Britain’s poshest broadcaster.
In recent years there have been some efforts by Government to address the issue. The highest profile of these came in 2014 with George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse initiative. In five years it seems to have achieved precious little and the current Northern Powerhouse minister, someone called Jake Berry apparently, hardly has a high profile.
The creation of Metro Mayors seems to have had little or no impact and it could be argued that the North’s problems aren’t being helped by some pretty poor political leadership. For example, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is currently backing the HS2 rail project, despite having opposed it when he was campaigning for the Labour Leadership in 2015.
Voters in Glasgow or Dundee who are fed up with the London obsessed establishment parties can at least vote for the SNP, but that isn’t an option for disgruntled voters in Liverpool or Hull.
So can we really expect the next Prime Minister to take the North’s problems seriously and dedicate substantial resources to tackling them? So far none of the candidates have made any mention of the North / South divide in the TV debates. Don’t hold your breath.