Socialism with a Northern Accent

“There is much in the British socialist tradition that has been forgotten or ignored, and which runs counter to state centralism, in particular a stress on grass-roots solutions, co-operation and an emphasis on local culture. Applied imaginatively, these traditions open up the possibility of creating a popular democratic culture which reflects different but complementary regional and national identities.”Northern Accent cover

Paul Salveson’s aim in his new book, Socialism with a Northern Accent, is to uncover some of the lost radical traditions which he believes are largely specific to northern England, or ‘the North of England’, as he would have it. In doing so he strives to make the case for a renewal of popular socialism based on devolution and a reconnection with the tradition’s local and regional roots.

Starting almost 200 years ago at the Peterloo Massacre, Salveson traces the development of what he calls “the heroic age of northern socialism”, sketching local events and leading characters who played important roles in movements such as Chartism, radical Liberalism, co-operatives, Clarion clubs, ramblers, municipal reformers and the Independent Labour Party across northern England.

At the core of his book is a call for a return to the “decentralist and democratic values” of the early ILP, and its emphasis on “ethics, community and culture”, aspects of socialism which slipped from view and influence through the 20th century as centralism became dominant and the top-down, “Webb model” of social democracy was embedded in the Labour movement.

The answer, he asserts in the book’s final section, is not just to rebuild a radical regional identity in the north, but to create a directly elected regional government.

Socialism with a Northern Accent: Radical traditions for modern times, by Paul Salveson, is published by Lawrence & Wishart, price £14.99.

A full review of the book will follow.

More on Paul Salveson and the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.

More on the history of the ILP.


  1. George.L
    30 October 2012

    Dear Independent Labour,
    Thanks you for your post. They’re really nothing alike, except in that they reject super-powerful ruling elites and elitism in general. Marxist socialism has and is being proven to be the fairest and successful model we have. Look at various governments in western/northern Europe that have the highest happiness/literacy/life expectancy/ health rates in the world.

  2. […] Co-operative Party Speakers: Paul Salveson, secretary of Hannah Mitchell Foundation  and author of Socialism With A North Accent Barry Winter, chair of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation and author of The ILP: Past & […]

  3. Jonathan
    29 March 2012

    I’ll read the book with interest, but I think the proposal for regional government for the North needs greater scrutiny and thinking through, particularly in relation to economic development, addressing the democratic deficit, restoring trust in government, consititutional implications for the rest of the UK, tax raising powers, the unity of the NHS, and so on.

Comments are closed.