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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > April 2017 > Working class zero

Working class zero

Paul Nuttall crashed in Stoke. But a sharper operator could still revive the northern right

At Ukip’s February conference in Bolton everything was purple, even the prose in the pamphlets. There were purple rosettes, purple baseball caps and purple devices that help you deliver a leaflet without getting bitten by a dog. There were purple clothes and it probably rained purple rain. The new Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, MEP for the North West, was on his own patch. Until local elections in 2014, Ukip had no councillors in Bolton and now it is the third largest party in the borough. It is exactly the sort of northern mill town, with a tradition of working-class conservative voters, that Nuttall’s leadership is said to target. Yet he may struggle. For it is starting to look like he may somehow be not quite purple enough.

To anyone unversed in the tense rivalries of northern England, Paul Nuttall might seem the perfect Ukip leader. He is audibly Liverpudlian and what could be more northern than that? This is to reckon without the exceptionalism of Liverpool or the dislike of Scousers in Manchester. As Paul Morley points out in his monumental book The North, identities can be very localised. The idea of the north west only exists in the fantasies of European parliament constituencies. Indeed, the only time people say they come from the north is to draw the contrast with the soft south.

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In Prospect’s April issue: Ross McKibbin, John Curtice and Lisa Nandy examine the state of the Labour Party and question its survival at the next general election. McKibbin takes a long view and suggests that the party’s problems started long before Jeremy Corbyn, Curtice argues that breaking the party is unlikely to go as well as some may think and Nandy argues that tackling unaccountable power could help restore faith in the party. Nicholas Timmins says the NHS has always experienced financial crises so is this time any different? Lucy Wadham charts the rise of France’s Front National. Also in this issue: Owen Hatherley explores Edinburgh’s architectural conundrum, Freya Johnston on Jane Austen and Avi Shlaim on the tragedy of Yitzhak Rabin—the last best hope for peace.
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