North-South divide in the United Kingdom

North-South divide in the United Kingdom

In Great Britain the term North-South divide refers to the economic and cultural differences between southern England; the South East, Greater London, South West and parts of East, and the rest of the United Kingdom, generally including Scotland, Wales, North East England, North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber. The status of the Midlands is often disputed, although the region tends to have had historically more in common with the North than the South, even though geographically most areas of the Midlands are more Southern than Northern; this ambiguity also applies to South Wales and to East Anglia.


The North-South divide is not an exact line, but one that can involve many stereotypes, presumptions and other impressions of the surrounding region relative to other regions. The existence of the North-South divide is often contested. Some sources claim that not only does it exist, but that it is expanding. For example, a 'Cambridge Econometrics' report of March 2006 found that economic growth above the UK average was occurring only in the South and South East of England, whilst Scotland and North East England showed the slowest growth. [cite web |url= | title = The North-South Divide Widened in the Last Economic Cycle | accessdate = 2006-07-16 | date = 27 March 2006 | format = PDF | publisher = Cambridge Econometrics ]

A similar report in 2001 found that North East England, North West England, Wales and Scotland had poorer health levels than South and South East England. [cite paper | author = Doran, Tim; Drever, Frances; Whitehead, Margaret | date = 1 May 2004 | url= |format = | title=Is there a north-south divide in social class inequalities in health in Great Britain? Cross sectional study using data from the 2001 census | publisher = | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] The same data has been interpreted otherwise to indicate only a very small difference. [cite news | first = J Martin | last = Bland | author = J Martin Bland | url = | title = North-south divide in social inequalities in Great Britain | publisher = British Medical Journal | date = 3 July 2004 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]

Indeed, results are highly dependent on the categories chosen for evaluation. As a generalisation, the following tend to indicate that there is some sort of north-south divide:

* Health conditions, which are generally seen as being worse in the north. [cite news | first = John | last = Carvel | author =John Carvel | url =,,1640082,00.html | title = Wide life expectancy gap between rich and poor | publisher = The Guardian | date = 11 November 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] [cite news | first = James | last = Meikle | author = James Meikle | url =,,1522036,00.html | title = Cancer atlas reveals north-south divide | publisher = The Guardian | date = 6 July 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]
* House prices, which are higher in the south, particularly the south-east. [cite web
url = | title = UK House Prices | accessdate = 2006-07-16 | date = 8 May 2006 | publisher = BBC News
* Earnings, which are higher in the south and east. [cite news | first = John | last = Carvel | author = John Carvel | url =,,1638884,00.html | title = North-south, east-west wealth divides in survey | publisher = The Guardian | date = 10 November 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]
* Government expenditure, which is sometimes argued to favour the north, [cite news | url =,,1640082,00.html | title = South gets the cream | publisher = The Guardian | date = 25 January 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] and sometimes the south.cite news |first = Sean | last = Corrigan | author = Sean Corrigan | url = | title = The Gulag beyond the Watford Gap | publisher = Ludwig von Mises Institute | date = 25 October 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]
* Political influence. [cite news | first = Larry | last = Elliott | author = Larry Elliott | url =,,1638884,00.html | title = The United Kingdom of London | publisher = The Guardian | date = 5 July 2004 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]

However, when factors such as the cost of livingcite news |first = Martin | last = Wainwright | author = Martin Wainwright | url =,,1661815,00.html | title = North just as prosperous as the south, survey finds | publisher = The Guardian | date = 8 December 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] or urban poverty are included, [cite news | first = Ashley | last = Seager | author = Ashley Seager | url =,,1638884,00.html | title = London revealed as Britain's worst employment blackspot | publisher = The Guardian | date = 28 October 2005 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] [cite news | first = Anushka | last = Asthana | author = Anushka Asthana | url =,,1248504,00.html | title = Rise of the new north has its price | publisher = The Observer | date = 27 June 2004 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] thedivisions are sometimes less clear.

