A couple of weeks ago the BBC screened a TV programme called Mind The Gap: London vs The Rest (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2014/09/mind-the-gap-london-vs-the-rest.html). This two part series looked at how cities and towns in the rest of Britain compare to the capital. Evan Davis (and whoever produced the show) probably cherry picked data to prove their point (so not very scientifically literate). Despite this there were some interesting points raised. It is quite clear that there is a significant economic imbalance between London and the rest of Britain. Personally I find this odd as London does not have any significant resources, and produces (in my opinion) very little of value. The London economy is driven by finance and the service sector (linked closely to tourism) but makes very little. Food, water and energy are all shipped into the capital to support the huge population.
And so if London is not producing much (other than pretend money, hot air and a lot of carbon emissions) what about the rest of Britain, what do we produce? Living in Dundee I have been interested to learn about the history of the city. In Victorian times the jute industry and the mills that relied on it, employed tens of thousands and brought considerable prosperity. Another city I know well, Newcastle, was similarly supported by the production of ships, arms and before that coal. As these prominent industries faded the cities did not find viable replacements, and therefore employment opportunities disappeared. London, meanwhile, did not suffer in this way and has contiuned to grow.
Dundee now has a more balanced economy, and is not reliant on any single industry, but in the terms of wealth it is a long way behind London. Newcastle meanwhile has suffered in recent years as the public sector employed many people and this is now shrinking fast. So it was with some trepidation that I visited Newcastle recently. Things were not as bad as I had expected though. Many of the businesses I knew in the city centre were still trading and one pub, The Redhouse on the Quayside (http://www.theredhousencl.co.uk/), seemed to be borrowing some ideas from London. They were serving a range of pies complete with mash and liquor – alongside a great range of local beers. I decided that I should do a bit for the economy so ordered several pints. One of the most interesting had been brewed, by one of the staff, in a microbrewery less than a mile away. It was an Unfined Orange Saison and was excellent. So it was a local product, manufactured and sold by the person that served me, made with grain and hops grown in Britain (I think).
Of course the beer and real ale industry (even in Newcastle) will not close the gap between London and the rest of Britain. But at least people are producing something useful outside the capital. Later this year Scotland will be voting on independence from the rest of Britain. Perhaps, after that, the rest of Britain should be given the chance to leave London. Now that would be an interesting debate.