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Could we move all politicians to Manchester?

4 February 2014

4 February 2014

The Ukip candidate for Wythenshawe and Sale East has come up with a rather interesting idea: he wants to move the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to Manchester, bringing 700 jobs to the city.

I imagine that a lot of Ukip supporters would be quite happy to see the department metaphorically sent to Zurich for an appointment with Dignitas, but it’s a valid point.

Why shouldn’t we send more civil servants out of London, where the cost of office space and decent housing is much lower, compared to the capital with its chronic shortage of affordable homes. Lots of countries have separate political and financial centres; Italy has Rome/Milan, the Netherlands The Hague/Amsterdam, and the US Washington/New York. In Germany the political and business elite are spread around Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt, and Germany works pretty well.

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Lord Adonis once suggested moving the House of Lords to the north, and if an English parliament becomes a reality, maybe the British House of Commons could go elsewhere. Personally I’d like to see regional parliaments across England anyway, and a much smaller political class in London, which makes me something of a freak on the Right; so long as we got rid of the boring current regional names and instead called them Wessex, Mercia, Middle Anglia, East Anglia, Bernicia, Deira, Cumbria etc. And before you ask – yes I am a crank.

The only question is where we would move the seat of government to? Birmingham, for geographical reasons, being close-ish to London, Oxford and Cambridge and the north, would be the obvious choice but, well, it’s not exactly Rome is it? Liverpool has lots of nice architecture and greater international recognition – more foreigners have heard of it than any other British city outside of London – but has seen better days, while the historical capital of the north, York, is too small. Manchester and Leeds would also be candidates, the former is recognised by more people as the country’s second city than Birmingham. We could even choose it on the basis of preferred accent; I believe Bury and Newcastle have the most popular in the UK.

The downside is that political elites concentrated outside of big cities can be even more inward-looking, since it would effectively mean the Westminster village being isolated elsewhere.

On the other hand it would reduce the overwhelming influence of London, which has been diverging from the rest of the country in many ways, its power too great; Neil O’Brien, now one of George Osborne’s advisors, called this ‘Londonitis’, and it can’t be a very healthy development.

The differences between London and the rest of the country now seem to be much larger than those between traditional Labour and Tory heartlands, and this worldview gulf is growing to such an extent that London independence, which has been jokingly bandied around in the past, seems slightly less ridiculous an idea with every passing year.

That is, ultimately, what the Ukip revolt is all about and what unites former voters of both major parties – a protest against the Great Wen.


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Show comments
  • Elephant

    Manchester is a pointless suggestion. Currently Heaton Hall is being refurbished in Heaton Park and the rumour is that this is for the Greater Manchester Assembly. Manchester is getting as much devolution as Wales,so will eventually be as irrelevant to the rest of England as London.It will soon be running it’s own Health service and transport services with power to build it’s own housing,without need to consult Westminster. Manchester is not interested in the rest of the North,let alone the rest of England. Watch this city over the next few years. The term Northern powerhouse is a smokescreen for Osborne’s plan for the rise and rise of Manchester.

  • Paul M

    It’s such a shame John Bickely is demonstrably hypocritical, taking €€€ to fund his failing business, and of course supports a homophobic bigot-for-jesus.

    Please stop giving this insidious cretin media attention.

  • Tubby_Isaacs

    “The differences between London and the rest of the country now seem to be much larger than those between traditional Labour and Tory heartlands”
    Ooh, what could old Eddie have in mind here? Eh? Eh?
    Nope. The difference between eg Middlesbrough and Henley on Thames are still very stark. You’re not going to magic class out of the discussion.
    And Lord Ashcroft’s done some polling. The UKIP candidate is going nowhere in Sale East and Wythenshaw. Governments have been shifting stuff out to the regions for years. What happens then?
    Your pals bang on about how they’re “overdependent on the public sector”.

  • Alan Heath

    I have been arguing for this since I was at school. It makes no sense for the government to be where rents are high and housing scarse.

  • Radford_NG

    Why not the*Islamic Republic of Dewsbury*(which see).

  • dalai guevara

    Ten years ago there were plans to do exactly as proposed and move large parts of Whitehall to Manchester, into the Piccadilly area in fact. What happened to those plans, will they be revived?
    Today, the Ministry of Justice occupies parts of City Tower and Spinningfields (Little Canary Wharf). Further decentralisation will of course alleviate the North/South devide, regional pressures on housing, public transport infrastructure and airport capacity.

    • Eddie

      But why always to Manchester? Why not Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter, Sheffield, Derby etc?
      Manchester gets far too much attention and state funding from the BBC as it is. Just listen to Radio 4 drama or BBC TV drama – too much Mancunian – and too much Scotland-set stuff too.

      • dalai guevara

        Easy to answer. The predictions go that Glasgow/Edinburgh will be out of the picture soon.

        So the organisational diagram of Britain no longer runs as a spine between London and Scotland, it will from now on run from London to the North West.
        There is only one way for Manchester in all of this – the only way is up.

