London draining life out of rest of country - Vince Cable

Vince Cable

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London "is becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the country", Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned.

Mr Cable made the comment while saying that he believed regional airports should be expanded rather than London's Heathrow Airport.

The Lib Dem minister told BBC Radio 4's Today some "more balance" was needed.

But Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Mr Cable's assertion was "stupefying and ridiculous".

And Labour criticised the coalition for "dismantling" regional developments agencies, arguing that its alternative approach to addressing economic imbalances in the UK had been "feeble".

Mr Cable, whose constituency includes Heathrow flight paths, has long opposed plans for a new runway there.

Start Quote

It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that”

End Quote Chuka Umunna Shadow business secretary

He was speaking after Sir Howard Davies' Airport Commission shortlisted three options for expanding UK airport capacity, two of which involved Heathrow.

With much of the business world in favour of more airport capacity in south-east England, Mr Cable was asked whether he stuck by his opposition to expansion at his local airport.


He said: "What this report is doing [is] trying to reconcile two different things.

"One is to try to ensure that, for the economic interests of the country, we have more connection to the big emerging markets.

"On the other hand we have hundreds of thousands of people in London living under the flight path with very serious issues of noise.

"All the parties have made it very clear that we can't make that problem worse."

The "way forward", he argued, was to make "more use of provincial airports".

Mr Cable described Sir Howard's report as "very well argued".

But he added: "One of the big problems that we have at the moment, which I don't think the report sufficiently addresses, is that London is becoming a kind of giant suction machine, draining the life out of the rest of the country.

"More balance in that respect would be helpful."

Key figures for London and UK compared

Shadow business secretary and Labour MP for Streatham in London, Chuka Umunna, said: "It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that - Regional Development Agencies - then put feeble substitutes in their place in the form of Local Enterprise Partnerships which they gave no powers to nor appropriate budgets."

The London mayor, who also opposes Heathrow expansion, described Mr Cable as "the cabinet minister in charge of supposedly growing the UK economy".

He argued: "He's talking rubbish. I'm amazed and I fundamentally disagree. In fact the opposite is true: London now contributes more to UK GDP than ever before.

"This city is the motor of the UK economy, and the gateway to recovery across the country, attracting record levels of overseas investment, all of which is helping not hindering recovery.

"Far from being a drain on the the rest of the UK London is helping to drive job creation and growth outside the capital as well as in it."

The BBC's former economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, explored the issue of London v provincial cities in this film for BBC One's The Editors

During the Today programme interview Mr Cable made clear that he would argue "ferociously" in government against Heathrow expansion but said it was not a matter over which he would be prepared to resign.

The final Airports Commission report is due by summer 2015, after the next general election.

The rise and fall of unemployment around the UK since 2005
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Claimant count - June 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1317.

    We live in London but we want to show our son the rest of the UK (& the world). The countryside is nice but most of the other UK cities are awful; fat girls hiking up grim streets, all so miserable & drinking & smoking themselves to death. I asked where we might go for New Year’s Eve (last yr it was Dubai). I said “We could go somewhere in Britain.” He just laughed. We’re going to Miami.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1316.

    Go to America you see skyscrapers, development in a lot of cities , it's not all about New York.

    In UK it looks like investment including government money is first put into 1 city - London .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1315.

    Middle income Londoners haven't yet realised that they don't share the prosperity of the City and have nothing to celebrate.The best parts of London were taken from them years ago and sold to the highest bidders ..Russian oligarchs, Arab property speculators. The rest has been overrun by sharp witted, ambitious young immigrants who they have no hope of competing with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1314.

    I think London should just go independent. The rest of the country can get rid of all these annoying leaches that we call politicians and Scotland won't have to leave. Win Win!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1313.

    Back in the 70s the same was said of Birmingham. It was, apparently, sucking the life out of the rest of the Midlands and the North. Cue a raft of policies aimed to curb that growth and shift it elsewhere. Well the first bit worked, but the second bit didn't.

    So before we hobble London we'd want to be sure its success is transferable. I don't think it's that simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1312.

