Now class, a little geography lesson. And I want us to be Little Englanders for the day. Forget all about the Welsh, Irish and Scots (half of them aren’t sure they want to be part of us any way). Let’s just think of England.
Dear old little England, is not at all little. In terms of population it’s well up the list of the top 100 countries in the world. You’ve got China and India at the top and as you run down the list you’ll find that England is 23rd, with a population (England alone) of 55 million. It’s quite a number when you think about it. When I was your age, that was the population of the whole of the UK.
Now think about how many people there are on each square kilometre. That’s called population density. The basket case country is Bangladesh. Population totally out of control. On every square kilometre there are 1117 people. If you spread them out over the whole country in squares like an army formation, they’d be 30 metres apart. Can you imagine that? Lines of people 30 metres apart in all directions.
Enough said about Bangladesh. Things get better as you go down the list. Number two is Taiwan where people are an average of 40 metres apart; then comes South Korea 44 metres apart and Rwanda at 47 metres. These are your top four.
Any thoughts as to number five? It’s a European country, and not the Netherlands.
You’ll have guessed that it’s little old England. Our population density at the moment is 420 people per square kilometre. In the Netherlands there are 408 people per square kilometre but, as you can see from the atlas, there’s a good amount of England in places like the Pennines, the North Yorkshire moors, Dartmoor and Exmoor, so high that it is uninhabitable. The Netherlands is all low land and inhabitable, so its real population density is much less than England. The same is true for Belgium which has 371 people per square kilometre. The next densest European country is Germany, which is way down at 228. If we spread our population all over England in a square pattern, on average we’d be 49 metres apart.
These figures are for today. But, according to government statistics, we are expecting more over the next few years, children of our present population and from overseas. Before you lot are my age, England will be number three on the population density list, down to 43 metres apart and possibly number two by 2056.
So here’s your homework. With England’s population going up by a third in the next forty years, we’ll need big changes to cope. The M25 will need two more lanes; Heathrow will need another two runways; there’ll be another HS2 to satisfy rail demand, twenty five more power stations and five million houses. Your job is to write an impartial leaflet explaining all these changes and anything else relevant you can think of. Your leaflet is to be sent out to every voter. It should be called: ‘Why the Government believes that we should increase the population of England.’