Britain would do well to follow Brazil’s example and nominate a new capital at its centre. Why not Stoke?
The founding fathers of Brazil did economics as well as politics. To spur development of a giant, empty interior, an article in the constitution stipulated that Rio de Janeiro should be replaced by a purpose-built capital, which, it said, must be plonked in the country’s very heart. The plan took a while to come off: more than a century passed between the original proposal and the first brick being laid. But it was worth the wait. The modernist designs of Oscar Niemeyer, the architect who died this week, soon made Brasilia a Unesco world heritage site. With Brazil a rare bright spot on a dark economic horizon, Britain has a lesson to learn. London’s economy trundles along at a speed that bears no relation to the stagnation of the regions. Shift the seat of power and you spread prosperity too. Unlike 19th-century Brazil, our interior is not empty – so we don’t need to build a new capital, only select one. Winchester and Colchester have historic claims, but neither would heal the north-south divide. York will make a nostalgic pitch too. It housed Norse rulers, and provided many a king. Sadly, it’s too far north and you can’t found a recovery on molten chocolate. Geographically and economically, the best option is Stoke. It has been rated Britain’s most competitive place to do business, and Whitehall-on-Trent’s demand for coffee cups could rescue the Potteries. The city’s motto, Vis unita fortior, means “United strength is stronger”. Quite so. By yielding power to Stoke, we shall create a Reunited Kingdom.