Furthermore, many rich, middle class areas are located north and south of Leeds and Manchester respectively. North Yorkshire and Cheshire, geographically part of "The North", include prosperous towns and suburbs such as Harrogate, Ilkley and Alwoodley in Yorkshire and Alderley Edge, Wilmslow, Hale and Knutsford in Cheshire. Aberdeen also shows high levels of prosperity. On the other hand geographically southern areas such as the Isle of Thanet in Kent have struggled with the same industrial decline as parts of the north. Cornwall, many London boroughs such as Hackney and southern towns like Luton are other anomalies to the North-South divide with poor health and education.

This has led some commentators to suggest that other divisions, such as class [cite news | first = Kamal | last = Ahmed | author = Kamal Ahmed | url =,12554,837171,00.html | title = Britain's class divide starts even before nursery school | publisher = The Observer | date = 10 November 2002 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] or ethnicity might be more important. [cite web
url = | title = Making a difference: Tackling poverty - a progress report | accessdate = 2006-07-16 | month = March | year = 2006 | format = PDF | publisher = Department for Work and Pensions
] Following on from the 2007 local elections, some newspapers claimed that the North-South divide in politics was reemerging, with the North being generally supportive of Labour and the South being generally supportive of the Conservatives (see The Independent, front page, 5th May 2007; The Guardian, page 32, 10th May 2007). During the 1980s, Labour councils in the North were often openly dismissive of any orders from the Thatcher government. Examples include Liverpool under Militant Tendency and Sheffield under David Blunkett. As of May 2007, the Conservatives have no seats in the councils of Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle; before the election, they were also unrepresented in York, which is often seen as more of a "typical Tory" city. However, this divide is made problematic by the fact that most of inner London is Labour-voting, and some rural areas of Yorkshire are quite fiercely Conservative. A moreestablished divide is that urban areas tend to vote Labour and rural areas tend to vote Conservative; as the North has more urban areas than the South, it has more Labour councils. The London Boroughs of Newham and Barking & Dagenham join the South Yorkshire borough of Rotherham as the country's safest Labour councils.

Language and dialect

A prominent example of the divide, which is particularly referenced amongst university students, is the difference in speech between the north and south of the country. Although younger generations are less likely to use speech that is specific to a particular town, there is still a clear difference between north and south; young Northerners are more resistant to sounding as if they are Southern than sounding as if they are from a different Northern town [ [ By 'eck! Bratford-speak is dyin' out ] ] .

The division is sometimes used for comedy, but has its serious side as well. The London media are sometimes claimed to look down upon those with northern English accents (or indeed any accent not perceived as south-eastern). This perception does not extend to Scottish accents, and it is not generally expected that a Scot should attempt to speak Standard English to succeed in a career. In politics, there are many high-profile figures who speak with Scottish accents whilst those with accents from the North of England are sometimes ridiculed. John Prescott is an example of the latter phenomenon; Ken Livingstone (a Londoner) suggested that the press's unsympathetic treatment of Prescott was partly because he is one to "speak like ordinary people". [ [,,1785526,00.html Prescott's survival hopes recede as MPs speak out | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics ] ]


Industrial decline in a post-Fordist world is most usually given as an explanation for the North-South divide, [cite paper | author = Lupton, Ruth; Power, Anne | date = July 2004 |url= |format =PDF | title=The Growth and Decline of Cities and Regions | publisher = | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ] as raw materials such as coal and iron ore could be found in these areas. [Population growth in Victorian Manchester: cite web | url = | title = Work, Health, Housing and Working People in the City of Manchester | accessdate = 2006-07-16 | date = | publisher = Manchester UK ] This led to comparatively high wealth; Shaw, Greater Manchester reportedly had the highest concentration of millionaires in the country at the time. [cite web | url = | title = Shaw and Royton area plan | accessdate = 2006-07-16 | month = January | year = 2004 | publisher = Oldham Metropolitan Borough |format=PDF] It also led to over reliance on a few key industries and, as heavy industry began to leave the UK for developing countries under the 'New international division of Labour' [cite web | url = | title = The Disintegration of the International Division of Labour | accessdate = 2006-07-16 |author=Ludwig von Mises |last=von Mises | first=Ludwig | authorlink=Ludwig von Mises | year = 1938 | publisher = Ludwig von Mises Institute ] , these areas declined rapidly. Events like the UK miners' strike (1984-1985) polarised public opinion and led to an increase in the divide. Although the three pits in Kent were solidly behind the strike, their remoteness from the other coalfields meant that it was mostly spared from violent clashes. Duringthe dispute, it was decided that local police would be too sympathetic to the miners and policemen from southern counties other than Kent were drafted in to police the dispute, often being flown in by private aeroplanes. Accusations from the miners that the police were heavy handed or showed a demeaning attitude towards the North spread to create an atmosphere of resentment.

