Saturday, 16 August 2008

Geography and crime

One of the issues touched on in my current novel-in-progress, the fourth Lake District Mystery, concerns the way in which rural communities are being damaged and even destroyed by the lure of the city. I’ve often been told by people in Cumbria that they are concerned about the drift of young people to the south. There are sometimes economic reasons for this movement, although many people – and I am one of them – would argue that the quality of life in the rural north of England is often more attractive than that in some other parts of the country.

The subject of ‘economic geography’ has been front page news in Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere this week, following the publication of a highly controversial report by a right-wing ‘think tank’ that recommends people from places like Liverpool and Bradford to move to London, Oxford or Cambridge. Predictably, the reaction to the report, especially in Liverpool, a city that’s always high on emotion, has been hostile and derisive.

But leaving emotion to one side, the ‘think tank’ seems brain-dead to me. If British society is indeed ‘broken’, as the leader of the Conservative party argues, how can it be healed by some sort of economic evacuation of the north of England? I’d like to think this is something on which most of us can agree, whatever our political views.We need more cohesion, not less, and stronger communities in all parts of Britain, not a crazy imbalance between one corner of the country and everywhere else.


Uriah Robinson said...

Reading the names of the Liverpool football team I thought the entire city had moved to Spain.

crimeficreader said...

I understand that 'David Cameron rapidly distanced himself on Wednesday from a report calling for the government to pump more money into the south-east and allow poor towns in the north to dwindle.

'The Conservative leader said it was “insane” for its authors to suggest the government should switch funding from struggling conurbations towards London, Oxford and Cambridge.'

From the FT; not sure the link will come up in full, but here it is:

I read a comment in The Times, I think it was, from a woman from Northumbria who said it was an excellent place to live, but it had suffered from the loss of the UK's manufacturing industry.

Clare Dudman, on her blog has made a recent post on a valley in north Wales. Towards the end she notes the sale of ICI, the loss of the "industrial
chemist"; which is again a loss in our manufacturing base.

One good thing to come out of New Labour, and from Brown, was that he moved some civil service jobs out of expensive London into re-developing areas. This included Newport in south Wales, but when it comes to our fractured society, I don't see an improvement there because of it. I believe the reasons for our fractured society are very complex and derive from many policies over the years and how they have affected social interaction. Economic geography may not even feature.

I had the privilege to visit a site in Liverpool in 2002/3 where the most boring, mundane and routine work was undertaken at great volume and with a low error rate. Very impressed with what I saw, I asked how this was achieved. The answer I received was this "They need the jobs here and they know that if they don't perform, they're out". A hard fact of reality.

The report highlighted disparity but came up the wrong conclusion. There are resources and talent outside the south east. More of the economic demands emanating from the south east should be moved elsewhere to be fulfilled in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Well if they all do move to London, us poor sufferers in the Great Metropolis (not) can up stumps and move to the beautiful North, in return.
Sometimes I do wonder about these "think tanks"- who pays for this mess of bureacracy and what is the point?

Martin Edwards said...

Great comments, thanks.
Uriah, it's the Spanish who have moved to Costa del Mersey!
Crimefic,I agree wholeheartedly. In the global age, I'm not convinced that geography is that important.
Maxine, as so often, spot on.