        • Eddie

          Actually, the US pollster who has predicted the result in the last few elections with great accuracy predicts a decisive NO vote in Scotland.
          Opinion polls also show that.
          So, some people express to interviewers that they will vote for a split – just like a lot of people said they’d vote Labour in 1992 eh? Saying and doing are different things – and making a decision to go it alone (and losing Sterling, jobs, subsidy) is a huge risk.
          Manchester gets way too much already.
          The new map without Scotland would be focused to the West – so Bristol would maybe be the best choice. You seem to think Wales has been vaporised in your geography hypothesis.

  • Ian Walker

    All parliamentary business should be conducted in December and January, in a special open air forum constructed on Rockall.

    For the other 10 months of the year, only the repeal of existing laws would be allowed.

  • El_Sid

    , it’s not exactly Rome is it? Liverpool has lots of nice architecture
    and greater international recognition – more foreigners have heard of it
    than any other British city outside of London – but has seen better
    days, while the historical capital of the north, York, is too small.

    York’s got a population of 200k – if government moved in it would be a similar size to Canberra or Bonn which are both a bit over 300k. You’re proposing the worst of both worlds, countries with a capital separate from the main commercial centre have a dedicated political town, not mixed in with the traffic jams of a multi-million secondary city.

    On the other hand, York is a bit far north. If you say that the geographical centre of the UK is Ashby-de-la-Zouch (depends a bit how you measure it), then there’s two obvious candidates. One would be Tamworth, which has history on its side as the capital of Mercia. The other would be Nottingham, which has the same population as Canberra and is used for consumer testing because it is supposedly the most “average” city in the UK. It also wouldn’t hurt our politicians to see Nottingham’s gun crime and post-pub street violence. We don’t want them to be somewhere nice.

    If you weighted by population, or we lost Scotland, then the centre of gravity would move some way south of the A50. In that case there is only one option – we must send our politicians to Coventry.

    • MichtyMe

      Using the equidistant of latitude, I think your centre of the UK would be in the Cairngorm Mountains, excellent location, presently buried in deep snow, better than Siberia for our governing class.

    • Count Boso

      I think the centre of the Great Britain is Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland, but that’s far too beautiful to be polluted by the likes of Bercow. A rival claimant is Haltwhistle near Northumberland, but I wouldn’t wish it on them either. Maybe Bradford, where they can see what they’ve done.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Nottingham isn’t very nice at all. Would a parliament improve it?

  • mahatmacoatmabag

    Londonistan is already the de facto ‘First City’ of Engladesh, a vassal state of the Caliphate of the West ruled for all intents & purposes by the EUSSR ( Eurasian Union of Sunni Soviet Republics ) located in Brussels the Islamo-Socialist political Mecca of Western Europe.
    The problem of establishing another capital city for the remaining White English will not be resolved by moving it to the other 3rd world ethnic minority dominated cities of the dreary North

    • Alexsandr

      maybe we should do what the Germans did pre unification and pit it in a smallish place like Bonn.
      Buxton would be good -put the crescent to good use
      or Rugby or perhaps Worcester.

      • mahatmacoatmabag

        I just had an after thought, we should relocate the BBC to its Headquarters in Moscow

        • Alexsandr

          I’d suggest the Somerset Levels, but the people have had enough heartache already.

          • mahatmacoatmabag

            very true, relocating the BBC & its staff there would be like sending them bubonic plague carriers after they already have the flood damage & pollution it caused to deal with

      • Dodgy Geezer

        …Buxton would be good -put the crescent to good use
        or Rugby or perhaps Worcester….

        Rugby has the dubious distinction of being the only Major Public School to have had to call out the Army to suppress the boys. A riot in 1797 was put down only by a reading of the Riot Act and the attendance of soldiers with drawn swords, but not until after they had blown the Headmaster’s door in with gunpowder. The Island on The Close was the scene of their last stand.

        I suspect that we might have a repetition of that interesting event if anyone were to move Parliament to Rugby. Besides, where would you put it? The School owns all the south half and the north half slopes quite steeply down towards the swampy ground near the station…

        • Perseus Slade

          Obviously, they had not got the kapo (prefect) system working properly at the time.

          • Dodgy Geezer

            The ‘prefect’ system, now used around the world, was effectively invented by Arnold, the famous Rugby headmaster, who only joined the school in 1828. They were called ‘praeposters’ then – the current terms for “House prefects” and “School prefects” are “Sixth” and “Levee”.

            Like pretty well everything he did, it seemed to work well. He even put down the 1851 Marlborough Revolt at the nearby school of that name by sending over some of his own masters to stop the four days of havoc. With two Rugby masters in attendance, there was no need for the Army…

            • Perseus Slade

              Indeed, the system is universal wherever one class successfully dominates another.

              Doctor “Matron, get the nurses to swab the floor NOW.” “Yes Sir!”

              Officier “Serjeant, get those men out of the trench NOW” “Sir Yes Sir!”

              Guard “Moshe, get those bastards in the showers NOW” “Jawohl”

              Teacher “Prefects, get the boys to shut up now” “Yes Sir”

              Le Directeur “Vous les cadres, vous devez les faire bosser un peu plus” “Oui Monsieur”

              • Dodgy Geezer

                Alas, you seem to be a little ’emotionally confused’. Class has nothing to do with the prefect system. If anything, the prefect system transcends class, insofar as the concept breaks down the barriers between students and teachers!

