It is a strange and perverse mark of this government that it seems thoroughly uninterested in Britain’s most successful industries.
Financial services were broadly absent from the treaty with the European Union, and barely feature in the post-Brexit discussions instead dominated by debates over our mackerel catch. It seems in a semi-permanent state of war with our ‘soft power’ institutions, whether it’s the England football team or British pop stars.
And London, the only global city in the country and the driver of the economy, is either forgotten or criticised as somehow too modern, tolerant or forward-thinking for our brave new world. Yesterday’s ballyhooed announcement of the ‘leveling up’ paper by Michael Gove was designed to lay out what that phrase du jour actually meant.
On a quick read, it’s interventionist stuff: a new industrial cluster here, a massive injection of cash there. The aim, we are told, is to create ‘globally competitive cities’ in every region of the UK. It’s a worthy ambition, so our question is why Government seems so inclined to do the one they already have down.
We are heading, yet again, for crunch last-minute talks on a funding package to keep London moving. We do not yet know whether Transport for London will receive the long-term funding settlement it has been seeking for almost two years, a funding settlement that pales in comparison to the sums that will have to be put behind yesterday’s plan if it ever makes it to reality.
Without a deal, tubes will run less often, buses will have their routes shortened, vital upgrade work will be delayed and the capital will, in short, be a less appealing place to live, work and invest in. TfL commissioner Andy Byford has said at length that there is no UK recovery without a London recovery. Just because he’s said it a lot, and Whitehall seem deaf to it, doesn’t mean he isn’t correct.
The government can not level up by levelling down. It can prove that’s not the intention by keeping London moving.