The government’s levelling up agenda is a short-term gimmick – real change requires at least 50 years

I remain optimistic that answers will be found. But politicians need to focus their efforts on thinking about the long run, writes Jagjit Chadha

Sunday 08 March 2020 19:55
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Regularly placed as one of the worst places to live in the UK, Bradford was once one of the richest cities in the world
Regularly placed as one of the worst places to live in the UK, Bradford was once one of the richest cities in the world

Here is a little cultural quiz. Which UK city was mentioned in TS Eliot’sThe Waste Land” as having silk-hatted millionaires? Was the birthplace of Frederick Delius, born of wealthy German immigrant stock? To help, these references are lodged in that period when British influence in the world was at a peak. To help you further, this city is now regularly placed as one of the worst places to live in the UK.

Once hailed as one of the richest in the world, that city is Bradford. And its fall in relative economic strength is closely linked to its decline in cultural esteem. But its long relative decline is precisely not the result of one event or policy error, but a tragedy played out against world events mired in a lack of appropriate planning and sustained policy responses that have acted to undermine its rank.

The long, relative decline of the northern cities such as Bradford reflects our failure to have dealt with the big economic issues of our time. The structural reforms of the 1980s involved de-industrialisation, privatisations and labour market reforms that should have left the economy able to respond well with the subsequent period of intense international competition wrought by globalisation. But the increasing focus on the provision of international financial services left the economy vulnerable to the excesses revealed by the global financial crisis and further centralised economic and political power in London.

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