Monday, April 06, 2015

The danger now is that Leicester and the county will grow apart

I have another first person column in the Leicester Mercury today.

First Person: The danger now is that Leicester and the county will grow apart

The eyes of the world were on Leicester as we reintered Richard III, but one of the best parts of the week of celebrations was good precisely because it did not just involve the city.

Taking Richard’s bones to the site of the Battle of Bosworth and to the villages associated with it seemed an odd, almost primitive, idea when it was announced. But it turned out to be a triumph.

What we saw on the BBC News channel and heard on BBC Radio Leicester that Sunday was a civic England - councillors, ex-servicemen, Scouts and Brownies – some feared had been lost in the ‘modernisation’ and the turbo-capitalism of the last two decades.

What we also saw, as the cortege set off from the city, toured a distant party of the county and then returned was Leicester resuming its place at the ceremonial centre of the county.

That is how it should be, but rarely has been since the city broke away from the rest of the county to become a unitary authority in 1997.

Overnight, Leicestershire went from being an ancient authority whose boundaries everyone understood to being a doughnut. There was a hole in the middle where its historic county town ought to be.

The danger now is that the city and county will grow apart. One multiracial, multicultural, multieverything and close to a Labour one-party state. The other a chunk of Tory England dressed in Barbours and living off Stilton and pork pies.

There are a lot of stereotypes here  (though, come to think of it, I own a Barbour myself). Two Leicestershire districts are run by the Liberal Democrats and it’s not long since the party ran Leicester in coalition with the Conservatives.

But we do need something to bring Leicester and its county back together. And, as  the county cricket team is no longer up to the job, maybe Richard III can help?

I’m not suggesting we dig the old boy up again and take him to see Twycross Zoo or Foxton Locks. But there have been suggestions that the magical Leicester Glows event that finished the celebrations should become an annual fixture.

That is a great idea, and it will be an even better one if the event keeps the countywide spirit alive. Maybe someone could ride in from Bosworth with a flame to start the thing off or we could find some other part of the county’s history to connect with it?

However it is done, it would be good see Leicester at the heart of the county again.


Pete said...

"Close to a Labour one party state" - as you say the Lib Dems ran the City in Coalition with the Tories until 2007. They also won the Leicester South by election - "Lib Dems winning here" - I remember it well.
Currently the Tories and the Lib dems have one councillor each out of 54 - you lost a bucket load of seats because of your council coalition with the Tories. Vice Versa too it must be said.
Perhaps it would be more useful for you and other lib dems to reflect on that rather than imply there's something rotten about Leicester politics - you had support, you lost it!

Helen Pender said...

Well commented.

Liberals as Tory enablers deserve to lose at this election.

Nance Crawford said...

As a confirmed Richardian, I absolutely agree that a yearly celebration of light is a wonderful idea. I and many others crossed the pond to be in Leicester and the fireworks display was breathtaking (although a couple of times the way the flames were bouncing off the belfry made be glad it wasn't wood!). I fell in love with the city and its warm and generous people and hope to return very soon.