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Bishop of Lancaster backs campaign to end national divide between north and south

14 June 2019

There has been a history of ‘encouraging the north to lie down’, says Dr Jill Duff


A Northern Railway train at Lime Street Railway Station, Liverpool. The multi-billion pound Great North Rail Project aims to enable 40,000 more passengers to travel each day by 2020

A Northern Railway train at Lime Street Railway Station, Liverpool. The multi-billion pound Great North Rail Project aims to enable 40,000 more passen...

THERE has been a history of “encouraging the north to lie down”, the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, has said. She was speaking in support of the “Power up the North” campaign.

More than 30 local and regional newspapers launched the campaign, on Monday, which calls for the north-south divide to be narrowed.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dr Duff said: “I am fully behind it. I think there has been a history in our country of encouraging the north to lie down. I think that’s a great shame, because the north is very rich, both scripturally and in terms of its people; so, I fully back the campaign, and the Northern Powerhouse itself.”

An editorial published in Manchester Evening News on Monday argued: “Regional inequalities between London and the rest of the country are not only vividly apparent in everything from life expectancy to transport investment and wages, but they are also felt, keenly, by people here.”

The newspapers called on candidates for the Conservative Party leadership, and the other main parties, to affirm their commitment to the Northern Powerhouse scheme, and to regenerating the north,

A suggested agenda included a new industrial strategy; an overhaul of transport links; devolving powers from London; and a programme of social and affordable house-building.

Dr Duff said: “There’s no reason for the north to be left behind, really. A stronger north would increase our economy and our well-being as a country.

“As a Church, we’ve flourished more when the north and south worked together. In the seventh century, the mission work in the north caused the Church to prosper. I think the Church can be prophetic in that nature. Rather than moaning, it can say ‘in our history, incredible blessings have come from the north by working in partnership.’”

A report published in December by the Institute for Public Policy Research North, State of the North 2018: Reprioritising Northern Powerhouse, said that £6.3 billion had been cut from public spending in real terms in the north since 2010: more than any other region in the UK. It also found that the divide between the north and south was widening in terms of pay, wealth, and life expectancy.

In 2014, the former Chancellor George Osborne launched the Northern Powerhouse, which sought to bridge the divide. It has been criticised for not delivering on its promises.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, told The Yorkshire Post: “There is more that unites us than can ever divide us, and this includes this compelling call for new action by our political leaders to tackle the social and economic inequality that exists here.

“And it means our national leaders answering this very important question — do they want the north to be a region with just a great past, or do they want the north to be a region with a future as bright as any other chapter in its history? For every community, every leader that forgets its memory becomes senile.

“The answer should be obvious. We have the people. We have the expertise. We are one north. We are proud of our diversity. . .

“What are our political leaders afraid of? Love us and help us to flourish. ‘The Northern Powerhouse’: Words! Words! Words! We are sick and tired of words. Please do the right thing.”

Dr Duff said: “There has been a culture of just putting up with it in the north, and that’s a real shame, because that’s not a Christian principle of hope. We want to see Britain as a land of hope and glory.

“People up here have loads to give. Everybody loses if there is a bias to the south, or a bias to London. I’d love to see our country be a land of hope and glory, and part of that is not just saying to the north ‘We want you to lie down, we want you to flourish.’ This applies to both the Church and to the economy.

“What we say is so important. We say things over the north that are just lies, in the political arena, but also in the church arena sometimes; but, actually, we need to speak hope over the north. It’s quite often about language, like when commentators say that everyone voted for Brexit, but there has been no understanding about why people do that. North and south together would be much better, and create flourishing for everybody.”

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