Monday, 17 August 2009

Waugh jealous of the Scots for having a bit more Darling

Another week and another face in the temp job of all temp jobs as Alistair Darling covers for Gordon Brown during the summer holiday.

And what's this? A couple of Tories trying to make mud stick by whinging about Darling running the country from Edinburgh rather than London. Because Scotland isn't part of the UK is it?

Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard blogged about it, exclaiming: "If a minister is tasked to 'mind the shop', doesn't it make sense to have him actually behind the counter? Imagine if the chief exec of a major corporation took a summer holiday only to find his deputy was taking calls from home."

I can't be sure, but from the rest of the article it sounds like Waugh is suggesting Darling should be running the country from London, but why does that even matter? Who says that the 'counter' is in London, or indeed that there even is one, seeing as most of the UK is actually outside that southern shithole? If politicians actually got out of the capital more often they'd be a bit more in touch with the rest of the population. It's a quiet time of the year and as long as Darling is dealing with the matters at hand, rather than playing Call of Duty or whatever it is MPs do with their time off, I don't care if he's in London, Edinburgh or John O'-bloody-Groats.

I wasn't even going to blog about it, it being such a triviality, but then I saw this article about Oxford airport changing their name to London-Oxford Airport because their own city's world-renowned heritage is obviously worthless unless they align themselves with London.

Which led me back to this rambling text from a Facebook note I wrote a few weeks ago in response to lots of uni friends flocking to the Big Smoke:

It seems everyone is getting sucked into London. It's almost like it's some kind of black hole, drawing in everybody that slips beyond the event horizon, which seems to be the English border.

There's a lot I like about London. I love its vibrancy, plethora of things to do, mix of cultures, languages and people. I don't doubt Samuel Johnson when he opined "when a man is bored of London, he is bored of life". It has a certain intoxicating effect, like heroin (I assume...)

But, there are many things I don't like about London. The sheer size of it gets to me. The fact there are so many people rushing around in their own world. I know it's a hackneyed thing to say, but it breeds a kind of selfishness.

Furthermore, there's an obscene amount of money there, something I just can't tolerate and Central London is simply a conveyor belt of soul destroying clone stores overrun with tourists and suits, amongst other things that grate me, but London's failings aren't the subject of my ire.

What gets to me most is this overarching sense of centrality, that London is the be all and end all of the UK, that if you want to succeed you must go the way of Dick Whittington and pack you and your moggy off to Shoreditch.

I don't understand the fascination with joining the rat run, becoming one of 7 million anonymous cogs all after some kind of London Dream, that many don't attain. Fair enough if you already live there, have friends, family etc. or have been offered a job, but there are many more young cities around the UK (or even abroad) offering similar opportunities and exciting playgrounds, albeit on a smaller scale.

I know it can be hard to avoid going there. I think I want to get into something political[never!], which inevitably means moving to London, but if I want to spread the word around the grassroots and help fight causes on the ground that means getting out of the London bubble.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, let's spread our wings beyond the capital. There are cities like Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, York and Newcastle (I hear good things about Glasgow too) undergoing something of a renaissance, turning into major cultural centres and spawning great businesses and organisations. Hell, even Leicester is beginning to pull its socks up!

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have something on a par with the National Opera, National Theatre, Tate Modern etc elsewhere around the country, not just in one other city, but every city. Let's end London's monopoly being the creative hub and share the 'wealth' across the land. I'd rather go to one of these emerging cities and help build a new community, doing its own thing, forming new scenes with their own ideas. Does nobody else see that? Where's the pioneer spirit?

Somebody said in a comment: "Its embaressing how little we value our other fantastic cities in comparison to places on the continent. That coupled with the fact that London embodies so much about what is wrong with capitalism, im suprised that young people dont move out rather than in."

That hits the nail on the head and is kind of what I was getting at. Where are our Barcelonas, Milans, Munichs etc? Does anybody agree with me, or should I just relent and suck from London's plump, heroin-abundant mammary glands?


  1. I don't know what Waugh's problem with Edinburgh is. It's full of the damn English anyway! (Especially during festival season)
    Don't think I can handle more 48 hours in London without feeling the pauldry insignificance of being just 1 in 7 million occupying a relatively small space. Leicester is the city of dreams! ;-)

  2. *Sigh*

    I thought the Tories called themselves the Conservative and Unionist Party.