Two weeks ago Tony Blair hit the road, travelling to the West Country as part of a series of regional tours to seduce the electorate before next year. While acknowledging farming is in crisis, his message was that "there are villages, towns and cities in rural parts of Britain that face the same problems as the rest of Britain". The answer, he believes, is not to divide the country but to bring it together. In our own tour of Britain's employment environment, the huge regional disparities found leave Blair looking like a fast talker
While Manchester remains the suicide capital, Aberdeen sees one in five of its inhabitants suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the dark winter months - a fact which has brought it a reputation for being the most miserable city in the isles.
The granite city has cornered 8 per cent of Scotland's income with only 4 per cent of the population - thanks to its 30-year love affair with oil - and has become relatively wealthy on the back of it. Despite perpetual speculation about when the oil will run out, estimates give it another 30 to 40 years, keeping 40,000 employed until at least 2006.
Yet Aberdeen's future is in doubt as between 1,000-1,500 oil jobs are being lost every year. Consequently, the city is a little unhappy with its reputation for being rich because it loses out on development money from Europe and the Scottish Executive. "It is wrong to think of us not needing financial help," says a distinctly un-sad sounding spokeswoman for the council's community development department. "It is not just about oil and we have a lot of work to do with re-skilling and preparing for the information economy." Regeneration efforts are consequently being aimed at IT skills.
Officials hope that victory in the battle to house the new Food Standards Agency's Scottish outpost above the equally dour Dundee might mark a turning point. The city still remains a major fish processing centre and is also home to Britain's oldest company, the Shore Porter's Society, founded in 1458.
When boasting, Cornwall says four million tourists flock there every year; when self-pitying, it says it vies with rural Portugal for EU assistance money as the poorest county in Britain. For the 480,000 people who live there, unemployment remains unaffected by the national improvement and stands at a mammoth