Team UK/GB, World class London and the Regional divide.
It seems that many who voted remain are searching for an answer: how could this happen? Firstly, I’m very proud of you all for 1) voting 2) caring. And i’m sorry you’re upset. Now it’s time we face adversity – something we pride ourselves for being able to navigate.
It seems apt, given the only home nation cheer is success at the European Championships, to consider this referendum for Team GB like we would a football or sports team. Perhaps there is another symptom revealed by the whole thing.
Our nation has a Captain. It is and always shall be, London. It’s also a World class player. We look to that captain to inspire, to lead us to success and happiness. That’s sensible and natural.
In this context, the other cities of the UK are team mates, squad members. Some stand out more than others. Some are journeymen or utility players – essential to any team, without whom the team would be lost. The squad is always in the shadows of the already world class team mate – and it behooves that star to bear that responsibility in a way that ensures both continued personal success and possible silverware for the team.
London voted, by a significant majority, to remain in the EU, and seeing the immediate power the same “mandate” has given the SNP, is hunting for a way to make that local majority count. It’s not quite that simple, sadly.
Is it plausible that London has tasted its own medicine, and discovered just how sour it can taste to be on the losing end of a majority – let alone a power struggle.
For decades since the economic restructuring of the UK, the capital has excelled. Home already to the City, it was well-positioned to be the national hub for finance. That potential realised is now clearly set apart from the rest of the World – let alone the UK – in terms of its wealth and quality of life. And when you get used to winning, to being on top and in charge – having your voice heard the loudest – it can be rather nice.
Having just moved out of London, I can tell you, the City has created a problem in its own success. It cannot throw a border up around the M25, it cannot snip the ties and bolt itself to Calais or any other rock – not least because the uncertainty of the process would make leaving the EU look like a cake walk. More because it needs England, and whatever team is left. They are the kit-washers, the coaches, the other players on the team. Like it or not, they are on our team and it’s geographical, not contractual or a franchise one can drop when terms aren’t agreeable.
So, how about it stops, takes a moment, and accepts that out of all the times it’s had what it needed – from Crossrail, London 2012, Wembley Stadium, HS2, Heathrow or Gatwick, St Pancras, The Dome, the Eye, virtually all the seats of culture and power – besides the shunting of Aunty to Salford – hasn’t it done rather well?
I hear you, we all want a strong capital – I’m not a fan of the subtle capitals like Canberra, overshadowed by other city brands. But we don’t have any city brands that even come close, not even 5% close to London’s. And that in itself is contrary to what makes the City great.
London thrives on diversity and portfolio affect. All eggs are not in one basket around the world. It trades everywhere – thanks to the UK’s lucky timezone – up at dawn for the Far East and still in late for the USA.
In creating, compounding and cementing London’s global brand, Team GB has a problem: no one player makes a team. No one city makes a nation. This vote is Britain, perhaps England predominantly, expressing that. And remember, it was petulant Barons exasperated by the very same issue that ensured the Magna Carta exists today – giving London even more freedom to inspire.
Much like Ronaldo for Portugal, the best players often have the biggest responsibility to share possession, and lead with even more empathy.
London needs to gulp deep. Because losing, feeling like you’ve not been heard, having all that which you hold dear threatened – it tastes like off milk.
I’m a Southerner, product of a lower middle class state school – pushed through to tertiary education and London beyond. I can’t pretend to know how hard it is to mine coal, tin or smelt steel and shape it into cutlery used the world over. I’ve never compressed a rivet or bolted panels onto cars that led the World in design for a long time. I’ve never sat down with a machine and a lump of wet clay and created something. And, honestly, what I know about sallying out into the North Sea for cod, you could write on a stamp. I sometimes feel a bit stupid for lacking practical life skills.
I do know that generation upon generation of English around the country did. And, until only very recently in the context of history – they were successful and thrived.
Knowing that it all changed – and something new had to be learned – I can only imagine how badly I would suffer in the same circumstances. My skills are woeful when it comes to making. I’m no engineer and I certainly don’t know a lump of coal from a lump of coke. Do you? I think only a large minority of us would be able to easily make such a transition from Herman Miller seat to coal shaft. I can also imagine that the transition would leave a scar on the families and generations that did.
