So the government is going to level up the country. They are going to revive towns which have declined. Many of these had or have Jewish communities; Plymouth, Falmouth, Blackpool, Portsmouth. It certainly can be done but only by first class marketing.
Take Torquay for instance. Unfortunately, the sun shines brighter in Spain. What can attract tourists to Torquay’s seaside? The market here is German walkers. The Germans walk like the Brits garden. Torquay has the Coast Road and one other great advantage; the sea is visible from the road. Unless you live in the North of Germany you don’t see the sea.
How big is the market for bringing people to our distressed towns? Well, the five day week came in about 60 years ago. The hotel industry saw disaster as people wouldn’t have to work on Saturday and that would kill the Friday night business. Instead short break holidays were invented. They are now worth something like £6 billion a year to the industry in a normal year.
Blackpool is a problem, but it could learn from Atlantic City in America. They made mistakes, but for years they transformed an old Victorian town into the place to go for a gamble. Blackpool isn’t known as the British Atlantic City. It could be.
To improve our distressed towns, we will need new industries. Charlie Slater died at 88 in 2017. He was the Mayor of Sunderland, the leader of the council and a stalwart of the synagogue. Known locally as Mr. Sunderland, it was Charlie Slater who persuaded Nissan to come to his city in the North East. It was a major effort but Charlie Slater was up for it.
What other new industries are there? Every major multi-national has a Research division and a lot of these are to be found in Israel. They do know how to market. We’ve got Oxford and Cambridge, but other centres could be created; the University of Surrey has a major science park in Guildford.
Bicester has been transformed by the creation of their Outlet Village and Street in Somerset has another. Just as Redcar was invented in Victorian times for the holiday makers of North Yorkshire, so shopping is one of the great leisure activities today. The problem with this solution is that it does nothing for the town’s High Street, but the shops in Golders Green have adapted to flourish alongside Brent Cross, which is now forty six years old. A shopping centre doesn’t have to kill a High Street. Some things will have to change in this levelling process.
The Victorian seaside towns have been declining for many years. Some, like Southport, are already commuter towns for major cities not too far away. We have a community there as well. Better and faster train services would make for more popular commuter towns.
The collapse of the textile trade in Manchester had to be addressed some years ago. Manchester now has the largest medical school in the country, built on its Victorian foundations but massively increased in size.
Levelling up, the government is capable of switching public bodies to towns who need the business. A lot of the BBC has gone up to Manchester and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is based in Swansea.
Britain has a wealth of Roman remains and ancient buildings. It also has a Pilgrim Trust which gives three million pounds a year to charity. The pilgrimage sites can be made more successful but they need to work together even more. One of the most popular is the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham 20 odd miles from Norwich. During the season the tour buses are nose to tail through the village.
Half the countries. in the world look to tourism to help balance their budgets. Which means that the British Tourist Authority, trading as Visit Britain, should be given a far larger budget. For many years, manufacturing was the favourite child of successive governments and money was poured into projects like the disastrous De Lorean Cars. The same money given to Visit Britain would show a far better return.
Which still leaves us with Northern Ireland. There are at least two million fishermen in this country and the finest fishing in Europe is – in Northern Ireland. A major professional campaign to bring the fishermen in will again pay dividends.
There are a large number of opportunities to level Britain and it is a laudable objective. It still needs good marketing and this we are not good at. A Japanese study produced a statistic that 40% of the great inventions of the 20th century were created in Britain; television, jet engines, penicilin, etc. We should be as rich as Croesus, but other countries took advantage of our lack of marketing skill.