Great Countries Need Great Cities

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by Jas Sansi



The CEO of Marketing Birmingham, Neil Rami speaking at a Chamber event last week suggested it was a pretty sexy time to be in Greater Birmingham right now. The city region has a spring in its step with an air of confidence emanating from the place. It feels good to finally remove the shackles of the great recession. 

National media may even be affording Brum a fairer press than ever before. We still get low punches, Sathnam Sanghera for The Times wrote we lack both self confidence and a creative buzz, and let’s not mention what Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson say about us in The Sun. What is it with the Murdoch Press, is there a ‘Hate Brum’ tick in their recruitment process?

The capital’s hacks should reflect with a degree of empathy when writing about regional cities. A London consensus permeates the UK, putting all our eggs in one basket. The USA, albeit a much larger country offers an alternative structure, a financial capital in New York, a political capital in Washington and an entertainment capital in Los Angeles.  India has a political capital in New Delhi and a financial centre in Mumbai. Mumbai, home to the Indian Film Industry also dominates entertainment but at least there is a nod to more than one city. It is a position, we in the UK do not share. London monopolises finance, politics and entertainment. And that can’t be good for anyone.

We’re a relatively small country compared to India and the USA but we should recognise the strengths of promoting regional cities. Great countries need great cities. To the newly elected Government, I offer this; stop talking about devolution and devolve. Stop promising a Northern Powerhouse and empower. And please stop hand wringing over High Speed 2 whilst suggesting Cross Rail is a project for national pride. Churchill proclaimed ‘Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.’ Never have these words echoed louder nor rang truer.

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