Many will be horrified about the Policy Exchange think tanks's report on the Northern Cities. I certainly am - the top line strikes me as defeatist and depressing. Yet I think they may have done the country a favour in (re) sparking a debate about the North South divide.
This divide is frankly one of the worst features of our country. I've often heard it said that the North has the quality of life, the South the quantity of life. In other words, the South has great wealth, but less time, community and increasingly less beauty as it subsides gently in a sea of concrete and congestion. The North has less material wealth, yet there seems a greater sense of community, more time for people and some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful countryside our nation has to offer.
Somehow it seems that every new home in the South (built in lovely places like Whitfield and Sholden) pulls the rug further from under the North and makes the South a worse place to live. The Policy Exchange report seems to say we should accept this is the way it's going to be.
I've long wondered - how can we rebalance to unite the country so that all have the best of both worlds? Can we build a truly united nation? This is not about tarting up places with regeneration. This is about a great national effort to strengthen the Northern (private sector) economy - a whole skills revolution, the establishment of a renewed labour pool in the North, incentivisation for new businesses to establish in the North rather than the South. Just reading this, you can see how hard it would be to do. I feel deeply that a house divided against itself cannot stand and that we need to act to tackle the North South divide.
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