Birmingham's national and international role: UK's rail hub and an outstanding seat of learning
And it is a very local storm. It's of little or no interest to most Brummies, and zilch interest beyond. Moreover, it shouldn't divert us from the bigger picture. Birmingham has the opportunity of playing on a national and international stage.
The real importance of HS2 is not that London and Birmingham are half an hour or so closer, important though that is. Nor about Curzon Street and the development (or not) of Eastside. It's that Birmingham will thereby become the nation's rail hub.
This must not be a stretch-too-far for our traditionally auto-obsessed city, rather an acknowledgement of the really significant advantage we have simply because of our geography.
(Our geography was a disadvantage until the late 19th century, hence Brum is a comparatively new British city. With transport connectivity, however, a different aspect of our geography -- our location -- becomes the big advantage.)
Adonis mentioned our poor educational levels in the city. What has that, you may ask, to do with the New Optimists scientists I bang on about in this blog? I'll make three points:
- First, if you raise the education level, just in maths, of the lowest achieving in a population, it seems there a significant beneficial impact on GDP. Getting our kids more numerate matters.
- Secondly, if, in a city like ours there are few natural resources, along with a decaying industrial legacy, the one certain asset we have is our people. Ours is a young city with diverse cultures -- that says rich talent, for the most part rich, untapped talent which we can invest in.
- Thirdly, we already have a vibrant student population in the city, and some excellent research, some of which with global impact. But we don't have the reputation of Oxbridge or, say, Imperial and UCL. But, notably but not exclusively through Aston, Birmingham and Warwick, we have the potential to be a centre of international standing, to be at the forefront of intellectual debate in the 21st century.
Local squabbles? Yes, of course they happen. And, in truth, can send a frisson of delighted shock through the marrow. But they are inward-looking, a diversion of energy and effort . . . and mustn't divert us from bigger, important issues.
Will we speak with one voice on these complex issues? Of course not! There will be a healthy cacophony of debate, dissension, disagreement, diversity. Bring it on!