Mind The Gap: London Vs The Rest

Confirmed for BBC Two on 3 March at 9.00pm to 10.00pm

Ep 1/2

Monday 3 March



While much of the UK still struggles after the financial crash, one city is thriving. Money, companies and people are pouring into London like never before. Why is the capital so dominant? Is its success good or bad for Britain? And what should the rest of the country do?

Evan Davis explores the story of the economic forces polarising Britain in this new two-part series for BBC Two.

London generates more than a fifth of Britain’s income and is pulling away from the rest of the country. While much of Britain struggles after the crash, Evan unwraps the economic formula propelling London from strength to strength.

And he meets winners and losers in Britain’s changing economic geography – including a man who commutes from Stockport to London most weeks; London Mayor Boris Johnson, who likens the city to an anemone, a tadpole and a jar of jam; the chef behind the global Zuma restaurant empire; and the property developer selling a house in Mayfair for £40 million.

The capital flourishes partly because it attracts more than its share of talented people. Graduates make up 58 per cent of the city’s work force, compared with 38 per cent in the working age population in the rest of the UK.

In redeveloped Kings Cross, Evan shows how agglomeration economics fuels London’s success. At the new Francis Crick scientific research institute, he explores how working in proximity to others enables copying, collaborating and competing – which promote productivity. Nearby, Google is moving in because they like the neighbours – the Central St Martins art school.

With foreign money flowing into London like never before, the city has become a global hub. Evan meets one of Malaysia’s most successful property developers, the largest investor in the transformation of Battersea Power Station into flats and shops. What if all this foreign investment turns out to be not just easy come, but easy go?

There are challenges ahead. The city struggles to fit in all the people it attracts – seen in London’s rising property prices. In the Elephant and Castle, Evan explores how, as the rich come in, they potentially push out the less wealthy.

In tunnels being built under London for Crossrail, the capital’s newest rail line, Evan explores the final dilemma the city’s success raises for Britain: should we continue to feed London’s growth with public spending on new infrastructure even if it means our economy continues moving south?