                Your examples are hardly examples of Arnold’s ‘praeposters’ – they are simply examples of social structured relationships, which have existed since time immemorial.

                • Perseus Slade

                  My examples (but one) are outside the prefect/public school context and show the universality of the kapo system. It really works! Your are right, it has existed since time immemorial. It is just that it seems to me to be a bit nasty and not really a good thing.

                  Oh, and I am not confused at all.
                  I have been there and know it very well.
                  “transcends class” Joking indeed!

                  Here is another example for your edification:
                  Lord “Fat priest eating my food, make sure that your flock understand that it is because God ordained it that I am lord and they are serfs.” “I will make point of it, my Lord, I always do.”

  • Stephen Gash

    Yet another attempt to break up England and to hive off England’s capital city from England. The 2011 census exposed the British as a minority in these islands. England, Wales and Scotland showed that those saying they are British only, comprised about 16% of the total population, other than in London. Curiously, about 16% of people in England favour regions. So, in England, it is only the British that want England carved up into regions and erased from the map. We all know that the Scots and Welsh want England broken up too, their “nationalist” politicians like Alex Salmond and Leanne Wood constantly bang on about it. The LibLabCON flooded London with foreigners so that English folk are a minority in their own capital city.

    The sooner we English get out of both the EU and especially the UK the better.

  • tjamesjones

    what’s fun about this is that normally it’s the politicians who meddle in our lives, but what if we the people voted to move them up north, best idea I’ve heard today.

  • Count Boso

    How about Edinburgh, Belfast or Cardiff?

    • Fergus Pickering

      Edinburgh’s the place. World famous and with a parliament building already there.

  • Rainsboro

    If the Scots do go it alone the argument for a Northern capital becomes much more compelling – York was the capital for a while when Edward I was fighting the jocks

  • Mark Steven Conway

    Problem with this idea is that it would further entrench the north’s dependence on the public sector to provide jobs rather than try and encourage the private sector to create jobs. An in creasing divide between a productive south and dependent north would only create further social division.

    • Jambo25

      Sorry, but much of the “productive south” is productive because of the huge amounts of cash which have been poured into the region, especially London, over the past couple of centuries to pay for what are supposedly ‘national’ institutions. Let’s have some of that money spent in the West Country, Midlands or North of England. I’m Scottish but in light of September’s vote will make no claims for Scotland.

      • Eddie

        Errr…Wales was the first industrialised country in the world and its coal, iron, copper etc created the industrial revolution, and whose wool created wealth, and whose men built an empire. Had the first train too. Scotland gets way too much attention – maybe because of the famous Scottish Raj at the BBC and in government.

        Also, London and the south-east have for many years (as has Liverpool) had Welsh water coming out of their taps. There would be a massive drought in the south of England were it not for Wales (hard as that seems to believe in the present deluge).

        • IainRMuir

          “Also, London and the south-east have for many years (as has Liverpool) had Welsh water coming out of their taps.”

          How does it get there?

          • mahatmacoatmabag

            by Royal Mail & carrier pigeon

          • Dodgy Geezer

            Global Warming. It can do ANYTHING!

          • Eddie

            Oh ignorant one!

            Ever heard of how a Welsh village was drowned to make a reservoir in the 1960s in order to supply Liverpool with water?

            http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-village-drowned-to-give-another-nation-water-2108977.html

            • IainRMuir

              I was asking about London and the South East – the bits without parentheses.

              • Eddie

                Not being a Water engineer, I cannot say. Maybe the Welsh piss it at England?
                Anyway, I can tell you there is big debate here – we should be selling our water not giving it away, some Welsh politicians rightly argue.
                Then the Welsh could claw back some of the taxes they pay which shoot up the M1 to Scotland. How does that get there? Lorryloads of cash dya think?

        • Pootles

          I think you’ll find that the Severn Valley is, although close to Wales, actually in England. If anywhere has a claim to be the first in the industrialised field, it is the land on the steep slopes either side of the River Severn. Alternatively, we can be sensible and accept that Britain was the world’s first industrialised country.

          • Eddie

            Nope. The facts state Wales was the first country in the world where more people worked on industry than on the land. The valleys produced coal. Wales smelted zinc, iron, copper – Swansea used to produce 80% of the world’s copper.

            • Pootles

              Try the following: Peter Mathias, The First Industrial Nation (1969 – an oldie, but still one of the best); Francois Crouzet, The Victorian Economy (1982, which, despite its badly translated title, covers pre-Victorian developments); Crouzet again, Britain Ascendant (1990); and, very accessible, Pat Hudson, Industrial Revolution (1992). And your ‘first train’ comment – depends what one means by ‘train’, but the horse-drawn tramways of the North-East are generally seen to be the first track-based railway, while the Stockton-Darlington is usually seen to be the first scheduled, steam-drawn service.

              • Jambo25

                Add in David Landes ‘The Unbound Prometheus’ to Matthias and you’ve got the nucleus of my ‘Industrial Revolutions’ reading list in 1970. Ah! happy days

                • Pootles

                  Snap! Only six years later – Mathias, Landes, and for the early modern trading foundations of it all, Davies’ The Rise of the Atlantic Economies. Very sadly, over the intervening decades economic history has shrunk as an area of academic interest, partly, I suspect, because of the invasion of the econometrician.

