Monday, 17 September 2007

The Centre of Power

Depending on exactly how you calculate it, the geographical centre of the UK is somewhere round Accrington in Lancashire. On the other hand, the political centre is London. As I was coming back into the capital on Sunday night, the idiocy of this came home to me. The entire South East is crowded, its infrastructure is straining, and it attracts a disproportionate amount of attention and resources. So let's move parliament and the major government departments to somewhere more representative. Accrington, say. I'm sure a nice big brownfield site could be found to re-develop, and the boost to the local economy (currently suffering from the decline of manufacturing) would be huge. Think of the opportunities for journalists, restaurants, pubs, and of course high class courtesans.

Meanwhile down South valuable land would be freed up, the exodus of people would depress housing prices, relieve some of the pressure on the South East's straining transport system, and most importantly of all refocus the government on the needs of the whole of the UK rather than just the parochial concerns of the South East. Admittedly administrative capitals that are not a major population centres tend to be pretty boring places -- think of Canberra, Ottawa, or Bonn pre 1999 -- but imagine the burst in artistic creativity once all those policy wonks, lobbyists and other government types aren't dragging down London's atmosphere. Blackburn and Burnley haven't got much of a scene to ruin either. We could keep the House of Commons as a tourist venue: it would make a fantastic museum. Surely the opportunity to knock down the Ministry of Defence, a building of positively Stalinist ugliness, is enough to wave the decision through by itself?

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