The Northern Independence Party, now promoting a candidate in the 6 May Hartlepool by-election, looks to me like all the worst traits in Corbynism solidified into a bad joke.
It even has a whippet in its party logo.
There is no real call for “Northern Independence”, but there is an increasing rise, at least where I live in Yorkshire, of regional identity and calls for Yorkshire “home rule”.
You see way more Yorkshire flags than you used to. Yorkshire Day has become an actual thing observed by councils and companies rather then a joke involving Yorkshire puddings.
Much of this cultural assertion is reactionary and goes along with support for Tories and Farage. Indeed the Tories up here lean into it as a way to differentiate themselves from the national Tories’ London-centric poshness.
However the main political expression of the “Yorkshire-ism” is “The Yorkshire Party”, which is ideologically centrist or even, like the Northern Independence Party, social-democratic.
It is eating into the Labour vote, mostly in the places like safe Tory seats where it gets some of the frustrated anti-Tory vote, but also in working-class areas among people disaffected from Labour who would never vote for the Tories.
In some ways, I am glad just that this disaffection isn’t going to the right. But I think even the “leftish” versions of the particularism store up problems in future for socialists.
The idea seems to be that if we can’t defeat the Tories, then we carve out a bit of the UK to be slightly less horrifically right wing and protected from the worst Tory policies. As the Yorkshire Party grows, it could well move to the right. Defecting councillors may see it as an increasingly viable vehicle for their careers.
Whilst advocating much more autonomous, democratic, and assertive local government, we need to make the argument that the working class of Wakefield have the same fundamental interests as the working class of Walthamstow or Wolverhampton. London is not the enemy: it’s capital and the bosses.
• See also this article by Edd Mustill on the Prometheus website