One of the most hateful aspects of British politics is the weird idea that just because you come from a particular place you must think in a particular way. The worst offenders of all are the Labour Party in their arrogant assumption that anyone from the North, and particularly from my native North East, somehow belongs to them.
This is something which annoys me at the best of times, but my blood is particularly up because Kevin Maguire, of the Mirror and the New Statesman, yesterday described Eric Pickles as “Cameron’s pet northerner”.
This is the British equivalent of the age-old, disgusting “Uncle Tom” smear used to accuse people of being race traitors – but is apparently acceptable when it comes to accusing anyone who is right wing and Northern of betraying their roots.
I was born in North Shields, grew up in North Tyneside and went to school in Newcastle. I was steeped in my Geordie heritage from an early age. Kevin Maguire may think that means that I should be a socialist, but I’m not. I’m a libertarian, I’m right wing and I’m proud of it.
The fact that I, or Eric Pickles or anyone else, dares to deviate from what others may think should be our set path does not make me the “pet” of a southerner – it makes me a free thinking person, exercising my own right to choose my own way.
What could possibly be more Northern than having your own mind and speaking it?
Where Kevin Maguire and I differ is that I recognise what has truly betrayed the interests and values of my homeland. For generations socialists have preached to my fellow Northerners that they should abandon their traditions of enterprise, hard work and innovation and rely on the State instead of themselves.
Sadly, I expect to see more vitriolic accusations of treason levelled against those of us who refuse to sign up to that mantra. The reason Maguire and others are getting ever more shrill is that they feel their grip slipping.
In 2004, Labour held the regional assembly referendum in the North East alone because they assumed we would do whatever they told us. The fact that they were sent reeling home with a bloody nose showed that the fire and the bloody-mindedness that built the North still lives. It just needs to be nurtured.