Research from the Fabian Society claims that rows over issues such as racial equality and cancel culture, a modern form of ostracism, are stoked by politicians, media outlets and social media platforms rather than reflecting actual attitude divides amongst the public.
And the Labour-affiliated think-tank said there were lessons for the left and right to prevent Britain from becoming as fractured as the US.
The group’s analysis found that clashes about tradition and identity are usually instigated by those seeking political, personal or commercial gain.
While these ‘culture wars’ may result in significant public divides, the report finds this only happens after controversies are whipped up by the “pedlars” of culture wars.
Its publication comes days after a bitter battle was waged by the political parties in the Batley and Spen by election. The report’s co-author, Kirsty McNeill, said: “The temptations for all political parties are clear. Riling up a base and pointing it at an imagined enemy is much easier than doing the hard yards involved in meeting the Prime Minister’s ambition to ‘level up’.
“The public deserves better than fabricated fights.”
Northern political leaders have previously urged the Prime Minister to address the “huge gulf” between his levelling-up ambitions and practical policies.
The Plan for the North report states the Government’s current policies to tackle regional inequalities “offer funding that mostly isn’t new, is often short-term, and looks likely to be scattered widely”.
Roger Harding, the report’s second co-author, added: “Culture war pedlars often use contrived stories to pit working-class communities against one another and caricature movements for racial and LGBT equality.
“We need to have the confidence to call out what they are doing so we can build on the public demand – especially amongst working-class people up and down the country – for action on jobs, climate change and building a better future for the next generation.”
The so-called culture wars have been played out over a number of controversies in recent years, from whether Rule Britannia should be played at the end of the Proms, to supposed calls to have the film Grease “cancelled”. Rows have also erupted over the Black Lives Matter movement and the England football team taking the knee before matches.
The Fabian Society report authors conclude these rows are fuelled by politicians looking to caricature movements for equality, by commentators who personally profit from controversy and by media and social media platforms who see commercial gain in the clicks and coverage the outrage generates.