1 January 2013

Northern England and the Labour Party

Labour, while in office (1997-2010), was foolish not to grant regional self-government to the north of England

Scotland and Wales, though part of the United Kingdom, are countries in the own right, both with well established boundaries and national identities. Since 1999 both have forms of semi-autonomous government.

England, with several times the combined population of Scotland and Wales, can be seen to consist of six regions. Though there may be uncertainties about the "boundaries" of a couple of these regions, most English people know which of the six they live in. The six regions are:

Southern England
The West Country
East Anglia
The Midlands
Northern England

In general elections, each of these regions has its own pattern of party identification, and falls into one of three groups. First there are three regions (Southern England, The West Country and East Anglia) in which Labour is never the leading party. In two regions (London and the Midlands) Labour may or may not secure the most seats. Only in one English region (The North) is the Labour Party secure as the dominant party.

Here is the rub. Labour’s heartland is the post-industrial cities, towns and ex-mining villages of Northern England, a region which accounts for only around one quarter of the English population. In any general general election, the majority of Labour seats are won in the North, Scotland, Wales and the inner cities across Britain, yet even taken together these areas have insufficient seats for Labour to win a majority at Westminster.

To win, Labour needs to secure the marginals of the Midlands, London and a handful of urban seats across the South. As a result, Labour’s policy-propaganda focus is on the Midlands and the South, while its English regional heartland in the North is taken for granted and is largely irrelevant to winning elections. That particularly hurts Northern England because Labour’s other traditional strongholds, Scotland and Wales, have semi-autonomous assemblies to give them a voice; Northern England has nothing; and it loses out for this reason.


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