                • Jambo25

                  It was going down the tubes even in 1970. I can remember walking along a corridor in the History department in my old university and overhearing one lecture talking to another. The conversation went something along the lines of ‘ You must remember the crucial importance of the timber trade in that part of Northern Tuscany at that time.’ Nah; life’s too short.

              • Eddie

                Utter tripe!

                Read it and weep, sonny:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Trevithick

                • Pootles

                  You rude fellow! You direct me to wikipedia?! I don’t think so. Just try some of the texts I mentioned.

                • Eddie

                  Wiki is fine for basic facts. We are not writing a Masters degree essay here, granddad!
                  The first railway was in WALES. Built by a Cornishman.
                  So there!

            • Fergus Pickering

              But Wales isn;t a country, Eddie.

              • Eddie

                Use the word nation then – the facts remain the same.

          • Jambo25

            Certainly the area round about Ironbridge must have a pretty strong claim. The truth is that industrialisation was probably taking off in 2 or 3 places at more or less the same time. The area round about Sheffield in the Pennines was probably up there as well.

  • IainRMuir

    If democracy isn’t working, it isn’t going to work in Manchester or Birmingham or anywhere. The selection procedures need looking into and people should start voting for MPs who represent their interests instead of their respective tribes.

    UKIP would be a good place to start. Whether you agree with its policies or not, it would give the existing parties the good kicking they need.

    Civil servants have been moving out of London for years (almost 75% work outside London) but I don’t see any improvement in decision making.

    • La Fold

      probably cause most of them can afford in predominately affluent and white areas in the surrounding counties… much like Billy Bragg.

      • mahatmacoatmabag

        exactly, they can afford it because the White working tax payer is paying for it

  • Frank

    Excellent idea, lets move the whole boiling to Liverpool (ie Parliament, the entire civil service and the foreign office). I realise that this will be a pretty horrible shock for Liverpool, but we all have to make sacrifices. We can then re-furbish the House of Commons (cheaply since it will be empty) and make it into the English Parliament (say 300 members max).

    • Eddie

      Liverpool?
      Wouldn’t it get nicked or something?

  • Wessex Man

    You really are not a freak of the right at all, you are another John Prescott or Lord Falconer in disguise, the people of the North East told them what to do with their Regional Assemblies 7 to 1!

    Imagine if you can Cumbria 0 Brazil 52, Mercia 4 all out Australia win every test match yet again or Italy 144 Middle Anglia 0. Get real! it’s England on of the oldest nations in the World and it’s the only nation in the World not to have it’s own Parlianment thanks to Blair, Brown, Darling and the partisan Scottish UK Cabinet 1997-2010!

    Yes let’s move the entire Government operation to somewhere between Birmingham and Manchester, along with an English Parliament. Reduce the UK Government to the bare bones really needed and do away with the corrupt Lords to fund an English Parliament.

  • Jambo25

    All civil service departments in their entirety (That means their secretariats, assistant and permanent secretaries etc.) should be sent out of London. The only possible exceptions should be the Foreign Office and Cabinet Office. All executive agencies, quangos and other publicly paid for bodies should go as well.
    In addition, the major cultural institutions should be ‘on their bikes’ as well. There is absolutely no reason why the ‘National’ museums, galleries and performing arts groups should all be in London. If the London based media and cultural elites can get off their collective arses to go to Edinburgh for the festival or Glyndebourne for the opera they can travel a bit more often. After all if I want to see the best art collection, in Germany, I go to the Pinakotheks, in Munich, not Berlin. In Italy I’d go tom the Uffizi, in Florence, not to Rome.
    Oh and by the way the rest of the BBC, bar a London regional branch should be out of London as well.

    • La Fold

      Yeah but munich is a quaint village, Berlin is a real city!

      • Jambo25

        Don’t get me wrong. I really like Berlin. It’s a great city with some fabulous cultural attractions. The complex on Museum Island is great, particularly the Pergamon but the best art gallery in Germany is still the Pinakothek complex in Munich. Incidentally, another city I love.

        • La Fold

          Love Berlin, havent been for a couple of years though thats getting fixed this year. Have some good friend s from there and thats what i heard them say about Munich. I think the mayor of berlin said that “Berlin ist alms aber secksy!”

          • Jambo25

            There’s some nice bars and clubs round the Neue Mitte. Never cross the Berlin cops though. I saw some ‘skins’ mouthing off near the Reichstag and they got a real’doing’ from the Polizei.

            • La Fold

              Mitte is fairly trendy but stay away from the tourist trap bars at Hackersher markt, complete rip off. Down orienburger strasse is quite nice but its kind of been cleaned up and taken over the porfessional squatter hipster crowd. I stick mainly to the east, Freidrichshain, Boxhanger strasse, Ostkruez areas.
              Oh yes, I know all about the dibble there.. Dont want to get caught by an old beast from the east when in Berlin… or Dresden… or Rostock!

