North English Independence – Twitter trend or political reality?

We’ve heard drafts of Scotland’s withdrawal from the United Kingdom since the 90s. But this one looks south of that border, to England’s North.

The North-South divide

The North-South divide has been discussed since the decline of industry in the UK. The former industrial powerhouses such as Manchester and Liverpool saw less investment in infrastructure, particularly in the inner city. This leads to widespread socioeconomic inequality that sees a divide between the two poles even today.

North-South divide and life expectancy of both sexes at birth | Source: The BMJ

The effects of the pandemic

Years of austerity have underequipped the North and caused a harsh economic fallout for the region.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published that the North suffered the highest levels of unemployment and child poverty during the pandemic.

Furthermore, the North was subject to the harshest lockdowns, with 75% of the region facing Tier 3 in November 2020 as opposed to just 10% of the South.

These restrictions were met with local backlash.

Andy Burnham – “King of the North”

In October 2020, Mayor Burnham of Greater Manchester spoke to the press in a standoff against Westminster.

He said that their plans to impose restrictions were understandable, but suggested that they weren’t paying the region enough to support them.

Andy Burnham speaking on failed Tier 3 discussions in October 2020 | Source: Guardian News

This led to a couple of days of gridlock between the local and national governments before a resolution was found, and lockdown imposed.

Northern Independence Party

Northern Independence Party Logo | Slogan: “It’s About Bloody Time” | Source: Wikipedia

The standoff between Mayor Burnham and No 10 reportedly inspired International Development Studies Lecturer Philip Proudfoot, who formed the Northern Independence Party (NIP) on the 21st of October 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the party stands on the grounds of secessionism and the establishment of the medieval kingdom Northumbria as a modern democracy.

It also supports a democratic socialist society, with increased funding for public services and action against climate change.

Support for the party has mostly been found in the left factions of the Labour party, disappointed in Keir Starmer’s leadership.

The party also supports the removal of the monarchy as head of state, a referendum on a new currency and a continuation outside of the European Union.

Twitter trend?

Whilst the party awaits registration with the Electoral Commission, its current identity is down to its Twitter account.

With almost 50,000 followers, the account and its movement have been on the UK’s Trending Tab several times.

People in solidarity with the movement also brandish their accounts with the burgundy and yellow colours of its logo.

Pinned Tweet of the Northern Independent Party’s Twitter | Source: @FreeNorthNow

Or a political force?

In the upcoming Hartlepool by-election, the NIP is polling higher than the Liberal Democrats, a “major” political party in the UK.

As the Labour party continues to decline, proactive political members may migrate over to the Northern Independence Party. This could cause its popularity to grow, similarly to the SDP in the 1980s.

However, it is incredibly unlikely for it to gain any traction in national politics due to the UK’s First Past The Post electoral system. Unless it has both widespread and concentrated support, candidates will often go unelected, similar to UKIP and the Green Party.

The party recognizes the difficulty in winning a majority Parliament in 2024, and instead aspires to make a deal with another party; a coalition for a referendum.

On the other hand, the party could serve well as an issue party, by bringing attention to the North-South divide by diverting the popular vote from both the government and the opposition.

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