London is drunk on cash. Worse still, it’s a leaky and wasteful pool for investors. Large and generally pointless projects are lazily thrown around in City Hall, fuelling the newfound addiction of the London Tory party to spend, spend and spend. Goldsmith against Khan – who would spend the most? Who is more ‘for Londoners’? Who would make London greater?
To the fifty one million people that do not live in this metropolis, media obsession with ‘the city’ is unfounded, tedious and at best – ignorant.
Crossrail, a third runway at Heathrow and Angela Lumley’s rather vain garden bridge are all circulated in the press, all attempting and failing to gain genuine national interest. Whilst the rest of the UK takes the full force of austerity measures (imposed by a London based central government), the capital is experiencing a financial boom distinct from the rest of the country. Londoners have two things we could only dream of – real devolution and public investment.
Chancellor Osborne has attempted to rebalance this injustice with his ‘northern powerhouse’ project – a ‘Minister for the Northern Powerhouse’ has even been appointed just to show how much he cares. But even for George Osborne, this scheme marks a remarkably new low for political spin. It has a quality we could only expect out of ‘The Thick of It’. One can almost imagine a young, fresh faced twenty-one year old ‘political advisor’ running around the treasury, calling out this new slogan as a way to fool the north.
At present, London gets more than twenty four times more infrastructure money than north-east England. Infact, the majority of state infrastructure money is spent on the capital. Forget ‘all roads lead to Rome’. London is the new centre of Britain’s financial empire. For Westminster, that is the end of the matter.
But how can we correct this imbalance? In the short term, we should spread our treasures in the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Modern around the country, releasing our art from the endless unseen vaults below London’s streets. Instead of another runway at Heathrow, why not invest in Leeds Bradford or Newcastle? Rather than build another theatre in Central London, why not invest in the arts movement up north?
I do not want to starve the capital of cash but this addiction of City Hall, fed just down the road from Whitehall is crippling the rest of Britain. The result? Further strains on London services. The problem spirals out of control and before we know it – our well loved powerhouse is dead, written off and gone.