Bernard Ingham: At this rate, Yorkshire will be bidding for home rule

IF Charles Dickens was living at this hour, it would be helpful to see what he would make of this tale, not of two cities but of one nation in a state of fracture.

One bit of it – Scotland – is going to vote next year on whether to cut itself adrift from the United Kingdom. Now questions are being raised – at least down South – as to whether the North of England is “the new Scotland”. In other words, are we heading longer term for another break up?

At this rate, Yorkshire will soon be bidding for home rule.

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All this political excitement has been occasioned by a YouGov poll that found that 40 per cent of northern voters would never consider voting Conservative and that 25 per cent, who evidently led sheltered lives, said they did not know anyone who supported or voted for the Tories.

This is not quite as bad yet as in Scotland where 54 per cent say they would never vote Conservative. But the writing is thought to be on the wall. In 1955, the Conservatives had half the seats in Scotland. Now they have just one. Out of 124 urban seats in the North and Midlands, they have just 19.

Of course Labour is in a mess in the South where outside London it holds only 10 of the 197 constituencies. But if this tells us anything it is that Labour is the urban party and Conservative the suburban and bucolic.

Since it is very difficult to see how Britain could manageably split into two nations – one urban and the other rural – the pundits are speculating longer term on the secessionist possibilities of the North.

Now I have long maintained that the ancient county of Yorkshire is a far more viable enterprise than Bonnie Scotland, though I have no desire to put it to the test. All this talk of independence is pure self-indulgence.

Indeed, it is a safe bet that the Scottish Nationalists would still be polling as few votes as the fanatical Greens do now but for the landing of North Sea oil in the 1970s. In other words, they have always been more concerned about bawbees than self-government. They would be horrified if they had financially to rely on themselves.

Since I do not think the majority of Scots are as daft as Alex Salmond, it will probably never come to it. Nor are we ever likely to see everything north of the Humber and Mersey to the Scottish border emerge as the resurrected ancient nation of Northumbria.

In the meantime, those with a modicum of maths in them will note that 60 per cent of the North is to varying degrees prepared to consider voting Tory. That is something to build on.

But what worries me is the impression given by the 40 per cent who say they won’t. At best it suggests closed minds, a certain bigotry. At worst it conveys an image of bovine stupidity if only because incumbent politicians, like everyone else, need competition to keep them on their toes.

But it is far worse than that. I need cite only two examples.

The post-war history of this country is of Conservative governments generally trying to clear up financially after Labour had been too free with the people’s money. Those in charge of Labour economics today – Ed Miliband and Ed Balls – are complicit in the mess Gordon Brown left David Cameron.

The one thing voters – all voters – need from their government is prudent financial management. It is the only basis on which to build their prosperity. Chancellor George Osborne is proving a safe pair of hands. Balls would not be an improvement.

Then take Miliband’s quest 
for one nation. Is that ever remotely likely with Len McCluskey at the helm of Unite, Labour’s banker? McCluskey is unrepentant for operating a so-called “leverage” policy of thuggishly harassing company executives he is at odds with at their homes.

Against this background any Northerner who can never contemplate voting Conservative is clearly so demented as to be a danger to himself and his family – economically and socially suicidal.

If that is how the North 
wishes to be seen, so be it. 
But do not be surprised if others perceive it to be a region where a large minority is wilfully bent on its own destruction for want of a brain.

Dickens is to be congratulated on his perspicacity. After all, the education system of Wackford Squeers and his Dotheboys Hall was set in the North.