Sunday 27 October 2013

Should London become an independent city

Like many Londoners I’ve made this great city my adopted home after being born and brought up somewhere else. In my case Birmingham is the city I hail from.

I’m happy to admit, I’m a typically conflicted northerner. This means I’m quite happy to tell you how great my hometown is and how people are friendlier and more down to earth than Londoners; but I don’t actually want to live up there anymore.

I love living in London, it’s exciting, vibrant and interesting - I know I’m living in one the great cities of world and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Whenever I go ‘home’ to visit family and friends I’m always struck by how different everything seems outside of London. At times I feel like I’m in a different country.

This got me thinking. Has London got anything in common with the rest of the UK anymore?

Surely London has more in common with New York or Paris than it does with Manchester or Liverpool.

If London is now so different from the rest of the country, is it time to ask whether London should go it alone, become independent? Scotland is having a referendum next year on independence, isn’t it time London had one?

London dominates the UK and its dominance is increasing. When it comes to business, the economy, politics, the media, property, education London leads the way.

It’s the financial capital of the world, its economy has grown by 12.5% since 2007 and the city has created more jobs in that time than any other region in the UK.

What could London achieve without the burden of subsidising the rest of the country?

By going it alone, London could pursue its own economic and political policies, like raising its own taxes. It would allow London to grow even faster without having to worry about the rest of the UK holding it back.

Admittedly, this all sounds great for London, but what about the rest of the country?

Well there’s no point denying it; to begin with the rest of the country would be worse off without London.

What intrigues me is that perhaps long-term, without London dominating and being the centre of attention, our regional cities would have the chance to emerge out of London’s shadow.

Our cities could reclaim their former glories. Don’t forget, during the Victorian era, our northern cities were some of the richest and most important cities in the world.

It all sounds like a win-win situation for London and the rest of the country, but something tells me it wouldn’t quite work out like this.

London isn’t an island on its own. London drives the rest of the country but much of the talent London attracts isn’t just from overseas but from all corners of the UK.

It might seem like London and the rest of the UK might be living separate lives with little in common but in reality they both need each other.

Sunday 6 October 2013

The Daily Mail at its worst. Ed Miliband hits back

I think I speak for many liberal thinking, Left leaning, Guardian reading, Londoners when I say I've quite enjoyed Ed Miliband's attack on the Daily Mail.

Was anyone really surprised by the Mail's nasty article on Ed's late Marxist academic father Ralph Miliband?

It was classic Daily Mail - the only difference was that for once someone decided to fight back which is what Ed has done.

I agree that it was perfectly legitimate for the Mail to investigate the beliefs and political views of Ralph Miliband, as Ed has frequently spoken about his father's influence on his own political beliefs.

The problem for the Mail is that it overstepped the mark with its ill judged headline and tone of its article. It was nothing more than a character assassination on someone who obviously couldn't respond. Hardly surprising Ed Miliband felt the need for a right of reply.

I'm intrigued to see what's going to happen next. The Mail isn't a paper you want to mess with. Its attitude and behaviour perfectly mirrors that of its editor Paul Dacre.

Dacre is someone I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of. I've heard so many stories about him and how he runs the Mail - many of which aren't flattering.

The Mail is Dacre's personal mouth piece. He's a bully whose personality dominates the Mail - he's also a brilliant newspaper editor. Paul Dacre is the Daily Mail and the Daily Mail is Paul Dacre.

I admit I've always had a grudging respect for the Mail. I don't agree with its politics or world view which generally annoys me. However, I respect that it's an incredibly successful newspaper.

Its website is brilliant and a guilty pleasure of mine. As a writer I admire how it truly understands the feelings, values and beliefs of its audience. Something that all writers should aspire to.

The Mail has made it clear it won't back down on its article, which is no surprise. But it's good for Ed Miliband as I think he's won a lot of a support and sympathy from people.

Where he needs to be careful, is by not making his criticism of the Mail appear politically motivated.

The Mail thinks this is the case. The paper believe Miliband's attack is part of an ongoing debate on the future of press regulation; particularly on whether legislation should be passed to ensure effective regulation of the press. If he makes it too political Ed will lose credibility.

During the last week, I've been reading various comments and opinions on the story. One comment that stood out for me is one I read on the blog of conservative political blogger Guido Fawkes.

He quoted an anonymous Daily Mail hack who said the following:

“If we’d just stuck a question mark after the headline none of this would have happened”

Haha this is so true - but it's good they didn't as none of us would had the pleasure of seeing the Mail on the defensive for a change.