Is The Guardian plotting a move back to its Manchester roots? The British media bubble mustered about two minutes of excitement at the suggestion, first mooted in The Times. A spokesperson for the paper didn’t exactly rule the idea out, maybe because it’s a great one. Here’s why.
The centre of economic gravity in the UK – London – is strengthening its position by the minute. But, northerners know something else is afoot. They caught a whiff of it in the outcome of EU referendum vote, they feel it in the devolution deals popping up across the regions and they watch Scotland with bated breath for more of it.
It’s a substantial change to the geography of the UK, and we need media that are up to the job of scrutinising and making sense of these shifts of power, people and politics.
When the paper decided to beef up its northern coverage with three new reporters in 2015, editor-in-chief Katherine Viner said: “we’ll be…adding a northern perspective to national and global conversations.”
Too right. Those northern perspectives are going to be among the driving forces of the newly configured Great Britain, and having brilliant reporters on the doorstep is going to be essential.
The Economist’s “Bagehot” columnist Jeremy Cliffe gave brilliant food for thought in his recent call to move the Houses of Parliament from London to Manchester. Among the smart economic reasons put forward was a social reason that might resonate with the Guardian’s owners, The Scott Trust.
The idea, in a nutshell, is that right wing populism (arch nemesis of The Guardian’s liberal values) has found more success in countries with concentrated elites, such as Paris, Stockholm and Budapest. Such politics has found places with dispersed elites – like Canada, Spain and Belgium – much harder to crack.
If Guardian is mulling a move north it should and could be about more than saving a few quid. The idea the swap would be one of out-of-touch metropolitanism for the gritty realism of the north is spurious. Northern cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are globally-facing metropolitan centres, and the Guardian would feel at home.