              • Jambo25

                Hackescher Markt was OK a few years ago but it was getting ‘gentrified’ a bit even then. There used to be a great bar down Oranienburg Strasse called Gambrinus but I gather it closed down. Pity. Good beer, game on the menu and an interesting clientele. Some friends and I once went ot an Austrian restaurant in the city and as we were sitting a crowd of the biggest skins you ever saw came into the place. We thought; oops here comes trouble but as they sat down it became apparent they were part of Berlin’s Gay Skins scene. If we’d criticised the the colour of their bovver boots they’d have burst into tears.

                • La Fold

                  The whole of mitte has been gentrified to be fair especially with the shops. Adidas, Dr Martens, Boss etc all opening boutiques in the area. P’berg has been fairly gentrified but stil good for a look about plus the Schnitzel King imbiss is there! Kilogram heavy schintzels…oocha boy!
                  Strange thing is nowadays, if you see something akin to a skin in berlin its will tend to be either gays or anarchist/ unemployed punk sorts. Most of your Nationalist socialist types tend to look like bikers these days or comabt trousers and hooded tops.

                • Jambo25

                  I have vague memories of Berlin in the old DDR days. I was only ever there briefly. It looked like a less welcoming place than 60s/70s Glasgow. Endless rows of grimy apartment blocks and some hideous modern architecture. Beer, ice cream and decent steak (strangely enough) were the culinary stand bys. The old East Berlin is vanishing though you can still see a fair number of the slab sided blocks of flats.

                • La Fold

                  Yeah seen them, mostly along the S-Bahn lines that run along the border of the old “anti fascist protection wall”. Yeah the old east has slowly been receding the last few years. There used to be an old Staasi building just off Storkower Strasse that was a shell when I first went,it is now a 5 star Hilton with a Burger King.
                  Quite funny how when Im over and talking with toruists/ hipster types and tell them im away off to Hoheschonhausen, Falkenburg or Pankow for a night out they look at me as if im mental.

                • Jambo25

                  I was on holiday in West Germany not long after the wall came down so I went, with some friends, over to the East. It was bizarre. When the Autobahn got to the old intra-German border there were literally pyramidal piles of Trabi and Wartburg cars by the side of the Autobahn. Apparently Ossis had been coming to the old border crossing points and simply buying up decent, second hand Mercs Beamers and Audis then dumping their old cars the government had sent in the Bundeswehr, with combat bulldozers to pile them out of the way. There were old T34 and T55 tanks abandoned in fields and further piles of crappy old DDR domestic appliances on street corners in Eisenach and Erfurt. Some smaller towns had rows of bullet holes along walls left over from 1945.
                  In, I think, Erfurt we passed the premises of Topf und Sohne with the old pre 1945 sign still on the gates. I believe that the firm had supplied crematoria to some of the death camps. Very bizarre.

                • La Fold

                  When I first went you could definitely still see a lot of bullet holes pretty much everywhere you went in the east. Think there was a big clean up for the world cup in 2006. Still see the fella selling a lot of DDR military surplus stuff near the Schlossbrucke near Museum Island too. Gas masks etc In fact there used to be a bar somewhere in mitte which had a big courtyard/ beer garden that had an old russian heliocopter you could sit in. God I miss that place and not to sound like a misty eyed “it was better in the old days” romatic but i cant help but sympathise with the bit of graffitti in P’berg that says “BERLIN SAYS – YUPPIES F##K OFF!”

                • Jambo25

                  Another oddity of that time was numbers of British Telecoms vans in a number of ex DDR towns. One of the first things the Federal Government did was to update the old DDR telecoms system and the job was such a big one that they sub-contracted to various other European telecoms organisations to help.

    • Eddie

      The health dept is in Leeds. Passports in Scotland. DVLA in Wales. That happened in the 60s and 70s – and is why these regional cities are so state-dependent with too many public sector workers and those in universities, schools, hospitals (where the pay is huge when you compare to London – what with the house prices there – and much more than from any private business).
      In the UK, London is the only real international city, it’s true. Visitors to the UK really do not want to go to Salford to watch women’s football, no matter what the BBC wants to believe.
      Your analogy is silly. We do not have the equivalent of Florence in the UK!
      Though yes, it is irritating that many London cultural twerps seem to think anyway north or west of the M25 is where dragons be…

      • Jambo25

        We don’t have a ‘Florence’ but we do have Bath, Bristol, Norwich, Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Chester, Richmond, Harrogate, Scarborough, Durham, Perth, Stirling as well as big cities such as Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow with plenty going for them. There’s absolutely no reason why some of our ‘national’ cultural assets shouldn’t be transferred to them.
        My wife and I live in Edinburgh but we also travel to London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow as well as foreign destinations such as Amsterdam, Munich and Paris to take in art exhibitions and other cultural events.

        • Eddie

          Oh come off it! Are you seriously comparing Bristol to Florence?
          Because of history, London is by far the cultural, business and financial hub of Britain – our only true world city.
          I am not denigrating smaller cities – in fact I prefer living in one to living in the massive money-burning ethno-mess called London. However, compare like with like please – you can compare London with New York or maybe Paris. Not with Glasgow or Liverpool – the cities you mention are all very provincial really.

