Readers' letters: Tackling causes of North-South divide

Economists and economic historians have long examined the so-called North-South Divide in England.

Sunday, 24th October 2021, 3:45 pm
A correspondent writes about poverty and the north-south divide

Authors such as Trollope and Jane Austen featured it in some of their most famous books.

The divide describes the social, economic and cultural disparities between London and the South East of England and the rest of the UK.

The causes of the divide are many.

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The main cause is historical. With the exception of Kent, coal was only available in plenty in the north and it fuelled the industrial revolution from the mid-18th century.

In contrast the south engaged in light industry, finance and, increasingly, in services.

This led to the emergence of a northern manual working class in contrast to, what Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli called in his book Sybil, an ‘intellectual’ class in the south.

Lazy stereotyping led to this becoming standardised.

After 1919 the gradual collapse of key staple industries like coal mining and iron and steel led to a growing divide between North and South in terms of health, income. housing and education.

Despite various government strategies such as Enterprise Zones, transport improvements, the Northern Powerhouse concept and talk of ‘levelling up’, the divide remains.

It may even, as recent studies indicate, be getting worse in respect of health, education and transport.

The pandemic has served to exacerbate the divide.

The divide continues to exist because there are many more poor areas in the north and more deeply engrained structural issues such as education and health.

OFSTED reports, for example, regularly rate secondary schools overall in the north as inferior in terms of results to those in the south, this despite the fact there are parts of London far more deprived than any in the north.

Mortality rates also vary greatly. Places such as Blackpool, and Hull, for example, have mortality rates worse than parts of Turkey and Romania.

To overcome the divide we need to devolve more executive power to regions and transfer money and influence in order to generate the wealth to close the gap.

In particular, the major inequality gap in education has to be addressed.

There has long been a proven relationship between life chances, health, wealth, family aspirations and education.

The latter greatly magnifies opportunities in life.

We also need to banish a common mindset that when you venture north you enter a different and strange land.

It is time we abandoned the false stereotypes of northern lives depicted in Coronation Street.

Other countries have poor bits but unfortunately Britain still has a poor half.

Dr Barry Clayton

Thornton Cleveleys


in the council

It was very heartening to see Friday’s article detailing a council meeting which passed a unanimous motion to campaign to get the £20 Universal Credit re-instated (LP October 10).

I read it just before hearing of the stabbing of David Amess, and listening to all the calls for a more co-operative approach to government, highlighted especially by Lisa Nandy on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

I am not a Tory voter, but I feel that by supporting and voting through this Labour motion, against the policies of their Government, our local Tories have shown courage and good sense, and the Lib Dems too are to be congratulated for their co-operative approach. Preston Council has just given us a second ‘Preston Model’, which it would be good to see taken up by other councils as well as the Government!

Marjorie Drake, Fulwood

Time for a

tea break

Your correspondent Jack Marshall’s article was a welcome break (LP Views, Storm brewing in a teacup, October 16). He wrote that Mr Thomas Garway’s loose tea probably came from China.

I remember my parents buying loose tea from a tiny grocers in Staveley, Westmorland, in the early 1950s; it came in white paper bags, decorated with porcelain-blue oriental scenes.

Above the shop counter were rolls of brown wrapping paper and balls of string; your shopping was hand-wrapped and tied off by the patron.

A while back in our local we had a big debate about tea and its origins: India, Kenya, China – and I added with great delight “mine cuz fre Yorkshire”, loose of course, never a teabag over my threshold!

Kit Rogers


Eisenhower and the Nazis

Not many people in the UK will have noticed the death in Germany of Henry Hafenmayor who was laid to rest on October 8.

Hafenmayor was a neo-Nazi activist who had frequently asserted that the Holocaust was “a lie”, even claiming that the death camps were “holiday camps”.

He is probably mourned in the UK by right wing extremists who peddle the same message.

They see it as their mission to disassociate Nazism from its genocidal history and thereby persuade people that it is a reasonable ideology.

For those tempted to believe this, I would like to quote the words of one of the most decent presidents of the United States; Dwight D Eisenhower.

He was Supreme Commander of the allied forces in Europe following the Normandy invasion of 1944 and was with the troops who liberated Belsen, one of the most notorious death camps.

There was a film crew on hand and the appalled Eisenhower ordered all possible photographs to be taken.

He said “Get it all on record now. Get the films, get the witnesses, because somewhere down the track of history some b***** will get up and say this never happened.”

John Prance


Take action on climate change

The activities of direct action environmentalists have caused something of a stir across the land. Recently Insulate Britain has taken action. The great irony is that the journalists who question their actions will quite often be on the same news bulletin that has a report on the latest devastation caused by climate destruction. The two items do not seem to be joined together.

What governments need to do is recognise the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crisis and respond to the demands of the protesters. It’s no use seeking to criminalise protest. The protest will simply move elsewhere.

What the protesters want is action now, not at some distant point when it is too late. The world will be watching when leaders gather for the COP26 meeting in November. More meaningless rhetoric simply won’t do.

Action is needed now.

Royston Jones