The news is that the most struggling cities in the UK are in the north. This is no surprise to anyone with any familiarity with the English regions. I’ve lived and worked in three English regions, as well as travelling/working elsewhere in Britain. I grew up in the North West but currently my time is divided mainly between the South West and the South East.
It’s true that London and its hinterland has no rival anywhere else in Britain; London is far bigger and busier than any other British city. The population density and the cost of living are both high in multiculti-max London, but it’s where the jobs and the money are found in Britain today. There’s a compelling reason why so many people want to be in or near to London.
I’d love to see a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ reality take place in 21st century Britain though for the foreseeable future it looks unlikely. Once-great Northern towns and cities prospered in the bygone days of major manufacturing and heavy industries such as mining. I can’t help thinking that only a return to these will restore the fortunes of the North. I might also say that a British exit from the EU could only help the economic prospects of provincial England (assuming the Government genuinely wills/acts to boost business in the regions).
It’s depressing to visit deteriorating towns such as Wigan, Leigh or Rochdale in Lancashire. The widespread return of primary and secondary industry might raise them up again; moreover, the revival of Christian faith in the hearts of large numbers of people, if it happens, as it has happened historically in Britain, would work wonders in the North. It’s very simple: the dead and dying need to be given new life.
One of the most depressing sights I ever saw in the North came on a grim day about three years ago when I visited the vast derelict site of the former Perseverance Mills nylon manufactory in Padiham, near Burnley – before the site’s current owners cleared some of the mountains of rubble and rubbish.
I was researching the story of Pertex nylon manufacturing, which was pioneered by Perseverance Mills Limited. It is one of many sad stories of British manufacturing industry which should have remained a British triumph to this day, however mismanagement of the business saw the runaway success story of Pertex fabric lost to Lancashire as it went instead to the benefit of a conglomerate in Japan. It was the senseless and stupid loss of a successful British fabric manufacturer with a brilliant product.
The Perseverance site may eventually end up as housing, but what will those living in Padiham do for paid work? How can there be any prosperity in Padiham, or in hundreds of other similar places in Britain, without well-paid work?
I’m afraid that far from building a Northern Powerhouse, what I see is Britain deteriorating further into a low-wage, low-skill economy with a large number of long-term unemployed people living in the worst poverty. If there is any hope, which I believe there is, it resides only in a return to those things which caused the growth and prosperity of Northern towns and cities in times past – namely the Protestant religion and the industry with integrity of factory, farm, mine and mill.