‘We love our city and belong to it. Neither of us are English; we’re Londoners, you see,” wrote Hanif Kureishi in his screenplay for Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. The film touches on a theme that has become even more powerful since its 1987 release – the idea that to be a Londoner is to transcend nationhood and, in particular, Englishness. Economically and financially, London has diverged from the rest of the country. Culturally and politically, there are signs that its 7.8m inhabitants are doing the same.
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The Parisian arriving in London by train alights at a resplendent station. St Pancras, and the adjacent King’s Cross, make Gare du Nord look like a provincial hub. The surrounding area, once a ramshackle collection of properties, is gleaming with new hotels, offices and prime accommodation. It is a clear sign of how London’s economic geography has changed in the 21st century. The inner city has developed rapidly. Poverty is moving to the outskirts of the capital. As its core grows faster than its periphery, London is becoming more like Paris. Read more >>
Not a single track has been laid for High Speed 2 and yet George Osborne is already talking about “High Speed 3″, an extension of the project to link Manchester and Leeds. In a speech on Monday in Manchester, the chancellor spoke of his support for a “Northern powerhouse”: a conurbation to rival London, connected by transport links such as HS3, and governed by independent mayors. It is an excellent idea.
Although there will be a temptation to see Mr Osborne’s speech as simply another part of the HS2 debate, that would be simplistic. It represents the coming together of different conceptions of the future for British cities – and as ever political necessities.
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In the capital, about half of households rent. The other half own.
At present, the official of national statistics’ monthly house price data are a cause of mixed emotions; there needs to be a psychological term for renters’ remorse.
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During an eight-day visit to London in 1862, Fyodor Dostoevsky visited The Crystal Palace, which he later described as that “terrible force that has united all the people here, who come from all over the world, into a single herd”. The Russian writer was as horrified by the glitzy universalism of the international exposition as he was by the poverty he saw along “catastrophic” Haymarket and booze-addled Whitechapel.
I thought of this indiscriminate attack on London when reading Ben Judah’s acidic op-ed on Saturday in the New York Times, which comes a few months after the grey lady published a trenchant piece by Michael Goldfarb on how overseas investment in the capital’s property has allegedly led to an exodus of the English middle classes. Judah’s London, like Dostoevsky’s, is ubiquitously effete and dreadful, a city laid supine at the foot of the Shard and its real masters, the oligarchs of Mayfair. Read more >>
One Sunday last year I was walking through London Fields and a pretty couple stopped and asked if I would like to buy some Camembert. They had a bicycle and a basket and a baguette and French accents. I have been offered more exotic bootleg goods in Hackney but this was a pleasant, if suspiciously stereotypical, reminder of the growth in London’s French community. Read more >>
At least since Michael Goldfarb’s incendiary op-ed in the New York Times, there has been discussion about a “great exodus” from London. This chart shows that there is nothing new in recent history about net internal emigration from the capital; young people come for work and to find love, and they leave – if everything goes to plan – with a job, a mortgage adviser, and a partner. Read more >>
Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday night to the Centre for Policy Studies is receiving attention for his comments on cornflakes. In a robust defence of free market capitalism, the London mayor argued that it is the only way to ensure cornflakes, a metaphor for humans, can “rustle and hustle their way to the top”. As ever, it is a rollicking read, perhaps the best recent defence of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. As ever, on display is a rare example of honest vibrancy in a politician’s language. And as ever, Mr Johnson shows a tendency to come empirically adrift on a sea of his own loquacity. Read more >>
Toronto may have a crack-smoking, citizen-baiting mayor whose chubby recalcitrance has caught the world’s attention but it remains the best city to be young. That at least is the finding of a new report from Youthful Cities, a (cough) Toronto-based organisation which has ranked 25 of the world’s big cities by their supposed youth-friendliness. Read more >>
The chart shows the resident populations of London’s inner boroughs and the City, as well as the daytime flows in to or out of these areas (2011 data). Westminster, for example, has a net influx of about 800,000 people; Lewisham has a net outflow in the several thousands. The daytime population of inner London is 68 per cent higher than the resident population, according to the think tank. Little wonder that any suspensions of train services can have a significant effect. Read more >>