Mind the Gap: London vs the Rest; Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice

Mind the Gap was a two part series presented by Evan Davis about the growing gap between the economy of London (booming) and the economy of the rest of Britain (somewhat stagnant). I'm not sure he really had 2 hours worth of material, but I guess he wanted to divide it into two themed chunks. The first programme mostly covered what the situation is and how it has arisen. Davis talked to a variety of people - CEOs, workers, people involved in transport, Boris Johnson etc. The take home message was that the gap exists because a gap already existed and it's just got more pronounced. Basically businesses want to be near other businesses - either of the same type for collaboration (or people poaching) or of different types (again for collaboration). So once London started to be the place to be, it became more the place to be. Davis did spend a bit of time talking about the downsides of this as well - in particular the way people get priced out of the city. And the effects on transport and other infrastructure requirements. Like the fact that Crossrail isn't even built yet and they're already planning Crossrail 2 because the projected growth of the city means it'll be needed that soon.

The second programme was more concerned with what, if anything, can be done to reduce the gap - bringing up the rest of the country rather than bringing down London, obviously. This felt particularly padded, to be honest. Davis's message here was the he thinks (and this was clearly couched as a personal opinion) that trying to bring the whole of the rest of the country closer to London in economic terms is a non-starter. By spreading the economic growth so thin you don't ever get momentum going anywhere. Also Davis didn't seem to think many places had enough there to start off with. His idea was that the best hope for economic growth outside London is to encourage formation of a supercity in the north of England. Statistically speaking if you compare city population sizes between many European countries including Britain then we don't actually have a "second city" - there's a far bigger gap between London and the next tier of cities than you'd expect. So Davis thinks that the way forward is for the Liverpool to Leeds corridor to turn into Britain's second city. I guess Glasgow/Edinburgh wasn't chosen because it has the issue that it might turn out not to be British shortly.

Overall I wasn't sure if I agreed with Davis, but I'm aware I don't really know much about economics and haven't thought about these issues much before - so my sense of disagreement might be just the result of ignorance.

If you were after a serious programme about polar bear life and biology, then Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice is not the programme you're looking for. However it was very entertaining :) The best claim to seriousness that it has is that it uses disguised remote control cameras to get closer to polar bears and to film them acting in a much more natural fashion than you can do when there's a whole film crew around. And as the programme blurb says, this does demonstrate their intelligence and curiosity. But what made it worth watching was the narration (voiced by David Tennant, in his natural accent so not quite like Doctor Who providing commentary). In the narrative the polar bears were fairly anthropomorphised and the cameras were definitely anthropomorphised, and it was great fun to watch!

Other TV watched this week:

Episode 2 of The Plantagenets - Robert Bartlett covers the history of the Plantagenet dynasty, who ruled England for nearly 300 years.

Episode 4 of Pagans & Pilgrims - series about the sacred places of Britain, presented by Ifor ap Glyn.

Episode 6 of The First World War - a 10 part series covering the whole of the war.

Episode 1 of Monkey Planet - series about the biology and behaviour of primates.