Leading article: Two nations once more

Share
Related Topics

The North-South divide has faded from the public imagination recently. The renaissance of cities such as Manchester and Newcastle has been so striking that many have forgotten how derelict they looked in the 1980s, after the Thatcher government's abrupt withdrawal of state aid for traditional industries created mass unemployment.

Those who remember those divisive times would not wish them back, which is why it is worrying that the old divide may be reasserting itself. Figures produced by the Centre for Economic and Business Research predict that unemployment will rise beyond 10 per cent in the North, the West Midlands and Wales over the next five years, while London and the South-east's share of total business activity will jump to 20 per cent, up from 16 per cent in the mid-1990s.

Ten per cent is not high by the standards of some EU partners, admittedly. What is disturbing is the trend and a fear that the figures could be optimistic. We still don't know where George Osborne's spending cuts will fall. All will be revealed when the Chancellor releases the spending review in October. But we know the reductions will be deep and significant. While no one disputes the need to lower the deficit, sharp falls in public spending, delivered across the board, will hit regions like the North hardest. This is because the proportion of the population there working in the public sector is far higher than in the South.

Political self-interest as well as the national interest should compel the Chancellor and Prime Minister David Cameron to think carefully. The Tories were almost wiped out in the North in the 1980s as a result of the Thatcher government's apparent indifference to the impact that its policies were having. Mr Cameron will not wish to see the Tories' modest recovery in the North annihilated for the same reason. He must also be well aware of the strain it would place on his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners if regions like the North were to suffer unduly as a result of cuts.

He and the Chancellor should think of ways to calibrate the imposition of spending cuts, taking into account their overall effect on regions. Cuts in the number of civil servants should be less severe in those regions where unemployment is highest. Some might call such measures unfair, privileging certain categories of people on the basis of where they live. The alternative could be a return to the blighted urban landscapes of the 1980s. The choice should be clear.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam