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The commuters are revolting Does the Government fear an economic rebalancing away from the capital?

Paying the cost for what? Credit: Isabel Infantes/AFP/ Getty

Paying the cost for what? Credit: Isabel Infantes/AFP/ Getty


September 2, 2020   6 mins

The cubicle drones are revolting. Having been encouraged to work from home during lockdown, the hordes who packed the pre-coronavirus commuter trains are dragging their heels about returning to work. And the official reaction to this phenomenon betrays how thin our Government’s commitment really is to the much-vaunted ‘levelling’ agenda.

Working from home has not all been idyllic, of course. Not everyone has a spare room to use as office space, or a garden where the kids can let off steam. The burden of trying to homeschool fractious children while remote working has disproportionately fallen on mothers, with many risking their jobs by requesting furlough in order to cope. There’s been sketchy internet, a 40% spike in divorce enquiries and skyrocketing domestic violence.

No doubt those for whom the workplace is sanctuary, social life and home from home have rushed to return to its embrace. But given that one early summer survey showed that 90% of workers would rather not rush back, and another July study revealed that only a third of British workers had returned to the office, clearly this isn’t everyone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: for many — and especially for commuters — working lifestyles have become increasingly unbearable.

Before we embarked upon our mass national experiment in remote working, the centrifugal power of our cities seemed a law of nature. Anyone with ambition had to be physically present where the jobs were — and that meant, chiefly, London. Caught up in that trend, for a while I took the train from Bedfordshire to London five days a week for work. It was horrible.

When you commute, there’s a relentless, conveyor-belt feeling to every working day: out of the house shortly after 6am, the daily worry you’ll miss your train, fighting for the last station parking spot, fighting for the last train seat, fighting to get on your connecting train when you get to town. By the time you make it to work, you’ve been fighting for two hours, and you know you’ll have to do it all over again at the other end of the day.

There’s no time to do anything at home except make a quick meal and collapse, exhausted, in front of the telly. If I tried to do anything else at all in the evenings, I was running a chronic sleep deficit. I was constantly ill. With socialising and exercising time consumed by travel, I piled on weight and lost touch with friends. In the winter, when the barest hint of normal seasonal phenomena such as ice or wet leaves makes the trains curl up and die, I’d often enjoy an unscheduled hour or so added to my journey time, usually whenever it was least convenient. For all these privileges, I was charged close to £10,000 a year by train companies whose services were overcrowded and unreliable.

I was one of around a million commuters paying a version of these personal costs, for a middling seat at London’s economic banquet. This banquet, while plentiful for many, has had large-scale political costs too. Back in 2016, the Brexit vote revealed a country bitterly split between the urban, liberal and cosmopolitan winners of globalisation, and (as repeatedly implied by that august demographic) globalisation’s reactionary, provincial thicko losers.

Our political class has been murmuring for a while now about how terribly sad it is that cultures and demographics are polarising between urban centre and provincial periphery. They mostly looked carefully past the bottom line, which is that London has enjoyed its pre-eminent position by concentrating the lion’s share of Britain’s ambition and intelligence in its penumbra.

The advantages of this to the winners in the arrangement have been obvious: a bottomless supply of talent, a global reputation for cultural dynamism and apparently copper-bottomed property prices. The costs, in political polarisation and the ever more extreme nature of commuter lifestyles, were either ignored or treated as unfortunate but inevitable side-effects of the otherwise positive “London effect”.

Borne aloft by his landslide victory last December, Boris promised to heal the nation’s economic and geographic divides by “levelling up” the rest of the country — a phrasing that assumes the way forward is to encourage everywhere else to ascend to London’s giddy heights.

Only now, the boom in remote working means talent and disposable income no longer needs to be physically present in London five days a week. There’s been a stampede to get out of the metropolis, with a surge in enquiries for more spacious rural properties — especially those with space to work from home. That could be great for the provinces; but it also means that the “levelling” Boris promised may turn out to mean less building on London’s success than ending its stranglehold on the nation’s workforce.

I don’t pretend to have been an irreplaceable loss to the capital, but for me, back in 2016, it was having a baby that tipped the balance. I couldn’t think of a London job I wanted to do badly enough, or that seemed likely to pay me enough, to warrant leaving my infant with someone else 12 hours a day while I returned to the treadmill. Once I calculated that the London salary premium is consumed by the cost of commuting for all but the highest earners, the whole arrangement just seemed mad.

Now, having demonstrated that remote working is fine at least some of the time, much of commuter-belt Britain seems to be making similar calculations. If your commute is 90 minutes either way, working from home two or three days a week amounts to half a day of family or leisure time clawed back every single week. That’s a whole extra weekend’s worth of free time, every month. Who in their right mind would relinquish that save under duress?

Duress is coming, though. Early in August, US bank Morgan Stanley published research that stopped barely short of calling British workers lazy. When I read the headline British workers more reluctant to return to work than Europeans, my first thought was “wait, who said it was a competition?” But from the bankers’ point of view, when cubicle drones boycott their cubicle, home-working means a deserted City of London. And that, in turn, means a struggling commercial property market, as businesses scale down their office sizes or scramble for premises without germ-laden shared lifts.

A source tells me workers in financial services have been saying privately for some time that they could do their jobs from home with no loss of productivity. Now that the virus has proven them right, the firms they work for are panicking about their exposure to an urban commercial property market that’s looking shaky to say the least. No wonder Morgan Stanley (whose 2019 advice on the London commercial property market was bullish) is now looking for ways to guilt the plebs out of their home offices and back into London, by talking up some imaginary competition over which nation can resume the rat race with more Stakhanovite fervour.

It’s not just banks: the Government’s return-to-work mood music has now shifted from friendly encouragement, to a more threatening tone. When we hear unnamed official sources whipping up fear of job losses among the stubbornly home-working commuter class, we should remember that London’s skyscraper boom is itself a legacy of Boris Johnson’s years as mayor, with a glut of such applications waved through toward the end of his mayoral term. Perhaps we should not be surprised if Johnson now shows a reluctance to embrace a variant of the “levelling” agenda that would leave all those shiny skyscrapers standing empty.

Nor is it just commercial property. The cubicle-drone rebellion echoes all the way down the metropolitan economy. Last week, Pret A Manger announced it was cutting 2,800 jobs, as commuters and office workers stay home instead. Pizza Express, Byron Burger and Frankie & Benny’s have also announced job losses.

Beyond the “lunchtime economy”, countless small-business owners depend on the daily influx of commuters, from masseurs and City gyms to dry cleaners and in-office yoga instructors. Such businesses often have little working capital. One City-based physiotherapist reports turnover currently at 20% of the usual figure. If London ceases to demand workers’ physical presence every day, the consequence will be a tsunami of pain through all levels of the capital’s economy, from property giants down to sole traders and baristas. And it’s one thing telling Morgan Stanley to “take the hit”; if we’re facing a major economic rebalancing away from London, we’ll also have to face the human cost of that rebalancing on countless small businesses.

And yet, this human cost was “market forces” when it was the provinces declining toward despair while the cities flourished. Globalisation has winners and losers, we were told; to make an omelette you have to break eggs. So you’d think there might be the odd voice arguing that shifting some of London’s talent and spending power out to live in the provinces is at least a plausible tradeoff.

Before coronavirus, London was home to around a third of all the coffee shops in Britain. No one is advancing the possibility that losing some of these might not represent an absolute loss to the national coffee-shop total, so much as a shift in daytime disposable income to suburban or small-town locations. It might even mean the opening of new coffee shops in locations where they previously weren’t viable.

But it seems as though, should we wish to make omelettes, it’s only okay to break provincial eggs. The golden egg that is London’s economy is not available for culinary purposes. Early signs from our political leaders indicate that “levelling” is only a political option if it’s ‘up’, toward a London whose apex position stays unassailable. But if that “levelling” turns out to be a tradeoff, at London’s expense, we can expect the revolt of the cubicle drones to face brisk Government counter-measures.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

Back in 2016, the Brexit vote revealed a country bitterly split between the urban, liberal and cosmopolitan winners of globalisation, and (as repeatedly implied by that august demographic) globalisation’s reactionary, provincial thicko losers. “Š And yet, this human cost was “market forces” when it was the provinces declining toward despair while the cities flourished. Globalisation has winners and losers, we were told

The problem, for the bien pensant class, is that these two phenomena are linked. They have smugly told themselves for decades that the long-suffering white indigenous peoples of these islands are inferior to them, that their rootless globe-trotting makes them superior. They have touted their financial success as its own reward, regardless of its cost to our traditional culture.

Now, they face the prospect of having to admit that what they have done to London, turning it into a divided, violent balkans of competing ethnic factions, was not an inevitable and irrevocable consequence of the great good of globalisation, but a contingent and reversible choice that they made for us without asking. We were never asked if we wanted our capital, and increasingly our other cities, to be stolen from us. We were never asked if we were happy about being replaced in our own homeland.

And as they face the decline of these urban dystopias that they have constructed, they face an even worse prospect: having to live in the sticks with the rest of us, who they have despised and denigrated all of their lives. You can see why they’d be horrified at the prospect.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

I live in Islington (since 2006). I have never heard anyone in the cool gastropubs mock the Real People of Sunderland.

“We were never asked if we wanted our capital, and increasingly our other cities, to be stolen from us” – way too risible.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Are you deaf, then? I used to live in Islington and many of my friends still do. They are constantly moaning about “stupid” Brexit voters out in the provinces.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Yes, after Brexit vote. Not before.
Huge difference.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Before Brexit, most of the complaints were about the “lazy” British unwilling to work as low-paid plumbers, babysitters or house cleaners. No difference in attitude what so ever.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Yes, check out the Wetherspoon pub (early morning) across the street from Angel tube station. Full of “hard working” Englishmen.
Since we are basing are positions in anecdotal stories let me give you one:
I was skiing in Austria (2 years ago); our bartender was an Englishman from the North (Burnley/Barnsley – something with B) that had moved to Austria 5-6 years before because “there was nothing to do”.
He learned to ski and spend the days working as a guide/instructor while working as bartender during the nights. During summer he worked in construction/maintenance (apparently you can not do work during the skiing season).
His whole family and friends voted Leave. And the reason: migration. HIs parents position was “you should go there, but they shouldn’t come here”. When he invited his friends to join him they didn’t want to pack and move in another 1st world country.
Better to spend the days at the local pub and whine about Polish plumbers. Nothing stopped the hard working Englishmen from working in Germany/Austria/Switzerland (high wage countries) !
To quote (as correctly as I can remember) Janet Daly (a Leaver and an opinion maker in the DT) the industrial decline of Northern England was a product of the English working class.

croftyass
croftyass
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

the industrial decline of Northern England was a product of the English working class.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago
Reply to  croftyass

The industrial decline of Northern England was a product of the effete mindset of the southern banking class and their control of the pseudo liberal and marxist educational establishment.
They destroyed Design and Manufacturing wherever they could and relished the export of the jobs abroad.

