Letter from the editor: i on Britain

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The Independent Online

Of all the complaints that hit my desk – not that there are many, you understand – the one that hurts most is when readers accuse this paper of being too Londoncentric, of ignoring the great cities of provincial Britain.

As a proud Mancunian, I find this especially hurtful. When the country’s political and economic power is based almost exclusively in the capital, it’s difficult sometimes for a newspaper based in London to peer outside the M25 area. Nevertheless, we are a national paper (and about to become international, but more about that over the next couple of days) and I am particularly keen that we strive to reflect what matters to readers who live beyond the Metropolitan Line.

If you come from Manchester, you tend to wear your pride on your sleeve. Some people call it chippiness, but what do they know? We’ve never believed that Birmingham should be regarded as England’s second city. All right, we’ll give you the Industrial Revolution and Spaghetti Junction. And Jasper Carrott and Bill Oddie. But beyond that, what has been Birmingham’s cultural contribution to the nation? Can it compete with the Halle Orchestra, L S Lowry, Joy Division, The Smiths, the Gallaghers, the Royle Family, Steve Coogan, Ryan Giggs and Bernard Manning (OK, possibly not him)?

And I don’t see why the people at the BBC should complain about being relocated to the north. They should be glad to escape the hellish commutes and the horrendous house prices of the capital. What they might find less palatable is moving to a city at the sharp end of the Coalition’s cuts.

Manchester City Council yesterday announced the closure of leisure centres, libraries and public lavatories, plus the loss of 2,000 jobs in the public sector. It is a story we report on page 6. For Manchester, you will be able to read Sheffield or Bristol or Portsmouth in the weeks and months to come as the reality of the cuts becomes apparent. And rest assured that, throughout, i will be covering this story and its impact on life in every corner of our nation.