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London. Built by “us”, now owned by “them”

February 26, 2015 1 comment

Has it ever occurred to you, on your trips to visit London, how many people come to visit the sights, and how many work there every day, yet nobody knows anyone who actually lives in London? (Outer boroughs don’t count. Nobody visits Kingsbury or Chipstead.)

The London of today is obviously a product of the centuries of its being conquered, as well as the centuries in which London, itself, was the centre of half the world it was conquering in turn, accumulating its riches and building splendid monuments to its empire.

And after World War Two, it rose out of the rubble of the Blitz attacks with new housing, socialised healthcare, public transport and world-famous, publicly owned brands making airplanes, cars, machinery, you name it.

And then came Thatcher, and the redefinition of “us”. The sellout of public assets. Factories, brands, infrastructure, real estate–and air. Real estate has become an convenient investment for billionaires worldwide, housing prices have gone through the roofs, and regular people have moved to Kent, Essex, Surrey and other counties sprinkled with lifeless dormitory towns. Ironically, if you can afford to live in central London these days, chances are you don’t have a job to commute to anyway. (And no, Blair, Brown or Cameron have certainly not changed direction since the ironclad wench took the rudder.)

Ian Martin laments the decline of the social fabric that used to serve “us” and hold “us” together, a downward spiral so monumental, it’s a wonder no private equity fund has commissioned an architect to cast it in concrete and glass as the next piece in the collection of absurd skyscrapers dominating today’s London skyline.

I say “we”, although the greatest trick Thatcherism ever pulled was this redefinition of “us and them”. Suddenly, people in your own family were voting Tory. Mrs Thatcher’s chief information officer, Rupert Murdoch, was telling us that the firemen and the dustmen were our enemies. That the women of the NUT and Nalgo were the mad, selfish defenders of a doomed elite. The Tory government went after the local authorities, telling us that government itself was our enemy. You were just going: “Hold on a minute, if you’re the government …” and then they shouted: “Oh, God, look! The Falklands!”, hired more expensive PR guys and carried on privatising.

The city that privatised itself to death by Ian Martin

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