          • Jambo25

            So are Florence, Munich, Bayreuth etc

            • Eddie

              Yes, but Florence has 800 years of art. Venice has the same long history. Yes, it’s a tourist city too. They are special cities really.
              But to compare Glasgow to it? OMG.
              I find everywhere provincial in the UK – outside London. Maybe coz I grew up near it. However, I wouldn’t live there again now, much as I find my neighbours provincial-minded in the extreme.

              • Jambo25

                Florence is still a smallish, provincial city. Much smaller than Glasgow. I didn’t mention Venice. Nor did I claim that the artistic and architectural merits of Glasgow were as great as Florence’s. They clearly aren’t. However, it is worth pointing out that Glasgow (Not my native city by the way.) has considerable assets in the fields of graphic art and architecture and is at the western end of a Central Scotland corridor which has one of the bigger concentrations of great art in Western Europe.
                In the light of possible events this September, I’m saying nothing about Scotland but do think that Liverpool/Manchester could be seen as the same kind of artistic area as Glasgow/Edinburgh albeit without the same concentration of great art.

    • cbayley

      You mention Germany – different size, different history and different attitudes. Germany has approx. 133 orchestras and 83 opera houses. When I was growing up in Yorkshire, the largest county in the country, it had neither an orchestra of its own nor Opera North but I don’t recall a great deal of local concern about this. It still doesn’t have a professional symphony orchestra of its own. And ballet? Forget it. “Billy Elliot” is set in the North for good reason. Unfortunately, to far too many younger people here, a good night out consists of getting rat-arsed, and little else.

      Manchester fared rather better but, even there, it was German immigrants who had the largest impact on the Manchester music scene in the 19th century.

      IMO, the UK will not have the demand to support the same network of cultural provision that Germany enjoys unless the public’s priorities change significantly (and perhaps more immigrants from Germany) but attempts have been made to spread the benefit. The Royal Opera has made two serious attempts to establish a base in Manchester but with little success, partly due to local concerns. London has the advantage of a huge tourist industry to boost sales of tickets for performing arts. That’s the difference. If you look at subsidy per attendance, instead of the overall sum, the figure for London is not that high, but tourists are not going to flock to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds in similar numbers. Sorry, but they just aren’t, regardless of what you put there.

      I’m not saying that things can’t improve, Sage Gateshead being a good example, but dumping a large cultural institution in the wrong place to satisfy civic pride rather than actual demand, simply places a large financial burden on the local economy with little overall benefit, as Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford have discovered.

      Cardiff, home to the successful Welsh National Opera, nearly lost its much needed opera house due to very British sneers about “Toffs’ Opera”. Fortunately it went ahead in a different form but, even now, it dare not call itself an opera house. And of course Edinburgh has its own opera house saga.

      • Jambo25

        Strangely enough, I know Germany very well and believe me the average German is no more of a culture vulture than your average English Northerner and rather less so than my friends and I in Edinburgh. They have all those cultural facilities due to their history of political fragmentation up to the late 19th century. The same is true of Italy. However France and the Netherlands were politically centralised as quickly as England (Britain) and their cultural institutions are rather more dispersed than the UK’s.
        Our cultural institutions are so concentrated in London because the ruling elites, prior to the democratisation of the UK decided to put them there for their own benefit We no longer live in that society and other questions must come into play. The main one being is the desperate need to decentralise public institutions away from London. You either do it or you don’t and if you do that means that the big cultural institutions and performing companies must take their place in this.
        The publicly funded theatre, opera and ballet companies plus various London based orchestras used to go some way towards earning their tax payer funding by touring outside the capital. They pretty much packed that in years ago. Even with the Festival I haven’t seen much of these ‘national’ companies for quite some time. They are now purely London institutions. Slinging a few satellite galleries out tom the wilds with the bits of your collections which you aren’t all that bothered about doesn’t make you a national institution. The Imperial War Museum North for example. Nice building: shame about the exhibits.

        • cbayley

          Germany can support 133 orchestras and 83 opera houses but Germans are no more “cultural” than the average Northerner? Ridiculous. I’ve taught in Frankfurt, speak the language, and don’t need a history lesson. Didn’t spend my evenings stepping over drunks either.

          UK regional orchestras have fewer alternative sources of revenue than London orchestras. This was taken into account in a funding review several years ago with the result that subsidies for regional orchestras was increased and London orchestras reduced in proportion. The RPO for instance receives less than half of what the CBSO, Halle and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra receive.

          In the 1970s, the London based ENO established Opera North in Leeds as a semi-independent company. It subsequently became fully independent. A success story.

          The Royal Opera initiated the recent Manchester venture in an attempt to go some way towards addressing the problem you’ve identified. Local concerns about its impact on Opera North and the Lowry contributed to its derailment. Its residency at the Palace Theatre in the 1980s wasn’t a success either, but not for want of trying. Very few UK theatres are capable of taking unmodified ROH productions so options are limited.

