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North and South - Then and Now

Pick up any serious newspaper in contemporary Britain and you will find that journalists and politicians claim to have made an astonishing discovery. They have found the existence of 'two nations'. They are not referring, unusually, to Disraeli and the rich and the poor. They are speaking of the North and the South. In the wake of the 1987 general election, for example, the political commentator of The Independent analysed the outcome under the following banner headline: 'Two nations born from one vote'. He correctly drew attention to the clear variations in party support between different parts of the country and it is not surprising that the sub-heading ran: "Conservatives cannot ignore the North's rejection of their policies.' What is odd, however, is the lack of of historical awareness displayed by this and other commentators, whatever their political affiliations. Mr Kellner added promisingly that the geographical polarisation of British politics had been developing 'for many years', but it was disappointing that his time horizon turns out to be no greater than thirty years.

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