Kelvin Mackenzie, the former editor of The Sun and inveterate controversialist, woke me up with a start yesterday morning.
To be precise, he didn't actually wake me up himself. My brother, who presents a radio show in Leeds, called me first thing to tell me that Kelvin had been at it again. The man who managed to alienate a whole city – Liverpool – had launched an assault on the regions of Britain. In a piece for a national newspaper, Mr Mackenzie was, in fact, promoting the cause of the poor, downtrodden middle classes of the south-east (that's right: who knew?), but in so doing, characterised the rest of the country as feckless scroungers. He seeks the establishment of a Ukip-style political party to represent the put-upon people of the South.
Boris Johnson, presumably because he carries this burden selflessly and is a symbol of the under-privileged South, would be a natural leader, says Mr Mackenzie. "The hard-working, clever and creative people living in London and the south-east [are] giving the rest of the country a standard of living they can't, or won't, create for themselves," he wrote. "The striving classes in the South are overtaxed and overburdened," he argued, and, reading his piece, you get the sense that people in the South pay more tax than those elsewhere.
The reason for the imbalance in tax revenue is, I would have thought, quite simple: there are more jobs in the South, which, since the industrial base of Britain was destroyed and replaced by financial services, is where all the country's wealth has been concentrated. A recent report by the IPPR think tank revealed that, over the past 12 months, the North had suffered disproportionately from the country's economic woes, losing 100,000 jobs. "The double-dip recession has hit the North particularly hard," the report says, pointing to the lack of investment in the region. At the same time, of course, the South had the advantage of the vast amount of money directed towards the Olympic Games, the benefits from which were not noticeably spread around the country.
He complains, too, about the stamp duty house-buyers have to stump up in London's vastly inflated market. Quite right, Kelvin. Something must be done to depress the capital's house prices: I'm sure those who are making millions from selling a two-bedroom flat in Chelsea would agree.
Mr Mackenzie, an avowed Thatcherite, does, it seems, believe there's no such thing as society. "Why should the good people of Guildford have to fund the unhealthy habits of Glasgow?" he asks. Because, Kelvin, we live in an advanced democracy where the better off in society have a civic and moral responsibility to those less advantaged. But the last word, as ever, should go to Mr Mackenzie. "A number of things will happen to editors, normally," he once said. "They either burn out, or turn to drink, or they become a mixture of ego and alcohol."
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