          • Jambo25

            I know Germany reasonably well too. The lack of drunks on the street isn’t as total as you would like to believe. You do see quite few in Munich, Berlin and Hamburg etc though, admittedly not as many as you see on the streets of big British cities. This isn’t due to a higher level of culture in Germany but to other things. 1) There wasn’t the complete collapse of work and the discipline that went with it that the UK experienced in the 80s onwards. 2) German schools never became the morality and discipline free zones that too many of their UK counterparts did for a while, at least. 3) Most important. German police still do their job unlike the sorry shower we have in this country. German cops are still on the streets, in numbers, at night in big cities and they have far less tolerance for hooligan behaviour than their British (Actually English) counterparts. Try behaving badly on Neuhauser or Kaufinger in Munich on a Saturday night and see how long you last.
            Likewise you’ll be aware of at least one of the reasons for a greater spread of cultural assets in Germany and that is the Federal nature of government. The Laender and cities have far greater tax and spend powers than any level of local government in England does. Essentially, the various German Laender aren’t kept on a drip feed of money and opportunity by a centrally based Arts Council the way the English regions are.
            At the end of the day you, in England, are going to have to decide whether you want a fairer distribution of arts and culture money and jobs or whether you are happy to stick with the status quo. If its the second option then you are accepting a gross imbalance in spending in favour of London and acknowledging that those whom live in non-London are seen, to a certain extent, to be second class.

            • cbayley

              So it would be “fair” to plonk an opera house, symphony orchestra and art gallery in every city in the UK, regardless of demand, simply because London has these things?

              How about a National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield? That should work.

              You can’t build an expensive opera house in an area with no proven interest in the genre and just assume that people will turn up in sufficient numbers. They won’t. It might work for clubs, but not for things that require patience and a long attention span. Like I said, this isn’t Germany. A strong streak of aggressive philistinism runs through this country, as Welsh National Opera discovered. You clearly don’t want to discuss specific issues, preferring vague concepts of “fairness”. However, the difference in music provision between the UK and Germany is huge, and can’t be explained by differences in their taxation systems.

              I’m already very familiar with the German education system, which is substantially better than the UK but, IMO, still behind Finland. In the UK, many pupils still leave the education system with little or no interest in the arts (with a few small scale exceptions), so it’s unclear to me where the audience for this extra provision would come from.

              And please don’t tell me what I “like to believe”. I never said there was a total absence of drunks on German streets. I was merely reporting my experience there, and it was accurate.

              • Jambo25

                No, but it would be fair if arts resources were spread much more widely round the country so that arts spending per capita wasn’t so heavily skewed in the favour of Londoners. It’s a matter of simple equity. Those who dismiss the idea of fairness are generally defending positions which are the antithesis of fair.

                • cbayley

                  As I’ve already said, arts spending per capita and arts spending per attendance are two different things.

                  I believe my comment about philistinism was a fair generalisation in the way that you presumably believed your generalisations about average Germans and average Northerners were fair.

                  I’ve used opera as an example because it tends to attract opprobrium more than any other art form except, perhaps ballet. Hardly ever listen to it; I live in Lincoln and my interest is early music which I also organise and play semi professionally around the country, and occasionally Europe, when I get the chance. Contempt and cynicism are not unheard of – but only in the UK.

                  I never said that everyone should like opera but displaying aggressive philistinism is another matter. The reception given to the earlier proposals for WNO’s opera house, which I notice you haven’t commented on, is one of many examples.

                  If London got everything it wanted it wouldn’t be without a first rate concert hall of any size and the ROH main building wouldn’t have remained virtually unchanged from 1858 to 2000.

                  I think most people would like to have a choice about the way money is spent in their areas, and jobs which are still likely to be around in 20 years’ time will probably rate more highly than a new opera house or art gallery. Unfortunately, some people get a warm feeling from having these things available for special occasions, but a one or two visits a year will not suffice without the buffer of tourism which makes them viable when the locals don’t turn up. That’s the dilemma facing arts organisations. You can’t spread the money “evenly” because the demand is low to begin with, and uneven.

                  Maybe more touring is the answer. However, here are the destinations for Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 2012 and 2013. Maybe they don’t want to encroach on Opera North’s territory. On the other hand…

                  Glyndebourne
                  Woking
                  Norwich
                  Wimbledon
                  Plymouth
                  Canterbury
                  Milton Keynes
                  Stoke-on-Trent

                  Glyndebourne
                  Woking
                  Norwich
                  Canterbury
                  Milton Keynes
                  Plymouth
                  Stoke-on-Trent

        • IainRMuir

          “The Imperial War Museum North for example. Nice building: shame about the exhibits.”

          Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds – nice building, fine exhibits, shame about the lack of visitors.

  • john

    Let’s not kid ourselves – no power on earth will move any MPs out of Westminster. They’d rather die than move north of the M25.

  • Eddie

    Or, you could move the capital or department or house of lords etc to half-way between London and Cardiff. Sort of Winchester then?
    Manchester has FAR too much already – all that BBC cash and all those dreadful dramas. I always turn off when I hear a Manchester accent on a drama now.
    I deliberately tune in to watch a drama set in Birmingham or Sheffield, however.
    And what about the West country? Utterly ignored. as is Wales most of the time.
    But anyway, didn’t our lawmakers move to Brussels some time ago? Or was it Islamabad?

    • La Fold

      Funny that, i just switch off whenever I hear a manchester accent in general.

      • Eddie

        Yes, it’s because 1) it’s grating; 2) it’s everywhere. Just watch a selection of BBC drama (if you can stand it). Way too much Liverpool and Scotland on TV too.
        We rarely hear from Sheffield or Birmingham (Peaky Blinders was easily the best TV drama last year); we rarely hear Welsh accents, or West Country ones. Hardly ever see dramas set in the suburbs of London either.

