Big Ben has been silenced. At some point in the next 6 years, MPs and Lords must leave the Palace of Westminster too, with renovation needed in the face of ‘impending crisis’. A lot has been written about where parliament might go temporarily, with some even suggesting a few years out of London. But we need to be more ambitious than a mere temporary move of parliamentarians.
We should permanently move both parliament and ‘Whitehall’ to Manchester. Undoubtedly, political parties, think tanks, charities, much of the printed and broadcast press, quangos, embassies and lobbyists would eventually follow, as well as other corporate offices: with further knock-on effects through the spending power of these 10s or even 100s of thousands of jobs.
Politicians talk a lot about ‘rebalancing’ the UK but this is one way – perhaps the only way – in which the state can actually do it at the stroke of a pen. For those currently working in or around parliament and central government – including journalists (and myself) – it would be painfully disruptive. But for most voters in the South East an easing of population pressure should be welcome. As Jeremy Cliffe at The Economist writes:
Moving government out of London would free up housing, transport and office capacity that the current capital badly needs. … Meanwhile that city would of course remain Britain’s economic centre and gateway to the world; a Barcelona to Manchester’s Madrid; a Glasgow to Manchester’s Edinburgh; a New York to Manchester’s Washington. The city on the Thames is surely dynamic enough to absorb the change without breaking a sweat.
Greater Manchester, as the new capital of the United Kingdom, would gain extra momentum and skilled employment; ultimately helping to boost Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and many other Northern cities too. Birmingham would benefit from its equidistance between the country’s Northern and Southern powerhouses. The alternative is perhaps continued concentration of growth, talent and infrastructure needs in London and the South East.
There is also the convincing argument that concentrating most of our policymakers and media in the South East inevitably distorts their decision-making and cultural perceptions (“They run one country, but effectively live in another.”) Were they to instead spend their time in the North of England, the transport and education problems there would be more visible – not least through their own travel and schooling needs.
Moving the capital near to the geographic centre of the UK might even help preserve the Union. With prices lower in the North of England, it could also reduce the cost of politics. And – to go full Lib Dem – perhaps a change of scenery for parliament would be an opportunity for a new voting system and other political reforms. The physical wiring of parliament is not the only part of our democracy in need of replacement.
Should the seat of national government be moved? And is it something the Lib Dems in particular should be calling for? Join the debate at the link below.
Originally published at http://www.libdemvoice.org/should-we-move-our-government-to-manchester-55127.html