London would recover; the north would be transformedby Polly Mackenzie / January 8, 2019 / Leave a comment
Britain needs a major reset, Brexit or no Brexit. The howl of rage from half the country that was expressed as a vote to leave the EU must be answered. But Brexit—even if its champions were telling the truth—offers little in the way of hope or change for those people and those communities who voted for it. Nothing would better symbolise a national reset than moving our parliament away from London to Manchester.
Our current parliamentary estate has become a potent symbol of political decay, propped up by scaffolding, beset by leaking roofs and draughty doors, even the clockwork of the nation’s favourite bell falling to bits. Billions are being spent shoring up these crumbling edifices, as we misguidedly try to preserve the old order in the old stonework.
Those of us who love London have to accept that this city is toxic to millions of people. It is a byword for distance, disengagement and disconnection from the rest of England. Government from London cannot offer the transformative moment the country needs: a recognition that the rage has been heard and that change will really come.
Moving parliament offers the chance to fundamentally rebalance our economy, as well as our politics. For 30 years or more, governments have promised to regenerate the north, rebalance growth away from the overheated south east. Billions of pounds have been invested; entire civil service careers have been spent mapping and planning and designing initiatives with all the goodwill and ambition in the world. Some achievements have been wrung from this sustained effort. Labour transformed the city centres of many great northern cities. Transport investment is finally arriving across the north’s rail network, in a much more coordinated way than before.
But all this goodwill is fighting gravity and it isn’t working. London and the south east still outstrip everywhere else in wealth and growth. The UK is Europe’s most regionally divided nation. Only when politicians have to go to work every day on the rickety trains of our northern cities will they really change this, and give the north the infrastructure investment it actually needs to grow and thrive.
There will be huge agglomeration effects of shifting this vitally important state institution to a city where it might do some good, rather than just contributing to…