Iain Muir
Iain Muir
3 years ago
Reply to  David Waring

You have a very short memory.

And how did the ‘banking class’ control the ‘marxist educational establishment’? As I recall, the educational establishment did not need encouragement from anyone in its adoption of marxist ideology.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Waring

Banking Class was responsible for militant labor unions? Banking class was far more powerful in the 1860s than in 1960s.
Or were they responsible for the restrictive labor practices defended by the Unions?

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  croftyass

In the sixties the professional class held the workers in contempt as ‘bolshy, lefty, trades union types’
Now, the trendy middle class hold the workers in contempt as ‘racist, xenophobic, Brexit types’
The upper classes have always hated the lower orders. They prefer foreigners and always will.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I am sure the Berlin chattering classes (based on your theory) look down on the German working class -but how come German working class seems to compete?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  croftyass

No it wasn’t it Was Tories esp Edward heath 1972 (1973 3 day week),he wanted to destroy Unions by taking Uk into Common Markt Without a referendum &Consent,(he admitted he lied in 1990 on Qtime BBC1)Free collective bargaining,referred to Rolls Royce,Clyde Shipbuilders as ”Lame ducks” ad turned our Manufacturing to ‘Service industries’ie We dont make much anymore apart from homes sprawling over ”Green belts”..If Tories 1 Dont cut VAT 2.dont invest inmanufacturing they”ll be toast..

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

too crazy of a comment.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And that’s another blight of neoliberalism, deracinated populations, an Hobbesian babel and bellum omnium of identitarianism.

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

“Nothing stopped the hard working Englishmen from working in Germany/Austria/Switzerland (high wage countries) “
Auf weirdesen bonnie lad.

The decline of Northern England was a direct result of Maggie Thatcher deciding that “service industries” were the future..
Not saying she was wrong…but a balance could have been struck.
But it wasn’t, and now we are seemingly dependent on the economic survival of the UK based on banks and trading houses.
We are up shyte creek, big time.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  John Cole

That’s not really true, manufacturing industry increased as a proportion of the UK economy between 1979 and 1990. Far more coal mines were closed under Harold Wilson.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yes, if our existing working class don’t do as their told get rid of them and import some cheaper variants from overseas, meanwhile everyone should just move globally regardless of ties of community, family and culture. You should go to Davos, you’d fit right in with the WEF crowd

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That was because they were surrounded by others who think the same as them, and they probably didn’t believe they’d lose the vote.
And I seem to recall that they were very good at calling the Brexiteers racists before the vote.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

“Jeremy of Islington””way too risible.

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Have the inhabitants of your “cool gastropubs” ever heard of Sunderland?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

You’ve taken a quote about how there’s a double standard when economic losses affect London rather than the provinces, and made it about something else.

> long-suffering white indigenous peoples

Hmm…

> ethnic factions

I see.

> We were never asked if we were happy about being replaced in our own homeland.

Giving the game away a bit there, Mr Fourteen Words. Gonna buy a tiki torch?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

If you want to clutch your pearls over whether I’m sufficiently politically correct for you, go ahead.

EDIT: Those looking for a sign of Mr Wright’s integrity or otherwise are invited to catch him in the act of upvoting his own comment.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

So, yes to that tiki torch then?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Still waiting for an actual rebuttal, rather than just “omg him a raysist!!!1″ nonsense.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

I’m confused: are you saying you’re *not* a racist? Or that we should take you seriously despite that?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

By now, the lazy insult “racist” simply means “someone who says truths about ethnic differences that make me feel uncomfortable”. It’s a classic example of trite hurrah-boo ethics. The likes of you throwing it around willy-nilly have made it lose all meaning and impact. So yes, I’m probably a “racist” by your standards, because almost everyone is, and frankly it’s a badge of honour because it means you think I’m speaking the truth and are utterly unable to refute anything I say other than by desperately throwing insults at me.

Personally, I think that only false statements about ethnicity ought to qualify as racist”for example, it’s not “racist” to say that black people have a darker skin colour than white people”and so I don’t think I’m racist, because I don’t say things about ethnic differences that I believe to be false. But you’ve made very clear by going straight for the insults rather than engaging with the argument that my personal beliefs are irrelevant to you, only your partisan desire to insult and attack someone who has a different opinion to you.

andysnow65
andysnow65
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Spot on Chris, by their standards the overwhelming majority of us are racist. They cry wolf so frequently it ceases to be heard.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  andysnow65

Thank you Andrew. There are so many of us, tens of millions in the UK alone, who have had the “racist!” taunt unfairly thrown at us, simply for expressing honest truths about the failure of the multi-cultural experiment. But even though we might not speak the truth as loudly or as widely as we’d like to, our votes still count. So the woke puritans are ever so confused when election time comes around and we don’t meekly vote in line with their diktats.

Stu White
Stu White
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

By their standards I definitely am. I would also be classed as part of the metropolitan elite based on income and location. Bloody glad I’m not though.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

‘Racist’ is a slur word for members of the one group who don’t automatically take their own side, who for that reason are paradoxically vulnerable to it.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean L

Very true. For example, it was taken for granted in the 2008 election that American blacks would vote overwhelmingly for Obama because they shared a skin colour, and that this was right and natural. Yet the slight tendency of American whites to vote for McCain, relative to the average propensity, was denounced in spittle-flecked screams as “racism, racism!”.

