Monday, 21 May 2012

London as a New Model City state

It seems ever more likely that London's financial and service sector economy is to become increasingly divorced from the rest of Britain. Will Self has put it well when he writes ( London thinks only of itself. The rest of the country is just there to be bled dry, The Independent Friday 27 April 2012,
 'In conversation with John Gray a couple of months ago, the subject of Britain's future came up, and the philosopher opined that: "London will become a sort of Singapore, I think, a wealthy island of urbanity surrounded by impoverished satrapies." I found myself without any hesitation acceding to this dystopian vision, and with every successive week the Coalition's policies – acting as a turbocharger on the impact of international capital flows – only seem to be bringing this intensely divisive state of affairs closer.
The news this week that Newham council believes the Government's cap on housing benefit will result in the exodus of tens of thousands of the poor to urban centres as far north as Walsall is only – in my view – the continuation by other, more vicious means of the sort of "class cleansing" introduced by the New Labour regime's Pathfinder Scheme. Then the idea was that the brave new provincial cities would be made over in London's image: cloned retail and artists' quartiers paid for by an ever-bulging property asset bubble, while the less desirable would be rehoused using the profits. But, since 2007, this bubble has plangently popped – everywhere, that is, but in the capital itself.
.... in recent years, there has come a sinister new alignment of forces: the inertial dirigisme of central government has become allied to the dark star of the City of London, so that the political class find their institutional prejudices insistently reinforced by what they deem "economic realities". Naturally, they act to head off this riving apart of the country, and the creation of new mayoralties is part of this
 ...the next London mayor – whoever he may be – will continue as a cheerleader for the Stratford Festival of Running and Jumping – how could it be otherwise? The mayoralty is all about PR – and the Olympics is nothing but a PR exercise to sell the city.
Moreover, London remains as Janus-faced today as it was at the height of the Empire, when it served as the entrepĂ´t and transhipment point for a vast proportion of the world's trade. One big smiling face looks to the rest of the world, saying: send us your rich and your upright, so that they may invest their reserve currency in our astronomically expensive property – and while you're at it, send us your poor and your huddled masses as well, so that they can clean the toilet bowls of the wealthy on below-minimum wage. The other grimacing face is turned on this less salubrious spectacle: a hinterland full of euphemistic "jobseekers", filling out their losing tickets in the National Lottery.

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