Cookie Notice

However, this blog is a US service and this site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user-agent are shared with Google along with performance and security metrics to ensure quality of service, generate usage statistics, and to detect and address abuse.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The death of London - but not of the City

Allister Heath delivers the synapse-tingler this morning in the 'graph. The death of London. Of course one needs to remember what pre-war London was like to appreciate the possibilities - and understand the damage wrought by Patrick Abercrombie and the London County Council. 

London was not just an agglomeration of villages but of little towns. Domestic service remained widespread and food was distributed through local shops and markets via the huge food wholesale markets at Billingsgate, Smithfield and Covent Garden. London's docks brought sugar and produce from around the globe. Fresh milk was either from the few dairies still with herds of cows kept stalled in the heart of the city but more often by train from dairies such as Lord Rayleigh's in Chelmsford, built adjacent to rail lines to allow rapid transport of milk.

Light industry was spread evenly throughout the city and small workshops, factories, warehouses and ateliers were scattered everywhere - even up to the walls of the Tower, where a dock connected the Empire to the canal network. After the Blitz, the Abercrombie plan changed it all. Industry was banished to the outskirts, new road networks and warehousing hubs replaced rail, people were to be housed in suburbia and the dense inner terraces were to be flattened (those that the Germans hadn't already flattened, that is) to make way for new concrete office blocks. It was to become a Soviet planned City. But the LCC's planned changes were continued into the 21st century by further phases of more organic change driven by economics and unconnected local planning preferences that had a cumulative effect -
A few years ago, Bridget Rosewell, an economist, revealed how the capital lost 1 million, mostly manufacturing, jobs on radial routes in the suburbs over three decades and created 1 million, mostly high-value-added services jobs in central London. Suburban factories and offices became homes. Economic activity became hyper-concentrated in the centre. This model was seen globally as a triumph of renewal. There were risks: it was contingent on staving off urban decay, avoiding terrorism, making sure taxes were not hiked, ongoing vast subsidies to public transport, continued globalisation, containing property prices – and yes, avoiding pandemics.

As to the downsides: the rest of the UK failed to pull off its own transition, becoming addicted to transfers from London; and the capital’s culture shifted corrosively, becoming the epicentre of Remainia, Corbynite attitudes and intolerant illiberalism.
We have a London that is dangerously unbalanced, seeded with the cankers of disorder in the ugly post-war Abercrombie public housing estates, already drowning the city in a welter of teenage blood. Only the city's wealth and massive levels of public service provision have kept a lid on things. But all that is about to change -
The private sector, for its part, is facing gargantuan structural losses: the economics of offices and retail is predicated on mass commuting and tourism. The former won’t fully come back; the latter will take a year or two. The arts, luxury, fashion, transport, hospitality, restaurant and many service industries face decimation. It’s a full-on biotic crisis: London’s economic ecosystem is suffering an immense decline in diversity. Lower-paid jobs, in particular, are being culled; the population could fall, with tens of thousands returning to Europe.
As Sadiq Khan will shortly learn, there is no more money. This first lockdown has busted the bank.

But what of the City, the square mile, now with an offshoot in Docklands? Well, the City has always been independent of the LCC, the GLC and now the GLA and thus stands a good chance of making decisions to its own benefit. The concatenation of related expertise will keep London's place in the financial world. There may be a retreat from Canary Wharf - those vast towers may empty, along with the thousands of service jobs emptying the bins and flipping burgers for the thousands of clerks as the clerks get their P45s in September. However, the square mile, with its own police force and local authority, will tough it out. Heath is bullish - allow the change, take the hit
Boris Johnson must not seek to prop up bankrupt central London investors. Instead, he must allow the market to work, and encourage Tory heartlands – suburbia, exurbia and smaller cities – to hoover up London refugees, workers who no longer need to commute daily.
London saw house price rises of over 750% between 1995 and 2015. Anyone who hasn't already cashed-up will need to stick it out now - just batten down and wait a decade or two.


Poisonedchalice said...

And... the "V" shaped recovery ain't gonna happen any time soon either. One factor has been completely overlooked by government and industry - in fact, any industry!

Most of our economy is predicated on what is called discretionary spending; that is spending what is left of the weekly or monthly paycheck after essentials. Restaurants. Cars. Holidays. Furnishings. You name name it, it ain't happening.

This pandemic is going to cut a swathe through employment as discretionary spend falls to near zero.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore has a pro-rata homicide rate about forty times higher than London. New York's is far worse too. The US as a whole has one about six times higher than the European Union.

I'd worry about the bad influence of your US idol.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Nobody wants bad stuff to happen. They only want peace, stable economy, forests not levelled by fires. Yet the aversion to bad stuff can go too far. Putting off armed conflict by appeasement only magnifies the final war. Maintaining profits and employment despite the circumstances only leads to greater economic setbacks later. Not clearing the dead wood in forests only leads to huge fires.

I too expect the City to survive. It embraces the destructive side of capitalism every day. But ordinary firms in the rest of London (and High Streets everywhere else)? I expect there to be a great thinning out. People will suffer but perhaps new businesses will colonise the bare spaces (but not the High Streets); it will take some time though.

Mark said...

Look at where those murders occur in the US and look here.

Look at stabbings, shootings and church desecrations in France and the EU.

Is that Trump as well?