Only one ethnic group is told that we must surrender our ancient homelands. Only one ethnic group is told that we must kneel before the foreign ethnic groups that are colonising us. Only one ethnic group is banned from making the mildest possible claim: that our lives matter.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

We’re doing all the fallacies today: straw man below, moving the goalposts from you.

My goalposts for racism were the parts of your original comment I quoted: the rhetoric about “ethnic factions” and “replacement” all in a weird obsessive comment on an article which had nothing to do with race. Goal!

> I’m probably a “racist” by your standards, because almost everyone is

“Almost everyone” does not come out with your 14 words-style stuff, so not “almost everyone” is racist by my standards. They shoot, they miss! Unless you move the goalposts, like you just tried to.

> “someone who says truths about ethnic differences that make me feel uncomfortable”

Heading for the goalmouth, sprinting past the defenders! Go on, what uncomfortable truths do you believe then?

> Those looking for a sign of Mr Wright’s integrity or otherwise are invited to catch him in the act of upvoting his own comment.

Imagine thinking that Internet points from sock puppets determine who won. I upvote myself because it winds up the people who’ve spent all that time making the sock puppets (presumably because they take Internet points seriously).

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

What is racist about not wanting to become an ethnic minority in what used to be your own country? Please explain, and please be specific.
It’s against international law to deliberately replace an indigenous people, according to the UN, so why is it acceptable to do that to the English?
Would you consider it acceptable to import, say, 10 million people from India (one of their ministers a few years ago said that India would export its excess population to the U.S., around 300 million I believe the number was. So it’s not a pie in the sky notion) into Scotland, where the population of Scottish people is falling, and to make them a minority in Scotland. They have no other land they could call their own. They’ve existed there for thousands of years. Is that acceptable, or is it racist to say it shouldn’t happen?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Smex

> What is racist about not wanting to become an ethnic minority in what used to be your own country? Please explain, and please be specific.

This is what’s called a “straw man”: you’re arguing against something you wish I said (because it’s easy for you to argue against), not arguing against what I actually said. I have not argued that it’s acceptable to make the English (by which I guess you mean white people) an ethnic minority.

There is no chance of that happening, though (England was 85% white at the 2011 census). The people who go on about “replacement” are either ignorant, or, if they know the demographics of England, deliberately using fear about to drum up support for their racist opinions. Which are you?

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Ethnic minority status for indigineous is mathematically guaranteed even without further influx though the numbers have never been higher than in recent years. No coincidence that scapegoating of Europeans has intensified as people come to recognise their numerical advantage. Insightful breakdown of demographics here.

https://www.youtube.com/wat

Penny Gallagher
Penny Gallagher
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

2011 was a long time ago now, I doubt the figures are still correct. Many cities are around half & half now.

pvvine
pvvine
3 years ago

“Many cities are around half & half now”

Which cities? What information have you based this comment off of?

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  pvvine

Just an observation, but when watching the BBC (increasingly rarely) News.
When any article involving schools comes on, it seems to be ‘Find the white bairn’
Loads of black bairns and other bairns in headscarf’s…..but not many white bairns.
Unless it’s BBC ‘Look North’
Are we in the NE the last outpost of the ‘white British’?
If being poor and neglected is the price to pay in order to not be flooded by the ‘progressive society’ then I’m more than happy to pay it..
I detest racism and the white supremacy nutters and fully accept we should be a haven for genuine refugees.
But a balance needs to be struck.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  pvvine

Without wishing to get into this argument London was majority white British by the 2011 census. So by 2013 were Leicester, Luton and Slough. It’s likely that this also now the case in Birmingham

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Hence John Betjemans’s wonderful poem Slough, “come friendly bombs and fall on Slough it isn’t fit for humans now”.

Betty Fyffe
Betty Fyffe
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Why quote figures from a census nearly a decade ago. We have eyes, and can see what’s going on. Apart from that, how many who are here illegally are going to be filling out a census form?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

England was 85% white at the 2011 census

England (which also includes the much whiter Wales for statistical purposes) was just 80.5% White British in 2011, which was itself a stark plummet from the 87.4% recorded in 2001.

https://www.ethnicity-facts

As this trend continues, White British will become a minority in our own homeland some time in the second half of this century. Every statistician (of which I am one) agrees that this is true. You don’t get to make up your own facts.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

> As this trend continues

What’s your evidence that the trend continues? ONS estimates for 2019 don’t seem to show a huge difference from the 2011 census but they don’t express much confidence in them.

The “plummet” you describe seems to largely down to the growth in the numbers of “Other White” people: “the Other White group saw the largest increase in their share of the population, from 2.6% to 4.4% ““ this group includes people born in Poland, who became the second largest group of residents born outside the UK (579,000) behind people born in India (694,000)”.

Are Other Whites the goodies or the baddies in your worldview? If you’ve been measuring cranium sizes and other HBD “uncomfortable truths” (which you haven’t yet specified, oddly), surely the Poles are OK? They did so much for us in the War, after all.

> Every statistician (of which I am one) agrees that this is true.

