Thursday, 29 April 2010

Should Nottingham be the Capital of the UK?

Seeing as the blog seems to be taking a markedly political turn, here is my offering for the day...

As you are probably aware, the 1980s was a period of very extensive economic restructuring for Western economies. After the collapse of the post war Social Democratic consensus in the 1970s, the Thatcher government implemented a range of policies designed to make British workers more ‘efficient’. These included anti Trade Union legislation, the sub-contacting out of local government services and the removal of employee rights to make labour markets more ‘flexible’.

However, at the very centre of the Thatcherite weltanschauung was a commitment to protect the international reputation of the City of London through a range of macro-economic strategies designed to ensure that the UK’s position in the international division of labour was tied to the logic of finance capital. In Thatcherite ideology, the entrepreneurial values of the city were seen as the antidote to the waning of spirit of British industrial culture. However, beneath the Thatcherite rhetoric there was a rather different story; a story of those damaged and displaced by these economic changes - especially the long-term unemployed in the UKs peripheral regions.

In fact, it was the northern regions of the UK that suffered most from Thatcherite political strategies of deindustrialisation. Culturally, the north of England has always been something of bastion for left-leaning anti-establishment political mores. It has largely rejected the cosy registers of the traditional forms of English nationalism and, historically, it has looked to the Labour Party, especially the left of the Labour Party, to represent its interests at the national political table. As such, it has tended to articulate its politics in broadly Marxist and/or Social-Democratic terms.

In the North it is generally understood that the deregulated model of economic development - that meets the needs of the economy of the South East - is inappropriate in a region that has very different economic goals and priorities. Moreover the neo-liberal financial services led growth model that was pioneered by the City of London is now widely understood to be entirely unsuitable, not only for the North but for the UK as a whole. Nearly everyone agrees that what the country needs today is an industrial strategy and that this is radically at odds with the finance-driven neo-liberal zeitgeist.

However, we cannot begin to contest this and transform the political landscape in the UK without taking on the entrenched power of the City of the London. As we have seen one of the key problems here is the cosy relation that has existed between the UK government and the City. Why then not separate these powers - that is separate economic from adminsitrative power? Let London keep the City; but move the government out into the provinces!

Where? Well Nottingham must have a good case. It is central, a border town between north and south; and also an ancient city with castle where government is already allowed to sit in case of an emergency.

Moving the capital to Nottingham would be the first step in developing a form of politics in the UK no longer mired in pernicious political interests of the City.

Neil Turnbull


  1. An excellent idea. It will never happen of course, but how interesting. It would certainly aid, not only the north's economy but its culture as well. In countries where there is a division between the political and financial capitol there is a greater sense of pride in the fact that one city does not hold a monopoly on the means of an entire country. Italy has milan and rome, the netherlands amsterdam and the hague, the us, new york and washington and many more that prove a country can have two centres, leagues apart...

    on a side point... as a student and one who grew up far from the coal mines of nottingham's satellite towns I never consider the destruction caused by the demise of the regions primary industry... I was reading the other day that nottingham will take many more decades to recover from the loss of the mines and textile mills.

  2. If a possibility occurs, they'd rather make Manchester or Birmingham the capital, yet again, Nottingham would benefit from this. But yeah, there's a castle here, so why not make Nottingham the capital? But, Lincoln has castles too.

    What's more there can be a historical reason to not make Nottingham a capital: its real ancestory is Danish, not Saxon.

  3. thats like saying that london's real ancestry is roman or celtic so shouldnt be the capital. besides, most of east englanders are descended from the vikings of the danelaw. danish is part of english heritage...

  4. I like this, it's a strange mix of 'totally barmy' and 'really quite sensible'.

    But is it more than protectionism with clever new smoke and mirrors attached?

  5. Yes, it can appear slightly silly; but it is a really serious proposal.

    Remember that in 1997 the current Labour government was elected with a mandate to pursue constitutional reform; and one important aspect of the new reform agenda was to explore the possibility of devolving political power away from London to the English regions.

    Of course New Labour was essentisally a centralising political project (Scotland and Wales notwithstanding) and they largely reneged on the agenda of consitutiional refrom - the one truly radical policy proposalof the New Labour era.

    I think that we need to resurrect this agenda again - especially after the likely New Labour castration on May 6th.

    So let's develop a politics that takes on the concentration of political and economic power in the South East and demand a federalist solution to the political problems of the UK a la USA, Germany, Australia etc - all in the name of autonomy for the English regions and a populist politics of ordinary people and their families....

    Neil Turnbull

  6. federalist? that's a more workable idea... have nottingham as the capital of the east midlands, which would become an actual administrative region etc... the problem is, a lot of regions budgets are subsidised by the south east. I would suggest a simple change in political seat, perhaps manchester would be mores suitable though.

  7. Not exactly - federalist political systems usually locate their capitals in rather 'politically innocuous' cities..

    Think of Washington, Canberra, Ottowa etc

    Manchester has lots of rival cities to contend with, so this would be highly divisive choice...

    Nottingham is much more suitable in this regard...

    York is another possibility, but it is probably too far north...

    Neil Turnbull