Regional stereotypes don’t help when we need national unity | Blaise Tapp

Blaise has been known to play up the Gallagher-esque accent. Picture shows Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury Festival,  2019. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty ImagesBlaise has been known to play up the Gallagher-esque accent. Picture shows Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury Festival,  2019. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Blaise has been known to play up the Gallagher-esque accent. Picture shows Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury Festival, 2019. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images
As somebody who is equally at home in the Downs as he is in the Pennines, I know a thing or two about the supposed north/south divide.

Although I am currently on my second stint of living in Sussex with no plans of leaving, I very much revel in the role of professional northerner – making a point of calling strangers (male and female) ‘love’ and routinely consuming black pudding and ever so slightly hamming up my South Manchester accent for a Gallagher-esqu e drawl whenever the occasion warrants it. The north-west and the south co ast have an equal claim on my heart as I love both for their beauty and charm, not to mention the challenges they both face.

I have no time for lazy stereotypes and make a point of regularly calling out nonsense such as: ‘Northerners are friendlier,’ and: ‘Southerners are standoffish,’ or that ‘It’s grim up north,’ or that ‘the south is the land of milk and honey’. While I have witnessed crippling deprivation knocking on doors in search of news in Greater Manchester and beyond, that doesn’t mean that those living below the M25 don’t face their own hardships.

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The concept of a north/south divide is as outdated as it is unhelpful, which is why I’ve held my head in my hands more than once recently as it becomes clear that a yawning chasm is beginning to develop between the two halves of the country.

As it stands, the areas currently living under the government’s newly-introduced Tier 3 restrictions are in the north-west and while there are good and complex reasons for this, this is a significant blow in so many ways for a region I know better than any other. This should serve as a serious wake-up call for the entire nation as nobody knows where the coronavirus will take its grip next. But what I have seen and heard from other parts of the nation is not sympathy but unkindness on an industrial scale.

The dreary, joyless types who have nothing better to do but ring into radio phone-ins have wasted no time in admonishing Scousers, Lancastrians and Mancunians that the situation they find themselves in is entirely their fault. The cacophony of cobblers that has been spouted by ill-informed dullards in recent days includes pearls of wisdom such as: ‘They only have themselves to blame,’ or: ‘They wouldn’t be in this mess if they had only stuck to the rules’.

This spiteful nonsense overlooks the monumental mismanagement of this crisis at national level; the shambles of track and trace, insufficient testing in the areas that really need it not to mention the horribly confusing messaging about the ever-changing rules in recent months. Pointing the finger at people who are already hurting because they face greater restrictions on their movements, not to mention their livelihoods, than people living down the motorway achieves nothing, except for creating resentment.

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There are many reasons why infection levels are higher in some parts of the north-west than in other parts of the country including areas of high population density and significant student communities, who tend to live in each other’s pockets. It is not, to quote one ill-informed acquaintance, because people living up north ‘like to party’, as if everybody living beyond Knutsford is living a Shameless-like existence.

Listening to my pals in the north, there is a genuine belief that they have been hugely let down by our London-based politicians, who were entrusted by millions of voters to make the big decisions and it is only likely that this simmering resentment will continue to grow.

Although I grew up in a largely prosperous part of the north-west in the 1980s, you didn’t have to look too far to find areas scarred by economic decay and past recessions and a real sense of feeling they had been cut adrift by the southern elite.

If we are not careful, we could be heading back to a toxic them and us dynamic.

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