Recently my son asked a question about where the north south divide is in England. This is not a uniquely English question as many countries old and new have some form of catological/social divide: In the latest incarnation of Germany there is both a North/South divide, similar to the England/Scotland divide as well as an East West divide; In the United States they have a line on a map, the Mason/Dixon line but in England it is a lot more complex – just where does the North start? The easiest answer is the River Trent – anything north of the Trent is in the north – quite simple really. Another way of dividing the country is distance from London: By train I can get to the centre of London in just over an hour – does this mean I live in the south? If it does then there are many places in the commuter belt live in the north! Academic papers have been written about this and one of the most recent placed Birmingham in the North.
Of course in this Brexit obsessed world another way of judging an area is whether they voted for Leave of Remain. If this is applied then the north is all over the place.
So is Birmingham in the North? I haven’t got the first clue but to me it certainly doesn’t feel as though it is. What the city centre does feel like is one huge building site with massive new office block sprouting up all over the place as well as the HS2 railway station. The 2022 Commonwealth games are being staged there too which no doubt is adding to the building mania.
Does this all matter? Well in one real sense it does because of the huge gravitational pull of London. If you are caught in that gravity well then you can expect to find the brightest young things being pulled towards the World City. If not too close then you can resist it but for only so long. Whether we or the EU like it or not it London, afterall, is the most dynamic and vibrant city in the whole of Europe. Where that leaves Birmingham is anyone’s guess but they certainly appear to be trying to do their best to maintain whatever distance they can from London – for now. Should HS2 ever get built then I am not sure that would continue.
As with all things Brexit there is that word again IF.