Cultural dimensions

There is also a perceived cultural divide between the north and the south. The "It's Grim Up North" BBC television series and subsequent book attempted to tease out some of these divisions.cite book | last = Holder | first = Judith | date = 2005-09-01 | title = It's (Not) Grim Up North | publisher = BBC Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-563-52281-X ] Those in the north complained of having fewer cultural opportunities, the book also provided a view of southern life as faceless and bland.

*TelevisionWhen Granada Television commenced commercial broadcasting, it decided to base its programmes from Manchester. Granada's strapline before both networked and regional programming was "From The North, Granada Presents...". A large arrow pointing Upward (North) accompanied this. This encapsulates the cultural North-South divide, sectioning off "The North" from "The South" possibly to encite Northern Pride or to announce to "Southerners" that Granada was a strictly Northern television producer. The large arrow was there almost to symbolise where "The North" was. One can note that Granada Television's 1960s updated arrow (a G with an upwards arrow) was promenant on local idents and production endcaps until Granada's identity was divided between the ITV1 Granada and Granada Productions brands as part of the creation of ITV plc in 2004.

Counterbalancing the image of the Rich South/Poor North divide are television programmes like Cold Feet, Living On The Edge, Cranford and Footballers Wives. These programmes are examples of Yuppie-esque, rich or upper-class "Northerners", a deviation from the stereotypical North; Only Fools and Horses is an example of poverty in Inner-London a typically "Non-Southern" Image.

One can note that during regional television and radio broadcasts, mainly South-Eastern Standard English accents are heard and there are very few regional or typically "Northern accents". Northern accents are often regarded as humorous, celebrities like comedians Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas both have prominent Northern accents, and one can also note that they fulfil the overweight stereotype for Northerners too.

However this is starting to change, with national stations such as the BBC's 1Xtra employing northern DJs such as DJ Q, from Huddersfield with a distinctive Northern accent, taking into account the current trend of Black music emerging from the north, such as Bassline House.

Northern Soul is an ambiguous term that refers to the Soul-music following that was promenant in Northern towns such as Manchester and Wigan during the 1960s and 1970s and the Cultural or Social make-up of people from the North.

Some statistics show that the consumption of Alcohol and fast food seems to be higher in "The North", with the UK's 14 'fattest cities' to the north or west of the dividing lines mentioned above. [cite news | url =,,1699580,00.html | title = Bradford named UK's fattest city | publisher = The Guardian | date = 1 February 2006 | accessdate = 2006-07-16 ]

Moreover, in terms of English identity, the North of England was the home territory of the Angles, whilst the South and South East was Saxon and Jutish territory, which could also account, culturally, for differences in both parts of England.

Another common observation regarding the North - South divide is the perception of group personality. It is often suggested that people are much friendlier, more open about themselves, more community minded, and more willing to express their emotions in the North, while Southerners, and more specifically inhabitants of London and the South East, are stereotypically portrayed as cool, aloof, reserved, devoid of emotion, preoccupied with privacy, and not terribly friendly. One is reminded how in the North people take pride in knowing all the neighbours up and down their block. Again, these are sweeping generalizations, but stereotypes such as these are prevalent in the British psyche.

The Midlands

Many Midlands towns and cities appear, at least historically, to have more in common with their northern counterparts than with those in the south. This is mainly because they have a history of concentrated industrialisation and post-industrial economic depression (especially in Birmingham, The Black Country, Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent), plus the dry ironic humour which is borne out of this, rather than the nonindustrialised 'service centre' and 'county' towns and cities of southern England, which are perceived to be singularly dominated by London (where the purpose of those towns was essentially to service the capital). The 2004 film Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, starring Ricky Tomlinson, was made very-much in the character of straight-talking and dry humoured northern comedies.

