THE North must break away from England and become independent, a new political party’s leader has said.

County Durham man Phillip Proudfoot, founder and leader of the newly-formed Northern Independence Party (NIP), launched the call to arms after becoming frustrated with Westminster’s dealing of the pandemic which is said to have widened the existing North-South divide.

For Mr Proudfoot, Government negotiations with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham over the local authority’s Tier 3 support package was breaking point.

“No one can look at how the North has been treated with Covid and not feel it. The 67 per cent furlough situation was disgraceful,” the 32-year-old said.

The Ferryhill-born anthropology lecturer, who yesterday moved back to Durham from London after a research project in the city, paid homage to the Scottish and Welsh independence movements while arguing for secession. 

“The North is a direction, not a country,” Mr Proudfoot said. “We are the Republic of Northumbria.”

Northumbria, though today associated only with the North-East, reflects Anglo-Saxon history and the Kingdom of Northumbria. Mr Proudfoot hopes to reinstate historical borders, making anywhere north of the Humber up to Berwick-upon-Tweed part of Northumbria. The region has 15 million people, making it larger than Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and Wales.

In its policy draft, the three-week-old NIP recognises “centuries of harmful treatment” of the North, be it direct or via favour of London and the South, through military or financial oppression.

“Poverty isn't something to measure, it’s something lived,” Mr Proudfoot said.

“We have infrastructure poverty. Our rail, museums and universities are all under invested in. We need Northern independence to really address and understand that.

“Look at what the North has contributed to the world. Railways, cat’s eyes, ambulances, the fly shuttle, the lead pencil. So many innovations, they’re all in the past but we’re pointing to an exciting future vision. It doesn’t have to be grim up North.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Proudfoot, who is already battling opposition with claims the North is subsidised by the South, says the region has degraded since Thatcher and defends its economic contribution.

He said: "The North's economic output is much higher than reported because companies manufacture in the region but are headquartered in London.

“Considering how much poverty is here and how bad our infrastructure is, it would make more sense to shift a lot more money to the North but they will never do that because it breaks the Westminster model where they filter our people, ideas and money to the capital.

“Everything points to London. Infrastructure, people, ideas and money are all filtered to the South and that has gone on for hundreds of years now but it has to stop.

“There’s a limited sense of awareness over just how bad it is. I’ve lived in the South but my home is in the North. I’m constantly seeing differences.

“I know that if I step out of my house in London I can get into central for about a pound, but if I step out of my house in Durham I have to wait half an hour or longer for a bus to pay more money and for it to take longer to get into the city centre."

The Northern Echo:

Mr Proudfoot says NIP will learn from the lessons of London to create a country free of such extreme regional inequality and is looking at having multiple capital cities to spread investment.

The party will also ensure people representing industries would come from those industries themselves. For example, NIP’s current agricultural lead is a farmer. Mr Proudfoot said there will also be a democratic vote for a new party leader once NIP is established.

While less than a month old, NIP has quickly gained traction with hundreds of party activists so far.

Green industry will be at the heart of plans to rebuild the Northern economy, with a mini manifesto expected in the new year.

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