The NIP, and my fantastical structure of an independent North

© MatzeTrier / Wikimedia → York Minster → CC BY-SA 3.0

The political establishment — set out with parties, constituencies, and all — has existed for many centuries now, most considering the British premiership to have started in 1721 with Sir Robert Walpole of the Whig Party, which merged into the Liberal Party whom then merged into the Liberal Democrats. Due to the length of this system’s existence, political parties which have recently started from scratch (excluding mergers) are usually seen as a joke because of their juniority.

The Northern Independence Party, accompanied by many other regionalist and nationalist groups, is no different to this phenomenon of public perception; this is especially with their comedic tweets about whippets ‘n pork pies an’ all, which sets them quite a distance from the centuries-old parties who have no time for humor.

This new group’s aim is to do exactly what it says on the tin: independence for the North of England, and with quite good reason.

Deprivation is rampant in northern England, with most economic focus exerted by Westminster targeted towards the south-east, south-west, and Anglia, reinforced particularly due to the fact there is little devolution and lots of centralization in this country. The map below, from the BBC, clearly highlights the line where the care stops — from the south of Merseyside to the south of Lincolnshire.

© BBC

It’s a long way off, the independence, but one day it could be incredibly successful as a movement (as Yes Scotland has been).

The Northern Independence Party faces two similar candidates, the Yorkshire Party (who’ve seen lots of success recently, especially in the inaugural West Yorkshire mayor election with 10% of the vote) and the North East Party (far less successful than the YP). They both advocate on a regionalist-devolutionist basis in an attempt to reverse the deprivation and poverty across their region and the North in general, but don’t go as far as independence.

The NIP has many local and national policies — most, if not all, being socialist — which aim to improve the political and economic integrity of the north of England. A 15% NHS worker increase, an increase in the minimum wage to £12, support for increased corporation tax, and a halt in an increase of VAT or national insurance are among the policies outlined by the Northern Independence Party in the national section of their manifesto.

In a four-page section subtitled ‘Social Dignity’, the NIP also presents more socialist policies. These include free school meals for all, renter’s rights, reversal of NHS privatization, reform of transgender healthcare and banning of conversion therapy, and the decriminalization of both sex work and cannabis.

However, the party’s most important target is the one that’s in its name: independence. The NIP believe politics should be in the hands of the people, mainly through referenda, arguing that the Westminster system is incredibly centralized, which it is, and that an independent Northumbria with devolved cities and regions that have explicitly-stated roles (unlike the US) would be the best way to limit or end deprivation as the north knows it — including targeting money to specific places, which a centralized government cannot really do. Assuming the ‘hands of the people’ means total electability, there would be no such House of Lords or Canadian Senate equivalent, although the Monarchy as a system itself directly conflicts with this mantra.

Is independence possible?

The Northern Independence Party is very small; it only gained 0.8% of the vote in the 2021 Hartlepool by-election (just two more votes than a sex offender who, yes, can stand to be an MP). Therefore, it is fairly easy to say that it and its movement will not gain traction any time soon. Despite this, it is not to delegitimize the party and limit it from becoming more popular in the future — most independence movements start very small, such as YesCymru, and keep on growing until they reach their peak like the ‘Yes’ movements in Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia.

The north — like Scotland — has good reasons for independence; patience is required, however, to get the desired outcome.

I would like to see it happen, personally.

Structure of an independent Northumbria

At the end of the NIP’s manifesto, they answer some Frequently Asked Questions, most answers including the words, “it’s for the Northerners to decide.” These questions range from ‘where would the capital be’ to ‘where’s the border’ to ‘will an independent North use FPTP’, and more of these along the lines of the the structure of the new nation.

I’m a fifteen-year-old political commentator, and ardent Labour supporter (anti-Starmer, I must proclaim), currently fantasizing about an independent country that probably couldn’t feasibly come into fruition for many decades unless the NIP causes an incredible political shift. Because of this, I’m no stranger to being labeled ‘weird’— even by myself. To add onto this (mainly as a time-waster and so I can do some deep and interesting research), I’ve had fair amount of experience creating ‘fake nations’ in a Wikipedia article stroke portal style that both do and do not have the possibility to become independent in the future, including London, the Tees Valley, Cascadia (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia) and the ‘American East Coast’.

I, personally but not as an expert whatsoever, have some recommendations that I believe would improve the integrity of a Northumbrian state, especially since I was born and live in the proposed region. Firstly, to answer the Q&A questions listed in the manifesto.

NIP’s FAQ: Where’s the capital?