Raedwald said...

Yep - strange how all the US cities with the highest murder and crime rates all have Democrat Mayors, including Baltimore and NY. Perhaps if Mr Trump chose the mayors, more people would live ..

jim said...

So we go round the endless loop of change. I suppose we could go back to those old tenements with one cold water lavatory, no baths and coal fires. All those luvley 1960s factory and light industry blocks on the outskirts. The White Heat of technology, the Woomera rocket range and Dan Dare. Seemed like a good idea at the time and the property developers made out like bandits.

The immediate future looks a bit uncertain, but in say five years what will happen. Well everyone's business strategy will include 'pandemics' but none is likely to happen until we have long forgotten about them. The Brexit Boost will be quietly forgotten. I suppose those who can still afford it will move out to leafy suburbs and the sticks. Some shopping areas might get converted into the new slums for a while and then back into shops. The great unknown is tax and will HMG seek to claw back the vast cost of CV. Quite possibly the debt is so large it can never be paid off, just disappear quietly like my old granny's War Bonds. No White Heat this time, more a tepid bath.

Enough nostalgia, what's really happening. Not much really, but some minor fluttering in the hen house as Julian Lewis nicks the secret squirrel job from Failing Grayling. What Julian has not been told is that his duties now include fellating Mike Pompeo whenever he pops over to see us. So Failing has had a lucky escape.

DeeDee99 said...

My younger son's office in The City has signalled that it won't be re-opening before Christmas. They'll be moving to 50% capacity sometime in the New Year.

Meanwhile, Boris/Hancock's authoritarian dictatorial face-mask policy can't be legally enforced. It's guidance, dressed up as law, which is why the police are saying they can't/won't enforce it.

Swanno said...

A man claiming freedom of speech is as risk from censorious leftists spends 18 hours a day vomiting his opinions all over social media.

Bill McKay is so outraged that ‘Leftwaffe cultural Marxists’ are stopping him speaking out that he posts about it on Facebook for all the world to read approximately three times an hour.

McKay said: “The libtards are always trying to silence me, which pisses me off because it’s like Nazi Germany. Also you’re not allowed to post anything positive about Nazi Germany.

“Saying it’s ‘homophobic’ to call someone a poofter violates my human rights to express my opinion freely. And I’ve written a four-paragraph rant on a public forum to make sure they know it.

“I’m also very active on Twitter, where I run several accounts replying to anything Marxist journalists say telling them how wrong they are, and that they’ll be strung up once we leave the EU.

“They keep blocking me. See? Censorship. For daring to tell the truth.”

McKay’s wife Susan said: “I wish someone would take away his freedom of speech, the boring old twat.”

Raedwald said...

Swanno - so far off topic I should delete. But the attempt at parody is so pathetic, so inept and so far off-target that I shall leave it up as a lesson in how not to troll. You seem about 14, which is another reason to give you a bit of leeway just this once. And like the last one you posted, it seems you're immensely proud of this jejune effort and are probably multiply posting across social media - so it's not just off-target, it's a good example of projection. Toodle pip.

DJK said...

Swanno's posts today and yesterday are lifted unedited from

Raedwald said...

Ah, thanks DJK - the next one I'll delete straight away.
So, unfunny and unoriginal. And plaigarism, to boot.

Jack the dog said...

Well I for one won't weep for Khan's London.

Interetsing your comments and background about the post blitz town planning - I thought it was an urban myth that town planners generally do more damage than the Luftwaffe but obviously it's grounded in history.

Actually I think the saying is rent control, but the comparison stands; rent control is just another facet o fthe central planning/town planning mentality.

And I'll tell you another thing; Heath quite rightly points out that he best way ou is to leave the market to do its work.

But we all know that won't happen.

The Boris we voted for in December was an illusion. Reality has shown him to be another Grocer Heath or Calamity May.

I'll grant him Brexit (I suppose, assuming nothing comes unstuck).

But Covid has shown him and his cabinet of moral and intellectual pygmies up for what they are.

With apologies to real Pygmies.

Anonymous said...


The police don’t have to enforce mask wearing.
If the store owners refuse to sell to non mask wearing ‘customers’ it has the same effect.
If the ‘customer’ gets shirty or worse it’s then a police matter.

Whether the police turn up is another matter.
My guess is stores will have security on the door much the same as many do now to limit the amount of traffic.

Unknown said...

It would help if planning laws were relaxed to make it easier to run a business from home. For instance, anyone should be able to open a small shop in their front room.

Zoning is a menace, and it causes commuting, which is evil.

Has everyone read "A City is not a Tree" ? If you haven't, I recommend it.

Anonymous said...

In light of today's U-turn on MOJO, lots of London will usefully serve to store lorries. After all, there's 11 more lorry parks to be announced. Offices will be repurposed to stockpile drugs for the NHS at pre-WTO prices.

DeeDee99 said...

@ Anonymous.

I suggest you read this:

Unknown said...

What's MOJO ?

Too many bloody acronyms.

Don Cox

Giggly Piggly said...

Friends in two different offices. One is MOD. The other is an engineering firm.
Neither office is planning on having any staff back at all, ever, they will all work from home.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you re read what I wrote.

No mask , no entry.
If you then take the mask off while in the shop, the shop owner can simply refuse to serve you.

It’s really not a difficult process to work out.