Originally published for The Independent
Londoners, none of us outside your city care about the tube strike – so stop featuring it in national news
Endless coverage about how Dan from Shoreditch couldn’t get the bus to work seems to have eclipsed news like the mass water poisoning in Lancashire.
Keep Calm and Carry On: apparently no other city across the UK embodies this phrase better than London. A city that doesn’t sweat the small stuff; it just gets on with things – stiff upper lip and all that. So why, just why, when tube drivers (rightly) go on strike, does the place crumble and all the whiney cry-babies come sneaking out the woodwork, horrified that they’ve had to walk to work for 24 hours? Headlines capturing commuters’ ‘ordeals’, trending topics on Twitter, live blogs (yes, really) chronicling how people are coping – the rest of the country ends up knowing exactly what is happening in London, whether we want to or not.
Meanwhile, over in Lancashire, including my hometown, residents are now entering their fourth week of undrinkable water. Those living in Blackpool, Flyde, Chorley and Preston have been warned not to drink tap water due to traces of microscopic bug which can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhoea. You may have missed this news because, well, it didn’t really make the national news.
Perhaps the London-centric media are shocked that Lancashire had running water in the first place and this has all been too much to process and stopped them reporting on it. One can but assume that’s what it is. Whereas we endured 24 hour rolling coverage about how hard it was for Dan from Shoreditch to get a bus to his work (most likely a digital media agency; it’s always a digital media agency), the North West hasn’t been inundated with hordes of national reporters. Neither have our timelines been filled with ‘shocking’ pictures of various people brushing their teeth with a bottle of Evian.
Before unions rightfully stuck up for their working rights and went on strike, you couldn’t move for thought pieces from journalists about London was ‘over’ and they were leaving post-haste. Flicking through these pieces when you’re actually in the north makes for a very confusing time.
“Have these guys only just realised there’s a country outside London? They can’t have only just clocked that you can have a decent career without having to spend £700 a month to rent a cat litter box in a dodgy area?” we ask each other, scratching our heads in bemusement. “Moreover, how have they got themselves a national platform to chat about their discovery? Why would anyone outside of London be interested in this?” When I left Preston for Liverpool I updated my Facebook status with news of my relocation and even deemed that a bit self-indulgent. I would never expect a national publication to be interested in 500 words from me on why I had outgrown a town.
Look, I know when London ‘gave’ us the BBC back in 2012 we should have stopped our moaning about inequality up here. And yes, Tories have uttered the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ enough times to ensure that the North / South divide is almost certainly to become a thing of the past within minutes. Granted, no one is quite sure what a Northern Powerhouse is, let alone whether we actually have one. To me, it sounds like the name of a wrestler performing at the back of a working men’s club in Bolton – but I’m assured it’s actually related to business and improving prosperity in the North. And I’m sure the politicians in their Westminster bubble really, really care about it, as if it were their mother in geographical form.
London is one of the world’s biggest cities, I’ll concede, what happens there is more likely be more newsworthy than a village fete in Burnley. But sometimes, just sometimes, can you keep some stories just for the Evening Standard? We don’t need to hear your precious moans about Transport for London when the rest of us are condemned to the vagaries of Northern Rail. How I wish those guys would go on strike and give me an excuse not to use them.
See also: In Defence of Living Up North