The North South DivideI am originally from Belfast, N Ireland, and as I am sure most of you know, there has been a massive North South divide between Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, however, this divide has been religious based, exposing Protestant and Catholic differences. The North South Divide I want to talk about in this article, is that found here in England and the cultural class difference that has either evolved or been manufactured.
As I have mentioned, I am from N Ireland, however I joined the British Army aged 16 and have lived in England, with the exception of time away with the Army, all my adult life. I am now 40 and have experienced living in some of the most affluent areas in the South of England and some of the more impoverished areas in the North of England.
But of course, this North South divide in England has been fomenting for years, way before I ever landed on England's shores, more importantly, for the people living in England, this divide is clear, not just from a poverty to riches perspective, but also business, academic and criminal perspective.
Conservative And Labour PartiesFor a long time, there were two government bodies, setup to represent both divides. The Conservative Party always supported the upper middle class to upper class and the Old Labour Party was originally founded to give the working class a voice. Unfortunately, that ended with Tony Blairs New Labour, with people in the North of England, slowly realising that they no longer had a voice in Parliament.
Some people would say that the divide is much less prominate today that it was fifty years ago, others not so much. However, whatever the case, I am not sure too many people would argue that entering into the beginning of 2014, that clear divide is becoming more and more prominate as it was fifty years ago.
Most of this is down to the Harrow / Eton type politicians that have taken over government. I have always wondered why we as people, think that just because a politician has been educated at Eton or Harrow or schools of this status, wears a pinstripe suit from Savile Row and when asked a simple yes or no question, bumbles about like an extra in a Hugh Grant movie, any more capable of running a country that an equally intelligent working class man or women. Whitehall and Parliament is really an extension of the old boys, public school network and by virtue will never understand the struggles of a poverty stricken family with no chance of change. As a result of never having experienced such hardship, it is not going to be at the forefront of their mind when deciding economic cuts and business partnerships with foreign companies.
As an ex British Army soldier and belonging to a regiment steeped in class structure, The Brigade of Guards, I would much rather follow a Platoon Sgt of 12 years experience into battle, than an Officer of equal service length but most of which served from the comfort of his office. I view Government in a similar fashion when talking about this subject of class.
From Chelsea to DurhamI personally lived in very wealthy Chelsea in London, just off Sloane Square and then to Durham in the North East of England. The contrasts in most instances are overwhelming, and I must confess that of all the areas in the North East of England, Durham City is probably the more affluent, which is purely on the basis of it being a University City.
Because I have lived in both areas, I can only talk about my own personal experiences and deduce my own opinions and views. I am quite sure that people will disagree strongly with me and equally, I'm sure people will be able to relate to my opinions and views.
One of the largest differences that I see keeping the North South divide alive and well, is the lack of business's willing to invest in the North of England as opposed to the influx of business opportunities in the South Of England. Given the age we currently live in, where so much business and commerce is conducted and dictated by our use of the internet, one would assume this to not be the case, but currently in the North East, most of the industry, i.e the Steal, Mining and Shipping industries have long gone, none of which where replaced by other business looking to invest and take advantage of the incredibly high working ethics that used to keep the North Of England alive.
Sunderland Car Plant : NissanFor example, currently in the North East, the largest company employing people is probably Nissan, the Japanese car manufacturing plant. Should this plant close down, and it has almost come to it a few times in the last ten years, the Sunderland and further regions would suffer gravely. Another example of this is from an academic stand point. A friend of ours, who moved to Durham from the south, worked in a publishing house, editing and proofreading novels. When she moved here, this highly qualified person with years of experience, could only get a job proofreading text books for the University. The reason for this was simply due to the fact publishing house are like gold dust in the North East. Most of the big houses are in London radiating out to the M25 ring.
As a result, the lack of resources and business's investing in a region over such prolonged periods of time, has built up resentment in people, which over time filters through to the younger generation who feel they have been neglected and have lost the desire to work as there is no work to find. A small majority, decide that in order to get any work at all, they are going to have to move away from the North to the South, but why should this be the case.
ConclusionIn terms of the actual people, I found that living in the South, albeit London, people appeared very isolated, apprehensive, always in a rush and very guarded, not giving much time to socialise unless with their own very close circles. In the North I found that people where much more inclined to stop in the street and chat, help one an other and yes, unemployment is much higher in the North, but from my experience, this is most certainly not what the people of the North want.
There is no doubt about it, because of circumstance and the time period that has lapsed, people living in the South are much more ambitious than their counterparts in the North, however, as I have previously mentioned, due to the UK governments failing to protect the once thriving industries in the North, people have become disenchanted and cynical about the future changing for them. Living in an environment, regardless of geographical locality, were time after time, the people have been metaphorically kicked in the teeth, it should only be expected to find a high rate of unemployment and lack of inspiration for younger generations.
change must come to the North and not by taking from the South, but by simply helping push foreign businesses further North, once people are handed that life line, will grab it with both hands and gradually over time will change the cancerous mind set that has evolved and taken hold thus far.