    I've had a shuftie on this page several times today

    A certain section of frequent posters seem to have slipped up.

    I haven't noticed Ken Livingston being denigrated and blamed for everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1311.


    "London draining life out of rest of country"

    Another whinging and grandstanding Yorkshire man who should go back home..

    Thank's for the kind offer but you can keep him. He was stripped of his citizenship when he sold out to the Conservatives.

    No need to thank us for donating Eric Pickles and William Hague to you, neither. Quite literally!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1310.

    The Govt should have an immediate freeze on all spending on London. Recently 25 million pounds was spent paving some streets in Kensington. This theft -on a collossal scale has to stop. Londoners mistake economic success with investment - in effect they believe their own BS . There is plenty of spare airoport capacity at Manchester - why make the worlds busiest airport even busier?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1309.

    I'm a freelance network analyst and before 2008 most of my work was in the city of London but I live in the North West. It used to cost me 180 pounds return on the train, it now costs 330 and a hotel room in London sets me back around 180 pounds a night. Clients won't pay these costs so since 2010 I've had just 1 months work in the city and I've had to retrain so that I can work in other areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1308.

    A previous Tory PM (she shall remain nameless), decided that our economy would become entirely dependent on the service sector which is based in London and to h*ll with anything else, like manufacturing etc. Every other government since has followed this model regardless of the colour of their rosettes. All other G7 countries have major manufacturing centres spead thoughout their countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1307.

    Market forces have made London what it is- the trading hub- closest to Europe.Cable talks like King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in.Legislation to artificially promote Birmingham or Glasgow will cost. London may be a noisy city but that's a problem that should be combatted with new technology -quieter planes etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1306.


    It's 7%? I think if you look under the hood that a majority of that 7% are clingers on and yes-men. 1% is nearer the mark. Some researchers have studied it in detail and have found that it is barely 6000 families worldwide that hold the vast amount of power, even if the wealth is 'contained' within their companies.

    If a nuke were dropped on London, I wouldn't be sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1305.

    That the truly beautiful parts of the country aren't easily accessible to tourists is part of their charm. Any sensible person would rather take in the Lake District or Brecon Beacons.

    That said, the whole country would surely be better off if there were a network of major cities rather than the eggs in one basket model we seem to be stuck with at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1304.

    Well said. Reporters & the rest of the country don't understand or choose to ignore the reality for Londoners like us. Only the super rich £ those on benefits can afford to live here. The rest of Londoners on modest wages struggle & are priced out of the capital. Yet we are the people who keep the city running. Sad yet true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1303.

    6 Hours ago
    Like it or not London generates a significant proportion of the country's wealth and unless we improve the airport infrastructure in the South East then we will risk losing more business to otehr EU nations...'

    Why would we lose out to other EU nations? Is it because they are not as centralised as we in the UK are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1302.

    A thought for those Londoners who think nobody outside the M25 matters, and sneer at the viability of an independent Scotland. Let London declare independence, and see how they get on without the rest of us providing much of their workforce, their airports, transport links and manufactured goods. And we'd be free of Westminster politics at last - yippee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1301.

    London's so terrible, blah, blah, blah...............that's why so many people want to live here. Cable has always, always been an idiot, engaging mouth before thinking. Funny that his seat would be affected by Heathrow expansion. Maybe he could stand for a seat in say Carlise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1300.

    I don't think the pro-London commentators appreciate just how much the country is set up in the capital's favour. The motorway and rail networks and airports are organised for getting to and from London but it's often very hard to get between other parts of the UK. People in the "provinces" often have to make long detours via London stations or travel for hours to the London airports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1299.

    Unfortunately London is feeling the corrosion and break down of the Victorian and early 20th century infrastructure it's built upon. The constant patch and paint job on infrastructure hides the fact that London has never really wiped the slate clean and started again. The Olympic games were probably one of the few times this happened on a large scale, but not something to change everyday living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1298.

    Most of the large capital spending projects have been in London, e.g., the Olympics, Cross Rail, London gateway. add to that HS2 and intermidable airport expansion. There is very little large projects outside london now.

    Boris Johnston's comments are entirely predicatble.


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