        • James Strong

          I haven’t got a TV. Is Hinterland shown on national TV, or is it only on BBC Wales?
          I watch on iplayer and don’t pay the TV tax.

          • Eddie

            On S4C (Welsh channel 4), then on BBC1 Wales only (just finished) and later this year on BBC4. I missed it so I will watch it on BBC4.

        • global city

          That Liverpool presence you moan about has been achieved IN SPITE of TV’s move to the provinces, not as a result of it.

          Liverpool has actively been kept out as much as possible in the media/culture/TV sector in the UK… bloody command and control central planning again. Liverpudlians still have to go to London to build a career, and then usually start their comapnies there, whilst virtually every town was given two TV stations.. and Manchester in partiular, tons more government largesse.

          Imagine how pissed you’d be if the city could actually promote itself, produce new works from up and coming talent and all the other things the other cities can now do?

    • Wessex Man

      how can we ignore the Welsh while you are around?

      • Eddie

        Much as I despise Welsh nationalists, they do have a point that Welsh concerns get ignored and that instead Scotland and the north of England gets too much attention from the UK government in London. I bet you – as most people – think the industrial revolution started in England and that George Stephenson invented the train. Zzz…
        Anyway, I was not born in Wales and didn’t grow up here.
        I do though prefer it to the ethno-mess of Londonistan these days – my home city, from which I am in exile due to small flats costing half a million quid in some council estate slum there. Plus the crime, dirt, crappy pay, bad attitudes etc. I visit every year and weep (and see a show or a museum or two).

        • Wessex Man

          There you go making assumptions about other people again zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

          The Welsh Nationalists have nothing to moan about and nor do you. I visit London more than I would want to because it’s just too overpopulated and crowded for a West Country boy like me. I would not make such comments as you have though, nor would I moan about Cardiff in such a way.

          • James Strong

            Cardiff is a terrific city.Unfortunately there has been some enrichment and you can hear languages other than Welsh and English on the streets there, but it’s still got everything a major city needs and is not too big.

            • Wessex Man

              I did say that I wouldn’t moan about Cardiff in such a way, not because I was moaning about it but because I quite like the place and it’s only an hour down the Motorway.

          • Eddie

            Actually, I do think some parts of the country are under-represented. Manchester and Scotland are not amongst them.
            I do not assume – I base my knowledge on the ignorance I witness in people all the time. Most people assume the train was invented by George Stephenson. South Wales was where it all started.
            I hate Welsh nationalists and Scots nationalists who crave victimhood in their jingoistic race-obsessed bigotry against the English.
            However, Wales and the West country and other places are under-represented – at the BBC, on TV, in politics.

  • In2minds

    Send the English parliament to York and the House of Lords to the knackers yard. But you may have to bribe the people of York to accept them.

  • La Fold

    What and leave behind all those subsidised second homes in central london? Thats like me getting hold of Katherine Jenkins phoen number. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!

  • Mynydd

    Why not move all government departments to the end of the HS2 line, that will insure it’s used, no one else will be able to afford the fare.

    • Chris lancashire

      It’ “ensure”. Just helping.

  • monty61

    Indeed – the federal/multipolar situation of Germany is a significant strength as a country – finance in Frankfurt, Government in Berlin (with a rump in Bonn as counterbalance), cars and culture in Bavaria, trade and a different sort of culture in Hamburg, and manufacturing in lots of places with plenty of trees in between.

    London’s vampire squid is never going to go into reverse suction on its own accord – regional policy (as in direct subsidy, ‘picking winners’) failed a long time ago. Relocation of activity is a far bolder act which would have a much greater chance of success.

    Why not a new capital? (a Washington DC – or Canbera perhaps is a better model – for the 21st century). A new garden city plonked somewhere north of Stoke. At least one positive benefit, If TPTB had to live in new build we’d likely see a rapid improvement in minimum building standards. And leave London to the foreigners who have claimed it as their own.

    Having said that wasn’t there a Yes Minister episode about some bright idea of relocating departments being thwarted by opera-going Sir Humphreys (and their wives of course)?

    • salieri

      ‘And not just the civil service’. Indeed not. If only the politicians could be persuaded to leave London, they could settle in Bradford or Leicester and admire at first hand all the vibrant diversity they have so thoughtfully created for the rest of us.

      • El_Sid

        Bradford has a higher Caucasian proportion than London, and Leicester is only a bit less.

    • El_Sid

      North of Stoke isn’t great topographically for building, you run into the Peak District. Go a bit west and I don’t think the combination of politicians and the footballer zone of Knutsford-Wilmslow would be a good combination – just look at the MP for Tatton. Middlewich or Winsford might work OK though, or Burton/Coalville. As I say above though, Tamworth or Nottingham would probably be better.

  • Pootles

    How about a new political capital for England (once the Scots have voted ‘yes’ in their referendum) in either York or our ancient capital of Winchester? Both still English cities, both devoid of Russian oligarchs/Saudi Princes/the stink of finance/RoP patrols/journos/media types/and take your pick whatever other malignant growth that annoys you.

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