Monday, 18 January 2010


Poor old Hull. It usually fares pretty badly in lists of desirable UK cities. A report today showed it is suffering most from the effects of the recession. Brighton, on the other hand, is the best place to be for economic growth. The ‘Cities Outlook 2010’ report said the English cities most likely to suffer longest from the downturn were Stoke, Burnley, Barnsley and Doncaster. On the other hand, the best places to be are Milton Keynes, Reading and Cambridge. Spot a trend? Northern cities will struggle, southern cities will prosper.

This is hardly surprising considering that most of the northern towns are still suffering the effects of industrial decline and the southern areas mentioned have economies based more around services. Another point is that they are not only closer to London, but generally much better connected by transport links.

Hull claims it is being victimised as the data does not include its more prosperous areas on the outskirts. It must be noted that the city is surrounded by Grimsby and Cleethorpes, which are hardly thriving economies either. Looking at Brighton, it’s well-connected despite being at the bottom of the country, has a strongly educated workforce and a solid private sector.

So what do we do about this divide? It’s not really acceptable that many northern cities are still suffering from the fall of industrial Britain. That’s something that should have been sorted out years ago, but the unemployment rate has continued to rise and will not get any better until well after the recession finishes. The government needs to ensure that their spending prioritises cities like Hull, as although I like being a southerner, it’s about time the country was a bit more economically even.

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It’s an absolute tragedy that Sunday Mirror journalist Rupert Hamer died in Helmand. I’ve read a variety of biographies by current and former foreign correspondents such as Kate Adie, Jeremy Bowen and Jon Snow, which has confirmed to me what a dangerous but important job they do. Media executives will meet with Ministry of Defence officials on Wednesday to discuss war reporting in Afghanistan and I can only hope they reach an agreement that will go some distance to trying to avoid another media casualty.

It’s vital that we get to hear what is going on in foreign conflicts from our own reporters, and the death of one journalist shouldn’t deter this. When war reporters go abroad they know what they are getting themselves in for. As HR Knickerbocker once said: "Whenever you find hundreds and thousands of sane people trying to get out of a place and a little bunch of madmen trying to get in, you know the latter are reporters".