Takes two points on a graph and extrapolates a trend, claims to be a statistician. What’s the definite integral wrt x of e to the minus x squared from negative to positive infinity?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Non-British whites are not goodies or baddies any more than non-whites are goodies or baddies, or than British whites are goodies or baddies. It is so depressing that you are only able to think in these binary terms.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

non British whites (Poles?) are long term (only 1 generation – their kids) British whites. You don’t need to worry about Polish integration – unless of course you think they are a secret Papist army ready to overthrow the CofE?!

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

White British pupils as a minority in schools by 2037 very much looks like minority in our own country territory to me

“WHITE British children will be a minority in state schools in England by 2037 if the population trends of the past decade continue.
An analysis of official figures shows the number of pupils from ethnic minorities has surged in the past 10 years in England, while the population of indigenous white children has fallen.

The number of ethnic minority pupils in primary and secondary schools rose by just over 61% in the decade to January this year. By contrast,the proportion of white British children fell by almost 12% in the same period, according to data from the Department for Education (DfE).

If the gap continues to close at the same rate, white British pupils aged 5 to 18 will be in the minority inEngland in 23 years. They are already outnumbered by other ethnic groups in many schools in London, Birmingham and other inner cities.”

Times – 31/08/2014

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

“I’m confused:”
Obviously.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

The term “racist” has been so overused that it serves no useful purpose other than to identify the user as a self satisfied d**k. I routinely express opinions which I’m sure you would consider racist but unfortunately for you I’m sufficiently dark skinned to make such a label inapplicable. You won’t appreciate the irony in this.

Penny Gallagher
Penny Gallagher
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

what does that mean? Never heard of a Tiki torch.

alex bachel
alex bachel
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

If we acknowledge that you are a wonderful progressive who loves all people equally, in other words a superior person (in your own mind), will you go away?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  alex bachel

Well, no, I don’t love all people equally.

I’m not going anywhere: Tom Chivers writing here has summoned the rationalists, now we ask ze qvestions (mostly “where’s your evidence?” but with “Chris” it’s generally “you know that was out loud, right?”). Praise Bayes! All hail Saunt Yudkowsky!

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  alex bachel

In Paul’s mind, “rationalist” apparently equals “ranting and hurling insults”.

Perhaps his fervent insistence on being called rational is the equivalent of those American pastors who fervently insist that they are straight?

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

“Perhaps his fervent insistence on being called rational is the equivalent of those American pastors who fervently insist that they are straight?”

Getting a bit ugly, aren’t you Chris?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  John Cole

“Getting a bit ugly”? For saying that he proclaims so loudly to be rational because he is not rational, just as American pastors proclaim so loudly to be straight because they are not straight? I am the ugly one for merely calling him irrational, when he has accused me of being a literal neo-nazi, simply for caring about the rights and traditions of indigenous peoples?

Take your pollutive trolling elsewhere, sir.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Your going to love the next part of the new normal then! Good luck.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Over A million ”Whites” is that ”Racist”? have Fled from london since 2008,Recession partly because of london’s property prices,Cycle lanes,Congestion Charge ,crowded Schools, Drug wars,Knife Crime etc…Unfortunately Most Media,Civil servants,Judiciary,BBc are Globalists ,EU lovers,these fourth reich followers as exemplified by SNP,plaid,Greens and Most of Lib-lab-Cons has had a bloody nose Brexit was one, last 4 ;European elections’ was two, Trumps unforecast victory in 2016,and as six US states burn under democrats Control ,probable 2020 as well. Although i am fairly Libertarian and Stand or back ‘Most’ Independents ,Ordinary Folk must be able to go about their Lawful business without fear,intimidation or favour…MPs, Most councillors have ‘Their own agendas”!

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Oh God, I might have to have a ‘Gregg’s pastie and coffee’ what will my twatter friends think?
Great article.
Pity about Boris and his continued devotion to HS2, my support and liking for him is slowly draining away.

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago

Spot on. This rebalancing has been needed for some time.

I’m now fully remote, have been mostly remote for a few years, but the pandemic finally cut the requirement for me to get on that conveyor belt you talk of twice a week.

I’m still going to spend the money but I’m going to spend it locally. It’ll go to my local coffee shop and sandwich shop instead of Pret. It’ll go to tradesmen doing work on my house instead of South West Rail. I’ll spend more time with my partner, my friends and my family.

From the perspective of my current clients (I’m a consultant), they’re getting just as much output from me and others and they’re now looking at their not-quite-in-the-city office with an eye to downsizing by up to 80%. A few offices and a few meeting places should suffice.

Right now I imagine most commercial property investors are in abject fear. Regus, on the other hand, are probably rubbing their hands with glee.

And we should be celebrating this! Money spent on unnecessary commuting and unnecessary office space is a huge inefficiency in our economy. Even though it might form an economic shockwave in the short term, this is good for the whole country in the medium and long term.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

From the perspective of my current clients (I’m a consultant), they’re getting just as much output from me and others

I have been known, long before lockdown, to sometimes offer my clients a discount for letting me do the work from home. They save money, I save money and get more sleep: everyone’s a winner.

Toby James
Toby James
3 years ago

Surely if people won’t go to the baristas and physios, it makes sense to bring those services to them? Independent businesses are doing much better on local high streets (where rents are also lower than city centres) with a new influx of WFH workers shopping locally. And in residential areas without a high street, entrepreneurs are already turning up with mobile coffee carts and food trucks. There are new opportunities – and independent businesses are best placed to fill those gaps in the market.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Dear fabulously hip, woke, millennial London types (I bow, nay courtesy in respect). Please leave your politics in the great city if you are forced to come and live amongst the great unwashed. You might find you are quite outnumbered. How my poor heart bleeds.

