After the melodrama of Milf-gate and the shenanigans of Richard Tice, Mr S was not sure how much farce was left in the Hartlepool by-election. Thankfully, a whole new comedy of errors has now arrived in the form of the recently launched Northern Independence party. In its bid to break the mould of British politics, the party has (naturally) turned to a failed former Labour MP Thelma Walker, a one-time wonder who lost her Colne Valley seat in 2019. A natural choice for Hartlepool then, a mere 90 miles away.
The new party was founded in October by Philip Proudfoot, an international development studies lecturer at Sussex University with the goal of making the North of England an independent state under the name Northumbria, with borders based on the historic region. It boasts a three-point manifesto: a ‘better, fairer and freer North for all,’ ‘a referendum on the independence of the North’ and the obligatory ‘green industrial rebirth.’ Describing itself as a ‘democratic socialist party’ it claims to ‘stand opposed to all forms of ideology based on hatred and bigotry’ and offers £60 a year party membership for which you can decide party policy and attend special events. And, of course, it has a whippet as its logo.
Campaign promises such as 'Dominic Cummings will have a lifetime ban from Barnard Castle in an independent Northumbria' have gone down a storm on Twitter but few in Labour appear to be impressed. Liverpool backbencher Kim Johnson dubbed the logo ‘patronising in the extreme’ while Ian Lavery’s former head of communications James Matthewson has a bruising piece in the Times's Red Box today lambasting its 'level of cultural insensitivity and Patridge-like parody’ and claiming ‘the North continues to deserve better.’ Others have pointed out that the party's proposed 'northern republic' would include Norwich and Coventry – something few northerners appear to want themselves.
— James Kanagasooriam (@JamesKanag) March 20, 2021
If Chipping Norton is your sense for where the “border” for northern England is I’d suggest going back to the drawing board https://t.co/pDy2GL4zEs
At least Jeremy Corbyn’s cheerleaders were predictably favourable, with the former outriders all straight out of the blocks with warm words of approval on Twitter. Ash Sarkar wrote: ‘I might be an obnoxious Londoner, but I think the Northern Independence party presents some real challenges for Labour’ adding that the new venture presents ‘a challenge to Starmer precisely because they're able to project a sense of authentic identity, tied to place.’ Owen Jones called it ‘intriguing’ while Aaron Bastani said ‘the fact a new party has conducted a democratic ballot, online, for a parliamentary candidate, is really impressive.’ Indeed Corbyn himself now follows the party’s Twitter account – surely the kiss of death for any campaign?
Given their track record of success, Mr S fears that the cause of Northern Independence is only going south.