London First, a lobby business group, plans to change its name in a bid to avoid an embarrassing clash with Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda, widely seen as putting the capital far from first.
The group, whose mission is “to make London the best city in the world in which to do business”, according to its website, has started a consultation process with old and existing members on its rebranding, in light of Boris Johnson’s plans to allocate investment more evenly around the country – and not just in the capital.
“We are doing a name change because the name looks inappropriate when everyone is talking about helping build up other (UK) towns and cities,” one person involved with the group told the Financial Times, which first reported the news.
“The name was meant to reflect London’s pre-eminence compared to other global cities like New York or Paris, but it could be easily misconstrued.”
City A.M. understands that although the organisation is only in the consultation phase, a name change is likely but that the organisation will continue to represent london business interests, regardless of whether ‘London’ is still part of its new name.
The exact goals or parameters of the prime minister’s “levelling up” agenda have been widely contested inside and outside the government, with housing and levelling up secretary Michael Gove recently describing it as “making opportunity more equal across the country”.
While “levelling up” is widely seen as a plan to redirect investment from London and the South East to other parts of the UK, Johnson has insisted that he does not intend for the plans to damage London.
But a London First spokesperson cited Brexit, the pandemic and a change of leadership as the prompt for a rebrand: “As we look out beyond Brexit and the pandemic, and with a new CEO at the helm, this the right time to refresh our brand so it reflects London’s future competitiveness and our capital’s role in driving recovery, jobs and growth for the whole of the UK.”
“London First was set up by business leaders in the 1990s when the capital in the doldrums. Today the capital is a powerhouse that works with and for the whole UK, and tops the global city rankings for economic heft,” the spokesperson added.
London First declined to share any frontrunners for the new title of the group.