The NIP, in their manifesto, says they are examining ‘a number of alternatives’, including multiple capitals or rotating capitals. The former is in place in several countries around the world (namely South Africa), while the latter has not been attempted at a national level anywhere.

Alongside these two ideas, there’s also one other way to play the capital game: what I like to call ‘geographical mediation’, where the capital is in the geographic centre of the country (or, in some places, in the middle of where tensions meet). This is what the U.S. does; it, before more states joined the union, was in the center of the country, so it would therefore unite the democratic anti-slavery north and the pro-slavery south. However, it is also a relatively small city, meaning that Washington doesn’t always take the spotlight which makes the political scene much better. In the UK, because 99% of the political, entertainment, movie and national media scenes are in the biggest and most prominent city — London — all you’ll hear about on the news is London, whereas in the U.S. you also hear about Los Angeles and New York a lot in conjunction with DC.

Using the geographic mediation method, Richmond is a very good idea, especially with its status as a commuter settlement situated next to the A1(M) motorway, making it a simple-to-travel-to tourist destination and easy for politicians, journalists and such to get in and out.

Using the multiple capitals method, I would suggest a South Africa-style three-capital system utilising Northumbria’s regional divide — one in the North East, one in the North West, and one in Yorkshire and the Humber. Respectively, I would put forward Middlesbrough, Liverpool (or Blackpool), and York. The former three are in dire need of leveling up, and creating government jobs in those locations would hopefully bridge the divides and help the cities succeed. York would be the tourist destination of them all, so it would only be right to place the legislature here; this is because most legislatures are in an attractive part of the city (i.e. Capitol Hill, Washington; Parliament Hill, Ottawa; Palace of Westminster, London), or in an attractive city in general. Middlesbrough, with some brilliant houses and developments to its south, would be prime for the Executive and a residency for the PM or President, while Liverpool would be a great place for the courts and judiciary, especially since it already has a decent looking courthouse in Derby Square (article photo, not article itself).

Using the rotating capitals method, which I’d personally stand against, the three aforementioned capitals could work well although some are arguably less attractive. Some contending cities include Cumbria, York, Darlington, and Manchester.

NIP’s FAQ: Will an independent North rejoin the EU?

In 2016 after the European Union referendum, the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions all voted to leave: 58%, 54%, and 58% respectively. Therefore, it’s easy to say that for the next decade or so, an independent Northumbria would not rejoin the EU.

NIP’s FAQ: Will an independent North keep the Queen?

It is very likely that if the NIP got their way in terms of independence and held a ballot measure or referendum on the Monarchy, the Queen would remain as the head of state. The institution of the Royal Family remains very popular in the UK, regularly keeping above 60% support (and republicanism staying below 30%), although that doesn’t account for the regional opinions of the family. I’m personally an abolitionist for many reasons, but as the party says: “It’s for the Northerners to decide.”

NIP’s FAQ: Will an independent North use FPTP?

If and when Northumbria comes into full fruition, using First-Past-the-Post would be the first thing I would campaign against — it is the worst electoral system to exist because it is the most unrepresentative; however, complete proportional representation does not have my support either because it removes the link between a representative and their constituents in a constituency, which stops specific towns or neighborhoods getting the attention they need.

Because of this, the additional member system (used by Scotland) is recommended. AMS, unlike First-Past-the-Post, does not remove the representative-constituents link as it still keeps those constituencies/ridings, but also the list candidates make the vote far more representative of the public’s choices than FPTP.

NIP’s FAQ: What currency would be used?

As I routinely mention, I have little expertise in the economic area so I tend to keep away, but as the manifesto says, “We don’t know what the relationship between the pound, the euro, and other currencies will look like when we gain independence.” It is somewhat of a possibility in the case of secession that an independent sterling currency is adopted and is pegged (fixed exchange rate) to either the Great British pound or a Scottish currency.

More: Federal or unitary?

If the supreme goal of this proposed nation is to level up the North and get rid of most of the deprivation we experience, federalism is almost essential to focus the money and services more precisely than any centralized government could ever do. However, we must be careful with how we tread to not end up fragmented like the United States; this means clearly defining and splitting any powers the federal and state governments possess. Canada is a great example of this.

Independence is decades away — if it were even to happen at all or be anything more than a mere fantasy — but I would love to see it happen and be at the forefront of its design, if given the chance after my political studies conclude.

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British political journalist, Labour member, and NDP supporter, who is staunchly obsessed with Canada and its politics. twitter.com/krissiepolcom

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Krissie

Krissie

British political journalist, Labour member, and NDP supporter, who is staunchly obsessed with Canada and its politics. twitter.com/krissiepolcom

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