Last week I ended up in a discussion with a comrade from "up north" or, if I'm honest, had some truly bizarre views on the "south".
His first statement was a massive generalisation, "the Tories only win general elections because people in the south vote for them". Really?
Secondly he insisted, with some force, "it's a fact, absolutely indisputable, that the cuts are affecting the north more than the south, because the Tories want to punish the north". As if all of us in the south are practising some sort of internal colonialism.
His third preposterous claim was that "the cuts in the north are driving people into poverty, in the south they are only cutting cultural funds".
I may not be quoting exactly word for word, but you get the idea.
I didn't know where to start, I was well and truly shocked that someone who claims to be a communist could fall for the old divide and rule lies perpetuated by the Tories themselves. That's why it's taken me a week to get round to writing this blog, even now I still can't quite believe what was coming out of his mouth.
So here goes:
- Over 4000 people in Plymouth relied on a single food-bank in Plymouth last year.
- Cornwall still receives EU Convergence support (which yes, mainly gets swallowed up by private companies, but I'm not going into that here). To quote from their website Cornwall is in the same league as "The Convergence programme is mostly funding the new member states of the EU, East Germany, Southern Italy, most regions of Spain, Portugal and Greece".
- Pay in the region is nothing to shout about. Figures from the SW TUC which reveal that pay in the region is already amongst the lowest in the country. Devon and Cornwall in particular, with pay rates in Cornwall £3.59 an hour below the national average.
- The south is not a bastion of private enterprise. The public sector makes up around 27% of the workforce in the South West.
- The South West has the highest median house prices in the country. This is 13 times the average income. House prices have increased 3 times faster than wages over the last decade.
The "evidence" for my comrade's claims can probably be traced to this BBC report. It is a shocking report. But if you look at it closely you'll notice that rather than a north south divide, it's actually an urban rural divide. That big light coloured blob in the south is mainly countryside and the London commuter belt - if you look at the south coast, it is ringed by areas just as badly affected, and in some cases hit even harder, than places in the north.
And never forget, when it comes to the NHS, schools, legal aid, welfare cuts. . . the list goes on, these are all NATIONAL issues, affecting all of us, no matter where we live.
So, to sum up. Lets stop talking about north south divides and playing the "we've got it harder than you" game, and how about we just kick out the Tories.