However, many Midlands towns and cities are now experiencing redevelopment, including the Birmingham Bullring complex which includes a branch of the upmarket Selfridges department store, and The Mailbox redevelopment which houses a branch of Harvey Nichols. Solihull metropolitan borough is one of the most affluent in the country. [ [] National Statistics Neighbourhood Profile Summary showing indicators of prosperity]

Closing the Gap

Northern post-industrial cities and towns are now beginning to see a renaissance. Examples include Kingston upon Hull,cite web
url =
title = Welcome to Hull Citybuild
work = Hull Citybuild
accessdate = 2007-10-26
year = 2007
publisher = Hull Citybuild
] Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Sheffield, and the Midlands city of Birmingham. A major new masterplan by British architect Will Alsop has been adopted for the regeneration of Barnsley. Some of the world's service industries and banks are relocating to northern cities, examples include the opening of Bank of New York, Google and RBS offices in Manchester. One can also note the present decentralisation of many BBC departments from London to Salford Quays, Greater Manchester.

Typically southern upmarket department stores and shops have located new stores in the north; these include Harvey Nichols (opening first in Leeds, then Manchester and a small-format store in Birmingham) and Selfridges (two stores in Manchester and one in Birmingham). Exclusive shopping destinations such as Leeds' Victoria Quarter have dubbed the city southern titles, such as 'The Knightsbridge of the North'. This raises much contention with Northerners however as they think that Knightsbridge should be known as the 'Leeds of the South'.

It should also be noted that poverty is widespread in Southern England due to the high cost of housing whilst unemployment and low-waged "contingent jobs" are on the increase in the south. Examples of this wage/property gap can be found in such places as "Hastings", "Eastbourne", "Dover" and the East End of London.

North-South divide in Wales

Wales is also sometimes talked about as having a North-South divide. The more urbanised south, containing cities such as Cardiff, Newport and Swansea is considered as the richer area, whereas the more mountainous North is seen as poorer. Cardiff and Newport in particular, are undergoing an economic boom. [cite web | url = | title = Top 20 UK Boom Towns | accessdate = 2007-07-10 | publisher = Industry Watch ]

The far south east is a continuation of the M4 corridor and contributes most to the economy in Wales, with a high concentration of high-tech industries. This area usually includes the cities of Cardiff and Newport, as well as the more rural areas of Monmouthshire, Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend. It has excellent transport links with properous London and southern England. The area only covers a small percentage of the total area of Wales but is home to a large proportion of the population. Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are also sometimes considered to be part of this more prosperous area along the M4 corridor, but the valleys are usually not because they continue to suffer from some of the highest rates of poverty in the UK.

The North of Wales consists of: Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey. There is an east west divide in the North where the West is much more culturally Welsh, with a high percentage of Welsh speakers, but due to its geography, there is little employment, making the area poor in comparison to the East. Wrexham and Flintshire together have the same GDP as Cardiff, however, this is based on its industrial and manufacturing base. However, they have very little cultural strength in comparison to the southern areas. Historical reasons for this can be seen through the location of Offa's Dyke. Both Flintshire and parts of Wrexham are on the English side. This area is much less mountainous, and leads to the Cheshire and North Shropshire plains.

The large, central areas of Wales (Powys and Ceredigion) are ambiguous in terms of being North or South. These areas are fairly prosperous but sparsely populated so many people living here travel into the surrounding areas for employment. Equally, there would be ambiguity over Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. While very much in the southern half of the country, they are less urbanised than elsewhere in the south.

Furthermore, there is also a small-scale north-south divide in Pembrokeshire; the south, known as 'Little England beyond Wales', is more Anglicised and wealthy than the rest of the county, creating a microcosm of the overall Welsh division.

The 1984-5 miners' strike also divided Wales. South Wales was strongly behind the strike whilst only around a third of the workforce in North Wales ever went on strike. South Wales miners were often displeased with the lack of solidarity in North Wales.

ee also

* [ The Myers Project. North and South]
*North-South divide


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