Drew
Drew
3 years ago

From across the pond: having talked with friends in Texas and Pennsylvania, which have seen record outflows of LA and NYC, they do bring their politics. There are advertising billboards at the Texas state lines reminding emigrants to ‘leave their political sh*t at the border’!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Drew

Yes, look at how purple states (Virginia and North Carolina) have slowly shifted toward the democrats. They were solid republican states – as was California once upon a time.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

They are nestling in Cotswolds or On beaches..? The woke,twerps of right&left

Ian Wilson
Ian Wilson
3 years ago

I’m so glad to see this shift. I left London over 20 years ago and refuse point blank to ever go back. I live in Yorkshire and live the quieter pace of life.

It’s all about providing options though, because i know a number of younger guys who live and work in London, and find working at home very difficult due to the sharing of flats with several others.

Some of them preferred working away from home all week as they got to live expense paid in hotels.

If the ridiculous over reaction to this virus means more people have more options re where they work, that can only be a good thing.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wilson

Return to village life and the end of the cosmopolis would be epocal, the long looked for paradigm shift, end of the rat race, bourgeois values, commodification, lifestyle and consumerism, enclosure movement in reverse, …. Wonderfully hopeful article (in very short supply these days).

jbunce01
jbunce01
3 years ago

The commuting rat race has seemed mad for years.

I started work in the mid 80’s. Banking deregulation in the US and here had created a huge boom and a wave of optimism. I worked for large multinationals at the time and there was a feeling that if you worked hard, the rewards were just around the corner.

For most people, they weren’t but the illusion served its purpose. Wealth concentrated more and more in the hands of fewer and fewer people who pulled up the drawbridge on those behind them. Nurses now have to do degrees for poorly paid work. Any menial job now needs a ridiculously expensive, badly taught and largely pointless degree, no longer funded from taxation and peddled by the snake oil salesmen at profiteering universities. Barristers have to be practically retired before they earn properly so money rules our justice system and we condemn millions to work in poorly paid, menial non jobs, serving us junk which makes us obese and profits overseas corporations who don’t even have the conscience to pay proper taxes.

I’m at the end of my career now but this COVID mess has given us the opportunity to stop this ridiculous farce and change the rules for the sake of our children. For God’s sake don’t miss it and don’t be conned by the “Back to Business as usual” rhetoric of self-serving, narrow-minded Londonistas.

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
3 years ago
Reply to  jbunce01

Here, here.

Hugh R
Hugh R
3 years ago

A bubble has been pricked. We live in interesting times.

Eleanor Murphy
Eleanor Murphy
3 years ago

You mean…people might even….live in city centres again one day? The horror!

London would not become hollowed out by the disappearance of its corporate hellhole, but the hole replaced by homes: people who, just like office workers, also need a few amenities.

As much as I and everyone else wants to get out of the current situation, we risk flinging ourselves headlong back into what we had before, which, frankly, as this excellent piece makes clear, was in many cases utterly appalling. Before regretting the rise of a new normal (hateful phrase!), let us ask if the old normal is actually one we’d like to keep.

Disruption to the norm of the last 30 years, yes…but on the whole hardly a bad thing.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Murphy

You can not have corporate culture without corporate office.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Who wants ‘corporate culture’? It is, for the most part, horrible.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Agree, but horrible (empty would be a more accurate world) is better than nothing.
I (personally) learned a lot from going to the office every day in Banking.

John Cole
John Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I believe I “learnt” a lot more from being a coal miner, changing from your clean lockers to your dirty lockers.
Those who swaggered with towels across their shoulders letting it all on show, as opposed to those who wrapped their towel around their waist.
Their was a lot more ‘honesty’ in the working classes as opposed to the ‘white collar’ industries.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

In my experience ” corporate culture” is usually just an excuse used by power mad frsaks to get brainwashed fools to perform unpaid overtime.

Eleanor Murphy
Eleanor Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I wouldn’t call that a bad thing…

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago

Shouldn’t that “centrifugal power of our cities” read “centripetal power of our cities”?

The commuters shunning the commute is a centrifugal force, because they are “fleeing” the city.

The attractive force causing people to “seek” the city is centripetal.

What this article is telling us is that remote working technologies are shifting the balance between the centripetal (formerly very dominant) and the centrifugal. The Covid panic has made that starkly apparent.

james62
james62
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Why let wrong-way-round physics spoil an ex-commuter’s conspiracy theory about the Tories, their Londonphilia and their attachment to commercial property?

Love the estate agent perspective: “There’s been a stampede to get out of the metropolis, with a surge in enquiries for more spacious rural properties ” especially those with space to work from home.”

Love the insouciance: “When I read the headline British workers more reluctant to return to work than Europeans, my first thought was ‘wait, who said it was a competition?'”

Could it rather be that one or two British middle-class professionals, including journalists, trade union leaders and the usual IT boosters, have given up on cities, apprentices, shops, campuses, trains going faster than 70mph, electric vehicles, and communities with a radius of more than 15 minutes’ walk?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett
Christopher Elletson
Christopher Elletson
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Further on in the article she also uses the word “penumbra” in a way which suggests she does not know its meaning. Sloppy.

Joanna Hardinge
Joanna Hardinge
3 years ago

Two points, I also was struck by the “unfavourable” comparisons with the continental proportion of return to the office – but perhaps this is a positive thing and a sign of less presenteeism? I don’t know, but I think it’s odd to assume it is a failing on the part of workers in the UK with no further thought or consideration.

Second point – given the new working patterns, surely the necessity for HS2 has to be reconsidered now? It doesn’t matter what has been spent already, there’s still an awful lot more to be spent and throwing good money after bad makes no sense at all. Sunk costs are just that – gone – it’s future costs and the benefit of incurring them that should be considered. Not to mention the massive additional deficit we are now confronting.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago

Unless there is some rapid and unexpected rush back to the office, I would think HS2 is completely unneeded. Our existing infrastructure will be more than sufficient.

Mark Stahly
Mark Stahly
3 years ago

I find it disheartening that since, well almost forever, every discussion on modern UK life devolves almost immediately to a political discussion of Brexit. Can’t you all just for once imagine the thousands of people that were stuck, because they needed the job/money, commuting to/from London 5 times a week? Up until Corona they didn’t realize they had any other option as there was general agreement that the commute was hell but in that British, stiff upper lipped way, no solidarity as to an alternative. That’s all changed and now no one wants to go back, surprise! Not. London is a ferociously expensive hell hole that stinks of coffee (yes, too much of a good thing) where the people are fleeced shamelessly for the “privileged” of sacrificing their families, relationships and lives to the God of “work” (the most disgusting 4 letter word in the English language). Roll on Brexit, Universal Basic Income, falling London house prices, re-nationalization of the railways, revamping of the BBC, Brexit, an NHS with success bonuses and cheaper beer.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago

Too many commuters were caught in the trap of not being able to afford to work where they lived, or to live where they worked.
And who wants to spend four hours a day in a face muzzle during the commute, and probably having to wear one all day at work as well? Until and unless the mask mandate for public transport is lifted, and the whole CV19 panic subsides, there’s going to be apt of people who will stay working at home, or commute just a day or two to the office when absolutely necessary.

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Smex

Personally I think the mask is the least of it. It’s already an unpleasant waste of time, regardless of the current pandemic.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I don’t see why the govt would ‘fear an economic rebalancing from the capital’ given that every govt for decades has been banging on about the need to spread prosperity to the rest of the country. They should be embracing it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘There’s been sketchy internet, a 40% spike in divorce enquiries and skyrocketing domestic violence.’

Well that’s no different to a lot of the offices in which I’ve worked. Working form home cannot be any worse.

jorjuntech
jorjuntech
3 years ago

The IT industry probably has a lesson for the rest of the economy, as far back as 2002 work was being performed remotely in Bangalore. Employers back then couldn’t resist the 6 for 1 deal on coders with cheap internet connections. The results were appalling and corporate asset values were trashed, but on the plus side a completely demoralised and discounted British workforce. From late 2010s, tech. work started to come crawling back – pay in 2020 now resembles levels in 1997. Indian wages rose year-on-year, of course until the discount stopped matching the shoddy work.

It is difficult to imagine, once the remote working ethos beds in, why the same thing wouldn’t happen to other office functions – they’ll be done cheaper – and badly – from all over the commonwealth.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  jorjuntech

Much what I was thinking but you missed a small point. All these WFHers are (apparently) more productive than those in the office – conclusion: less are needed. Combine with your thoughts and woops.

I forgot to add that I did commute in and out of London for a few years – I really started to empathize with Reggie Perrin!

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
3 years ago

There is the old saying about one law for the rich and another for the poor. It seems that the government has a similar view to the plusses and minuses of globalisation. Expect a government that triumphed, in spite of Project Fear over Brexit, to try a Project Fear over WFH.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
3 years ago

Thank you for this excellent analysis. Reading this and the comments, I hope there is no need for a civil war between London and the provinces, just a gradual and necessary rebalancing. A lot of work will still need to be done in London which will be the place for headquarters and meeting spaces, just not everything. More a leveling across than up or down.

Whether our political class can manage this positively is of course another matter.

Mike Hursthouse
Mike Hursthouse
3 years ago

Thank you for informing me I am one of globalisation’s reactionary, provincial thicko losers. What is your definition of success? Since giving up being a wage slave 5 years ago I have worked from a home located on the edge of the countryside but only an hour from the City. The only difference between now and before Covid 19 is I now have my 3-4 meetings a week via Zoom or Teams. I paid off the mortgage some time ago and am now just putting money aside for when I choose to retire. I go for enjoyable hour long (or sometimes more) walks along footpaths and bridal paths which start 2 minutes from my home each day, having woken up and started work when my body felt like it, not to meet any transport deadlines. The work I do is a labour of love for me and mostly it finds its way to me not the other way round. If I’m a loser, what does success look like?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

Wraps! Wraps! Quick, boys!
An ecstasy of fumbling
Catching the flimsy sandwich just in time
But someone still was yelling out and fumbling
And flound’ring like an intern in fire or lime
Dim through the misty panes and fluorscent strip light
As, drinking a green tea, I saw her desperately wiping
If you could hear, at every jolt, the coffee
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted machine,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, so called Americanos on innocent tongues,”
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To ministers ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro Pret a Manger mori.

(Not mine: @duncanrobinson, @naomi_rovnick and @davidfirn on Twitter).
·

Tony Hay
Tony Hay
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

genius

David Barford
David Barford
3 years ago

Maybe – let’s wait and see once the free money has run out, the dark days and nights return so you can’t sit in the park walk and play golf etc and your more career minded ambitious colleagues are back at their desks.

hargreaves.daniel
hargreaves.daniel
3 years ago

One cautionary note – if we all expect to be unshackled from the office, expect contracts and probably remuneration to be renegotiated. No more London weighting etc.