In that regard, I can completely understand why Stoke, Doncaster and other ex-industrial cities voted to leave the EU. Membership has further tipped the scale away from their own prospects. Wealth has focused on our capital – and the promise of a “trickle down effect” has been just that.
What they see is a dam of wealth, knocked by a tiny spire – and how undignified it must feel to stand patiently in line waiting to lick the drips.
I think it’s fair to say the North-South divide has been endured with some of the most impressive stiff upper lips one could imagine. Entire communities tossed upside down have rolled their sleeves up and tried to evolve. Sadly, the policies used have not created the right balance of opportunities – either because London is so successful, or because the policies were so inadequate.
That’s not to say there aren’t huge pockets of wealth outside of London – of course there are. And that’s not to say these heartlands don’t resemble huge wealth and prosperity in context to the wider world. Or that transition and evolution, regeneration, hasn’t been positive. It’s just that relatively speaking, it doesn’t match the memory. It hasn’t made enough people content.
Britain needs more stronger, globally branded cities – with skylines or features you can picture when you shut your eyes. Names that resonate across the World like they once did. Not names that conjure visions of fallen empires and pity. Whichever manifesto tries to achieve this needs to ensure greater wealth generation potential is spread across the country.
We need to rid ourselves of this belief that we are rubbish at manufacturing, too. Throughout the referendum car makers in the UK like Nissan, BMW and Ford were cited. Can you even for a second consider how painful it must be to see your own British employer, like Austin, collapse – told that Britain can’t make cars – only to be replaced some time later by a Japanese maker. Using the very same pool of talent from those very same communities that were laid into economic waste.
I can. I think I’d feel conned, ignored and foolish for being trusting. I’d watch as London’s belly swelled with the wealth of the new service economy’s dominance, and a sentiment would grow. That sentiment would be:
I wonder how you’d feel if this happened to you?
So, when London, and the service community (let’s call them “Bankers” – as that’s what people probably really mean), met their moment of doll queues, economic apocalypse and doom- the harsh face of capitalism, when your team loses. What happened?
£600bn of help.
Because they were “too big to fail.”
I think, with every shred of empathy I can muster, I’d revisit that memory of my own experience, my own dole queue and in doing so. I wouldn’t be able to ignore how outrageously unfair it felt. I’d lament. So much so, my stomach would begin to rot with a bile of injustice that demanded I do something, anything, to be heard.
That voice has been heard, but London’s metropolitans appear to be unable, immediately at least, to finally listen. And it saddens me more perhaps than anything.
Instead, we have accusations of stupidity, racism – demands for a recount where the bar is higher, the result therefore untenable.
Sadly, in continuing to behave that way, London may just initially confirm the greatest fear that the North and regions of England really had. That is the fear London wasn’t in fact a caring, honest, humble friend, team mate and leader at all – but the scorpion on their back. The glory hunter.
It is ironic that in the year Leicester should defy all odds, and show the power of a good team – without what many would consider a World Class player – that the lesson should be so readily discarded as a anomaly. It appears, to me, a very sobering opportunity to become wiser, shrewder.
As the quote and sentiment. from moneyball goes (excuse me for mixing my sports together – it all counts in context):
“[But] anybody who is not tearing their team down right now and rebuilding it using your model − they’re dinosaurs.”
That was the outcome – not the origin. The origin was a moment of disaster for that team. And so the lesson goes for the UK’s economy, perhaps. If we want that inspirational result, maybe we have to use different tactics. We are a different economy to that of the past; yes, we don’t have the budget any more to make ourselves the Yankees. But our fellow Brits – those squad players who’ve suffered so much – may have just asked us that it’s time to change the game plan. The door is open for a new kind of team – even if it’s a smaller franchise.
So, I say again: gulp deep, London, sup hard on the after taste – fear of livelihood, change you don’t want – it’s not very nice, is it? Perhaps the experience will jolt you into passing the ball a little more often, leading the team in a manner that wins us all silverware, not just you the plaudits . That means being a true captain after all.
So I ask you, Londoners – do you want to be Ronaldo, or Gareth Bale?
I think you know the answer to that question.