The idea of a monolithic, deindustrialised, nationalistic and therefore somehow authentically “working class” North is deeply patronising, yet something Labour appears to be bending over backwards to appeal to, mainly by putting lots of flags on buildings.
Part of this desperate, doomed project to win back “the North” (which includes the east and west midlands) involves referring sneeringly to “cosmopolitan” or “socially liberal” voters. When Starmer et al refer to “winning back trust” what they really mean is appealing to the mythical North. This is nuts, as the Labour “heartlands” are no longer places like Hartlepool – which enjoys a relatively high level of home ownership, a good indication that an area will vote conservative – but the inner cities, their “overflow” towns and anywhere with a young, relatively well-educated electorate that’s unable to buy a house, get decent, stable work etc. It’s both cosmopolitan and liberal.
The notion that you can appeal to the average, “real” Northener by purporting to be “patriotic” and somehow in opposition to those city folk with their funny hifalutin’ ways, will fool no-one, and only alienate your electorate – and your members. Labour has to start building an electoral coalition somewhere if it has any chance of making progress once Brexit and COVID have passed. It needs to show some honesty – and imagination. If it doesn’t it won’t only fail to win back places like Hartlepool – places like Bristol will go Green.