Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on old sky taxis, the future for London and three snags facing law-makers

Nothing new under the sun? After my recent piece on the looming prospect of hi-tech air taxis clogging up our skies, a reader sends me an advert for an air-taxi service by three-seater monoplane from Grimsby airport to your chosen destination at just fourpence per mile, “as the crow flies.” The advert appeared in August 1935.

Whose capital, exactly?

In yesterday's column I referred to London as “our capital". But does that sort of relationship still exist between the great city and its hinterland? London is a vast international colony, more like a city state than a mere city. The biggest city in western Europe, London is distinctly different from the rest of Britain by just about any measure you use, from ethnic mix (300 languages are spoken) to individual wealth, social attitudes, public demos, wealth inequality and even climate (all that concrete generates much heat).

Indeed, London is so different from the rest of the country, and growing more different with every passing year, that its ancient claim to be capital of GB, or even of England, is barely tenable. Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh function perfectly well as the undisputed capital cities of Wales, Ulster and Scotland. Either Birmingham or Manchester would make a more Englishy sort of capital than London. Has the time come for London to drop its capital pretensions and go its own way? I'm sure we provincials would wish it every success.