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Bad news if you have a strong Northern accent – people will assume you are ‘less intelligent’ than a Southerner, according to a new study.

Research by a team at Northumbria University in Newcastle warned the prejudice is still causing profound injustice across the UK.

The four-year project questioned more than 350 people from all walks of life.

It warned ‘accentism’ is rife with most people unaware of their ‘unconscious bias’. Northerners like Ant and Dec, Jimmy Nail and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner are seen as ‘friendly and trustworthy’ – but ‘less educated’ than their southern counterparts.

Glasgow-born Dr Robert McKenzie, 55, a socio linguist who led the project, said most people are unaware of their accent prejudice.

Ant and Dec are from Newcastle ( Britain’s Got Talent/Youtube)

“Disappointed is the word that I would use,” he said. “As a linguist we have been looking at language in this way for the past 50 years.

“People still think others sound stupid, lack intelligence or ambition or sound unfriendly from the way they speak.

“It is not based in reality – it is based on social judgements in the wider community.”

His team played northern and southern speech samples to those in the study. They asked them to associate positive traits, such as whether they sounded educated, with those voices.

People were much more biased when it came to accents from the north of England. The project, ‘Speaking of Prejudice’, found most were surprised to find they had unconscious bias outside their awareness or control.

The Social Mobility Commission backs laws to make background a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act 2010, alongside race, gender and other forms of discrimination.

In another recent study of 300,000 civil servants, those with the ‘right accent’ would often get the top jobs and had a better chance of climbing the ladder.

Staff who were promoted were likely to have the right accent or ‘received pronunciation’, and an ‘intellectual approach’ to culture.

Dr McKenzie added: “It is like the old school tie, it gets people places when they do not merit it.” Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has previously hit back at critics of her “accent and grammar”.

After the Partygate scandal in January, the Deputy Labour Leader tweeted: ‘I’ve been on the media this morning so my accent and grammar are being critiqued.

Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks to journalists in Westminster, London ( REUTERS)

“I wasn’t Eton educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t matter how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.”

Another political victim was Jacob Rees-Mogg. “A long time ago he stood for parliament in Fife, they were obviously testing him out,” said Dr McKenzie, brought up close to Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

“He said he felt he suffered at the polls because of his accent, that people wouldn’t vote for him because they saw him as an outsider. So it does work both ways.”

The work is featured at the British Academy in London this week.

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