James Moore: Why Tories need to mind the Watford Gap as they ignore north-south divide

Outlook:

Get set for a turbulent few days as America’s politicians prove that they can be every bit as childish as some of ours. The possibility of the government there shutting down is real, and even the prospect of its military going unpaid, not to mention the stuffing being knocked out of a recovery that was just picking up steam, may not be enough to get a deal done in Congress.

The UK economy would also be very badly served by an extended American imbroglio, which is a shame, given it too has been showing signs of life.

Some City commentators are even starting to whisper about a “sustained period of growth”. The trouble is it’s very patchy. 

Research suggests that London leasing activity has now clawed its way back to pre-financial crisis levels. But read that again: London leasing activity.

There are two problems with the UK recovery as it stands. The first, as I’ve written before, is that it isn’t yet translating into higher living standards.

Problem number two is that it is strikingly uneven. London is doing just fine, thank you very much. The City has flotations to deal with, people are renting office space again, money’s washing around the system.

You can see this in action at lunchtime in Canary Wharf. The bars and the restaurants are heaving... Carluccio’s, handily situated between the big banks and the Tube, never used to take bookings. It is doing so now to cope with demand.

Outside of London, however, the picture is more murky. The Conservatives may like to reflect on that as they gather north of Watford Gap where they are becoming an endangered species.

Measures such as forcing voluntary work upon the long-term unemployed might get retired colonels from the shires clapping their hands, while MPs try to defend the private companies they’re paying to do a questionable job of getting people into work.

But in reality the quickest way to get the “beneficiaries” of these policies into long-term employment might be providing them with bus fares south. If only there were places for them to live.

The problem facing large parts of the North is that there aren’t enough jobs for people who want them. A party that addressed this would likely reap more tangible rewards than it will get from playing to its own gallery.

America’s business players score over us

The NFL’s British invasion is a remarkable business story with lessons that ought to be pondered on this side of the pond.

Its product could have been a tough sell into a market dominated by football played with a round ball. American Football takes effort to appreciate (although not as much as its detractors claim) and jumpers for goalposts it ain’t. You need expensive equipment if you want to play.

So Channel Four initially screened it as something of a novelty to fill its Sunday night schedule, but the game found a serious following and the league scented an opportunity.

It struck, scheduling exhibition games in London. But fans felt short-changed. So it tried a developmental league whose games would at least be competitive. Again, fans said no (except in Germany). So it took the controversial step of coaxing teams to come and play proper games here. To which Britons have flocked.

It has also maximised the opportunity offered by Sky, while keeping its crown jewel (the Super Bowl) free-to-air. 

Now bringing a team here at some point is being seriously considered. The logistics appear extraordinarily challenging. But who’d bet against the NFL finding a way?

Therein lies the rub. The league’s vision is global. It has succeeded against the odds by trying things out, and then trying again when they haven’t worked.

Compare its persistence and willingness to learn with the recent retreats from the US of UK blue chips with apparently much easier products to sell, such as Tesco and Vodafone. Of course there were reasons for both, and I’m over-simplifying a little. US businesses also have a big advantage internationalising because if you’ve conquered the biggest market in the world others are easy by comparison.

All the same, if you compare the NFL’s dogged determination to plant its flag here with the flailing efforts of some UK firms over there, it’s easy to see why the US so often wins the Superbowl of business while the UK sits on the sidelines.

Cable’s persistence pays off for shareholders

From this morning companies will for the first time be subject to a legally binding vote on pay policies. Only once every three years, it’s true. Nonetheless this is significant. Shareholders will finally have the power to demand change, as opposed to simply registering protests through the current advisory votes on remuneration reports.

Elements in the City were bitterly opposed when Business Secretary Vince Cable decided to act, faced with growing public anger over packages that were (and are) becoming increasingly ridiculous at a time of economic hardship when few companies have done much for investors.

He pressed on, and now it’s over to the investment community, which does very well out of managing the savings and pensions of millions of Britons. But those institutions have only recently (and after great pressure) started to use their existing powers, let alone new ones, to protect clients’ interests.

And you only need to read one of Pirc’s newsletters to see that abuse is still rife, as myopic remuneration committees pass ever-greater sums over to venal executives. Mr Cable has handed institutions the power to call a halt, in the interests of those who pay their wages. Let’s see if they rise to the challenge, but Mr Cable may need to intervene again.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker