Thursday, 5 April 2012

City State London

Allister Heath of City AM writes that 'Boris is right to want to transform London into a city state'.

 London is to England what Singapore is to Malaysia, Hong Kong to China or New York to America. Not only economically dominant but with a social and cultural demography radically different from it's hinterland. Compared to the rest of the country London is, of course, far more affluent, far more multicultural, far younger, far more gay and far more single than Britain as a whole.

Not surprisingly then that London is far more left-liberal in its political attitudes  than the rest of Britain. This would not matter, except that unlike New York, Singapore or Hong Kong, London is also the capital of its hinterland country: thus the perceptions of our  political rulers are strongly distorted by Metropolitan attitudes often wildly different from the rest of the country. The situation is greatly exacerbated by our highly centralised form of government, which means none of us can escape the effect those attitudes have on our daily lives, wherever in Britain we happen to live.

Its therefore no wonder that our masters so often seem to woefully out of touch with the country they purport to govern with the result that the people are giving up on politics, or that London's dominance is deeply resented. In fact the push for Scottish independence is not so much the result of alienation from England but with alienation from what they see as London's culturally arrogant and semi-colonial rule. But you could probably find pretty much the same feelings in Leeds, Sheffield or Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle or Cardiff.

The Mayor  limits his analysis to economics and taxation, but isn't there even stronger grounds for giving London much greater autonomy from the rest of Britain on a whole range of issues? Take for instance the issue of immigration. If London feels it needs large quantities of foreign labour to fill its skills shortages, then why not issue visas that allow the recipient to work only in the London area? Instead, we have immigration policies largely suited to the London economy imposed unwillingly on the entire country.

Of course, a proper commitment to localism and devolution, not just the same old empty promises of our present coalition, would also greatly help the situation. Ultimately, it's not just London that needs autonomy from Britain in order to prosper, but if the Union is to survive, and British society is to  function correctly the rest of the country desperately needs more autonomy from London.