Boris Johnson holds the North in contempt.

The snubbing of Andy Burnham and shameful political posturing by the government makes what many of us knew all along undeniable: Boris Johnson holds the people of the North in contempt.

The story of the past month or so has been that as long as you aren’t a shire stronghold, a bastion of well off middle England, the Tory government is pretty happy to let you languish on poverty pay, your kids go hungry, while your high street is indefinitely shut down. Boris Johnson’s track record of disparaging comments about Liverpudlians, Scots, and even single mothers demonstrates no one is above his contempt; and he holds the people of northern England, be they in South Yorkshire, be they in Manchester or indeed Liverpool, in deep contempt.

The government hasn’t adapted to not treating people north of their heartlands like dispensable nobodies, casually forgetting they’ve made inground they need to consolidate and hold onto to keep a stranglehold on power in Westminster. They’ve slipped back to their old ways of divide and rule, and they’ve abandoned people who put their faith in Boris Johnson last December. That, the “one rule for them, one for the rest of us” narrative, the snubbing of Mr Burnham in such an overt insulting way, and a potential double whammy hit to manufacturing from No Deal Brexit and the coronavirus economic tsunami, could prove an irreconcilably toxic political mix.

If I was a PR operative for the government, the Andy Burnham situation would have infuriated me. It was a political own goal and so, so tone deaf. People all around the UK, particularly in areas heavily hit by COVID (coincidentally in the North) feel scared, frustrated, and singled out. Andy Burnham stood up to them, and the people of Manchester were crushed and punished; it was a hark-back to the days of Thatcher.

The government has to get a grip, start thinking in a genuine One Nation mindset, rather than exacerbating the regional inequities they swore they’d work to correct. Boris Johnson would do well to remember who have him a majority, for the sake of his party, and for the sake of the country.



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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.