If you listened to some Northern Mayors, you’d be forgiven for thinking London was just a posh town in the South of England which the Conservatives like throwing money at. They think it plays well with their electorate.
Believing your voters are simplistic is not a good political move.
People in the North, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, understand that London is the powerhouse driving the economy, and if it falters so does the rest of the country.
As we slowly step out of lockdown there are some promising signs of recovery.
Deloitte’s recent public survey suggested a “sharp snap back” in spending by shoppers as restrictions ease, “going to a shop” topped the list of leisure activities people are most likely to do after lockdown. The research suggests that the UK could be on track for a faster economic rebound than previously thought, with consumer confidence increased at the fastest rate in a decade in the first three months of 2021.
EY Item Club research shows the economy had “proven to be more resilient than seemed possible”. The forecasting body has upgraded its 2021 growth forecast from 5% to 6.8%, which would mark the fastest rate seen since Office for National Statistics (ONS) records began. EY expects that the UK economy will return to its pre-pandemic size in the second quarter of 2022 – three months earlier than previously forecast.
The economists at EY’s Item Club also revised down their unemployment forecasts. The rate is now expected to reach 5.8% towards the end of this year, down from the 7% predicted in January.
But London has had it tough, and we need politicians nationwide to support the Capital.
Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) modelling suggests that during 2020 there was £41 billion in lost output, with a further £15.4 billion lost in the first quarter of 2021, making £56.4 billion in total.
Central London was particularly hard hit because of the near total loss of foreign tourists and the collapse in the number of commuters who once poured daily into the West End and the City to spend money in shops, restaurants, and pubs. Normally, around 20 million overseas visitors come to London every year and around 600,000 commuters cross into Westminster or the City daily.
The jobless rate has also risen faster and higher in London than in any other region, hitting seven per cent by the last quarter of 2020, up from 4.3 per cent a year previously.
It feels like London is on a precipice. Just recently ‘The Rise and Fall of Canary Wharf’ was trending on Twitter, parts of the old City are being converted from offices to housing. Many of the streets are still deserted.
You can say that this is all part of the ‘new normal,’ but the reality is that if we lose the centre of our commerce, it will impact the whole.
That is why we need Northern Mayors to take a more sophisticated approach to politics. Less of the suggestions that they are being left behind, or singled out, and more of the collaboration and consensus people expect during a national emergency.
For example, it’s foolish to compare Northern transport funding with that of London. There is normally two million people commuting into and out of Greater London every day. London is not just our Capital, it is an international city which attracts the finance used to drive our manufacturing, technology, and service sectors nationwide.
Of course, central government prioritises London. Because most Westminster politicians understand, and accept, that without its dynamism and growth the whole country will be quite literally a poorer place.
Northern Mayors need to change their tune, Northern Mayors need to learn to love London.