So, earlier this year – before Scotland, before the One North plan to link cities up across the Pennines – the Centre for Cities think tank hired YouGov to poll the residents of 16 British cities on their perceptions of London and its dominance of national politics. The results showed, basically, that everyone hated everyone else.
They also produced a couple of interesting maps showing their findings. Here’s one showing how respondents reacted when asked whether government’s decisions were too likely to be focused on London:
Well. That tells a story.
In all fairness, the colour scheme has been designed in such a way to accentuate the pattern here. The numbers for Leicester and Liverpool are actually quite similar; those for Sheffield and Hull are actually quite far apart. Draw the boundaries slightly differently, and the pattern would scream at you quite so much.
Nonetheless it’s clear that, to the first approximation, the further you get from London, the less likely you are to feel it represents your interests. Only half the population feel this even in Southend, less than 40 miles from the capital: this is a pretty damning indictment on the national government’s record.
So what happens if you flip the question round, and ask whether people agree that Whitehall is responsive to issues in respondents’ own cities?
Once again, the big thing to note is that – even in Southend and Brighton and Milton Keynes, places that are as much dormitory suburbs, as towns in their own right – a large majority think that London is ignoring them. Nonetheless, those who live within the London commuter zone are satisfied compared to those who live outside are.
On the whole, though, the picture here is a little cloudier. Residents of Southampton are notably grumpy (why, we’re not sure). Residents of Manchester, meanwhile, are notably cheerful. In a blog post last week, Centre for cities analyst Zach Wilcox credited this to that city’s ability to control its own destiny:
“Manchester’s recent City Deal and the continuous growth of its tram network, for example, demonstrate how city leaders have worked alongside Westminster to drive change and support the local economy. The city is benefiting from a combination of strong city-level leadership, working between 10 local authorities, as well as the additional powers and funding the city has received from National Government, which have driven additional investment and growth.
“Just as London’s strong performance has been supported by its unrivalled level of devolution, so too has Manchester thrived – and could continue to grow even further with additional powers.”
You can read more about this research here.
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