THE BLOG
26/03/2015 08:08 GMT | Updated 26/05/2015 06:59 BST

The Last Shall Be First

In recent days Britain has been treated to the sights and sounds of the SNP flexing its muscles and setting out what it would ask of a minority Labour administration in order to shore it up. The Nationalists' putative demands reflect the importance of Scotland, and its block of 59 seats, in determining who governs the UK after 7 May. And that is itself reflective of a bigger, and very positive, trend. Notwithstanding the dominance of London and the surrounding region in the national economy and in many aspects of our cultural life, there is an ever-increasing media and political focus on areas outside the South East as recognition grows of the importance of their role in the UK as a whole. And this could have a profound impact on Britain's future.

The most obvious example of this, other than Scotland, is Manchester and the North. Manchester has created a powerful identity over many years, and has reaped the benefits in terms of national institutions (the BBC), cultural pre-eminence (the Smiths), and infrastructure spending (the Metrolink, Northern Hub and HS2). Under this Government - and particularly this Chancellor - the pace has been stepped up, with significant powers devolved and the establishment of a Northern Powerhouse. But as we head towards the election other places also look likely to have their moment in the sun.

Take Cornwall. It has been overlooked for too long, only occasionally impinging on the consciousness of the London chatterati as a place for taking romantic clifftop walks, for dining at Rick Stein's excellent seafood restaurant, for visiting the Tate's stunning offshoot in St Ives - and now for providing a backdrop for bodice ripping and pot boiling in Poldark. But now it is an election battleground, where the success of the Conservative Party and the fate of the Liberal Democrats may be sealed in May. Debates over local and regional economic development and over infrastructure spending promise to be intense. Cornwall's very clear challenge is to secure as many promises as it can now, and to commission whoever is elected this year to continue to press its case for attention in the period ahead.

And for Cornwall read any of the 'marginal' areas of the UK. With British elections looking likely to continue to be tightly fought affairs places outside London and the South East should be able to command the attention of policy-makers for years to come - and with that attention should come funding and other benefits, and not just for Scotland. It seems inevitable that any perceived bias towards the capital in investment decisions will end and devolution of powers will increase. The political and economic shape of the UK will change for good, provided that regional politicians play their cards right.

In a sense the UK is simply reflecting a global trend. 'Core' areas increasingly look like they have reached the limit of their development and growth in many places, and attention is shifting to 'secondary' or peripheral regions: just look at growth projections for China's inland cities. Opportunities for businesses outside the core - in our case, outside London - are often now brighter than in the traditional economic hotspots. For professional services firms like MHP the challenge is to recognise this reality and to be nimble enough to respond to it, being a true partner of all our clients and prospective clients, including smaller and faster-growing firms. It is an exciting opportunity for us too, and one that is certain to increase as attention shifts to new regions. And then the last shall be first.