Referendums seem rather in vogue. Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, has had the temerity to liken the impending Crimean vote on leaving Ukraine to Scotland’s date with destiny in September. (It isn’t, at all, and here’s why). The comparison was a reminder of another strange argument for the break-up of England – into London and the rest. And presumably a referendum of sorts to seal the deal.
The theory goes that London may be just two hours away by train from Leeds, in the north of England, “but it feels like a trip to another country.” This, mainly because London has all these sushi bars and a great transport system; Leeds has fried chicken takeaways and no mass transit system to speak of. London, goes the argument, should be an independent city state, something along the lines of Singapore (in structure, not authoritarianism). It should cede from the rest of Britain because everywhere else is so appalling provincial; so insular and dreadfully unsophisticated.
I disagree. Oh I know the fish and mushy peas takeaways and how much I (a visually distinct minority as the British Home Office once used to classify us ‘people of colour’) stand out in parts of that green and pleasant land. But as someone with a vested interest (and a home) in London , it’s a moot point if the megapolis doesn’t shine all the brighter for the islands of darkness all around.