WESTMINSTER’S handling of the coronavirus pandemic has shown the North of England needs to be granted independence, a political party has told Redaction Politics.
The Northern Independence Party (NIP) has said the disproportionate impact felt by the North throughout the pandemic and the governments handling of the virus has validated the party’s calls for regional independence.
Claiming also that consistent neglect from Westminster ensured the North was in a weakened position to fight the virus when it washed up on British shores in early 2020.
A party spokesperson said: “The UK government in Westminster has repeatedly shown it chooses to prioritise the economy in London over the health and lives of people in the North. The decades of Westminster neglect have absolutely made the situation worse.”
The NIP cited the large amount of face-to-face manufacturing jobs in the North as a factor in worsening the virus spread in the region.
According to a House of Commons report, these jobs make up between 12 per cent to 9 per cent of jobs in the North and Midlands, compared to just 2 per cent in London.
Adding: “Manufacturing jobs are often not possible to complete working from home and those who the Westminster government are repeatedly advising to continue working from home, are those disproportionately located in the North.”
The party claimed it is “very likely” the North would have fared better against the pandemic had there been greater devolution or even independence.
“A northern government would have been forced to look at and consider the current data which was available in the North. We already know from multiple sources that localised responses were more effective at tracing and containing the virus.
“After Covid, it is vital that the North receives massive amounts of investment to ensure that the continual drain from the region to London is put to a stop and that such investment is best controlled locally.
“Independence would ensure we do not find ourselves in this position again.”
“Westminster has made promises of increased investment in the North, but actions speak louder than words and we see no evidence that the current ‘levelling up’ goals consist of anything more than words and hot air.
They added, “it’s time” for Northern Independence.
The Northern Independence Party was set up in 2020 and has announced its intention to field a candidate in the upcoming Hartlepool by-election.
The view that the regional inequalities which have stemmed from consistent underfunding from Westminster have been exposed and exacerbated through the pandemic is one shared by many.
The Northern Health Science Alliance, a scientific research body that looks into the health of the North, produced a paper in November 2020 detailing the pandemic’s effects on the north and what this means for the national recovery.
The NHSA’s paper suggested the pandemic was one that did discriminate regionally. More northerners unemployed. More kids stunted in poverty. More northern bodies buried.
Hannah Davies, health inequalities lead at the NHSA believes now is a golden opportunity to reassess the regional relationship of the nation, telling Redaction Politics: “Levelling up is key to the rebuilding of the North and it is an opportunity for the entire country.
“We need to stop the sticking plaster solution with significant investment in public health, health reserch and development and infrastructure in the region. The pandemic has demonstrated that we chip away at the infrastructure that underpins our communities at our own detriment.”
Appetite for devolution, even independence has grown during the pandemic. As those in all corners of the union have grown detached and disgusted from the actions of Number 10 during this period.
Davies added: “If implemented and funded properly (devolution) there is a great deal to be said for local expertise and knowledge. As the excellent work of our universities, hospitals and Academic Health Science Networks in the North of England demostrates.”
The region has far worse health compared to the South, yet it has seen the fiscal tap running from London grow weaker over the years. Money that can help to grow health deficiencies.
Davies added: “We must recommit to ending child poverty. Maintain and increase the additional universal credit funding, provide additional funding and resources to local authorities and the NHS. Deliver a ring-fenced £1 billion to tackle health inequalities at a regional level and level up investment to create high value jobs to support the local health and economy.”
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government were approached for comment.
This article was updated on March 16, 2021 to include the Hartlepool by-election announcement.
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