Updated: Jul 13, 2022
By Joshua Slesser
What is the North/South divide? How has it formed and why is it important? What does it mean to be a part of it and what has caused the situation to flare?
There is a divide as big as the Mediterranean, yet at the same time, as big as a couple of miles on the A1. This divide is both illusive, yet tangible, the contents of difference being a world apart. This divide between the North and South of England defines the lives of those who live above and below this mysterious threshold. It is a shifting post, where barriers of opportunity and security wax and wane alongside and in relation to the ebb and flow of funding and support. Nevertheless, the line does not go unrecognised; we just need to level up!
Where then, does the line lie? Does it lie south of Newcastle and north of Manchester? Perhaps the north is found in the arbitrarily named Midlands. What of Scotland and Hadrian’s wall, a historical bastion of northern solidarity considered alien to the modern English psyche. Is it not apt to recognise our position in the lack of opportunities within local communities, lacking the financial security of stable jobs, and the provision of our welfare state, as issues which effect all the above? In that sense, are we not all, from the North?
Avoidable death, financial disaster, persistent poverty and chronic pain, where does the buck stop? At what point do we recognise the cause and consequence of decades of social policy decisions, which have stood in the face of working-class northerners and southerners alike? It isn’t a case of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, or taking from the south and giving to the north, it’s about recognising how we can make changes which benefit us all.
The NHS, a British success story – first class healthcare paid for by a relatively small national insurance contribution, a world apart from the privatised American system. Or is it? Year long waiting lists for often serious conditions and life-changing surgery, fifty+ people in the queue when ringing up your GP for a 10-minute appointment, and a realisation that what you are saying to your tired and overworked doctor is not being acknowledged, not at least with the thought and care that they would like to give it. NHS staff are tired, hungry, and overworked across the country. It is suggested that this is purely an issue of covid-19, let us see where it stands once the dust has settled and the funding still hasn’t arrived.
Can it be solved? Can the world’s problems be fixed with the flick of a wrist? No, yet a small action may influence the lives of many. Power, be it political or colloquial, can stem from a place of control and a desire to retain peace, popularity, and the general status quo. In the financially dominated world that lives and breathes around us, where are the decisions which consider not the quantity of economic output, productivity, and GDP and instead the quality of communities and the everyday lives of people?
As it stands, the North/South divide is a geographical example of when political decisions do not focus on the people, instead trying to hold up a fabricated image of what it means to be British to hide our flaws. It’s not the tea, the weather, nor the queen, it is whether you have enough money to feed your kids or not. The UK has been seemingly forever rooted in class-based struggles. When will we admit that the status quo needs to be broken and the reality accepted that our fellow citizens are suffering. Has the sentiment of apathy been passed down through decades of policy to the everyday person?
It's just food for thought, if we could afford it.