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
3 years ago

My London weighting waits for the annual January fare rise con. I don’t actually benefit from it, Govia Thameslink does. Happy not to ever give it to them again, if the chance arises.

David Gould
David Gould
3 years ago

Having had the great misfortune to travel in and around London on the tube ,on buses ,in taxis & on foot over many years I totally agree , ” The commuters are revolting “.
You can’t imagine the joy in my heart & mind when I came back home to the sticks & beyond & threw all the stinking city grimed clothing in the washing machine PDQ and had a long power shower to get clean once again . Pity I wasn’t able to clean the grey gunge out of my lungs as quick & feel as good the same day .

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
3 years ago

“Before we embarked upon our mass national experiment in remote working,
the centrifugal power of our cities seemed a law of nature”.

Err, no, not “centrifugal” (“moving or tending to move away from a center”).

The exact opposite. Centripetal.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

The media class is not particularly strong when it comes to the hard science. Like Mary Harrington, they prefer the soft, pseudo-sciences.

Monty Marsh
Monty Marsh
3 years ago

For anyone well established in the knowledge based economy, WFH opens up a vast array of possibilities. In my case, as an electronics design engineer, I spent the last ten or so years working from my home office/modest little lab. My company head office was in the United States, and I was able to work Eastern Standard Time to mesh seamlessly with teammates over there. So much is done online and electronically now that there was no downside for us. If you can swap London commuting for telecommuting, why stop at London? Pick your time zone range, and sell your expertise.

Bromley Man
Bromley Man
3 years ago

As I remember it back in early 1990s there were few coffee shops etc, just the old fashioned City cafes, but at least 350k commuters came into the City. What changed?
I doubt if the exodus from London central will affect the line beyond Bristol and the Wash.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
3 years ago

Spare a thought for ‘Jeremy of Islington’ after 30 years of brown-nosing at the bank he
is afraid the sale of his dreary north London terrace may no longer allow him to retire
to as grand a country mansion as his talents demand.

Sarah H
Sarah H
3 years ago

…and yet (despite huge public debt) Johnson remains adamant that our saviour infrastructure project is HS2 cos commuting. Insane.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

The government, in my view, should bend with this wind. If commuters are on the way out, then think of the benefits, rather than the diownside.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago

If many offices disappear what will replace them? Lovely green spaces and recreational facilities? Residential properties and services for the new populace? A mixture of all of this? Upsides or downsides. Unintended consequences – could something that is actually positive emerge from the current miasma as indicated below? Or will this just add to the economic cataclysm that appears to be merrily rolling towards us all? Given the nature of what I do working from home is to the detriment to my clients, so not a reasonable option, but if it is, then why not? Answers on a post card please and addressed to PM Alexander Johnson (sic).

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

I’m all for a ‘rebalancing’ away from London and an increased quality of life. I’m not so keen on other exports of London following them though, i.e. overcrowding, drugs, gangs, crime, noise and general rudeness and arrogance. Not to mention London property prices falling to only ‘ridiculously unaffordable’ but prices everywhere else going to ‘unaffordable’. In some ways the magnet of London has shielded us to a degree from its excesses too. The countryside is a lifeboat and we don’t want it to get swamped thank you very much. Whenever I go to London the filth, the noise and the rudeness always get to me, and I can’t wait to get away. People who love the Big Smoke please stay there and don’t try to recreate your Islington Luvvie Pret Latte lifestyle here.

teabeeberry
teabeeberry
3 years ago

So true. I think all larger cities have exactly the same problems. Once commuters got the chance to work from home which should not be a problem for anyone working with computers as the main tool, who would gladly return into the office with somewhere between three and four hours travel daily? I have been given the opportunity to work two days from home and three days in the office in Hamburg. Not needing to commute is a real benefit.

Liz Davison
Liz Davison
3 years ago

A good point about Johnson’s personal responsibility being highlighted should some of these skyscrapers become redundant. He’s up to his neck in it now. He deserves everything bad which comes his way. This is the man who started the global move towards “dedicated cycle lanes” in towns and cities. It was a bungled, pointless mess and the ruination of many people’s transport networks has continued. Brexit got him elected. We can only hope when it’s achieved it will be worthwhile because otherwise he’s been a disaster.

Hugh R
Hugh R
3 years ago
Reply to  Liz Davison

I don’t think you like Mr Johnson much,….not being a tad subjective, are we? 😉

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh R

BDS has a habit of making people miss the point entirely.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Phillips

“yellow-haired man bad”

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Man bad meme tired.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Phillips

SImon Heffer (his editor at DT or Spectator?) called BJ a man unfit for high office.
And Heffer was/is a fire breathing Brexiter.

Graeme Caldwell
Graeme Caldwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Heffer also, like Peter Hitchens, believes the Tory Party should be abolished because it isn’t right wing enough, and has denounced every moderate Tory leader from Major to Cameron. It is no surprise that a moderate liberal conservative like Johnson isn’t to his taste.

(Heffer was never editor at either the Spectator or the Telegraph. You might be mixing him up with Max Hastings, who was Johnson’s editor at The Telegraph.)

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

BJ might not be to his taste but the argument (moral grounds) that he is not fit for high office is hardly a new thing.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago

‘Moderate’ if guaranteeing the demographic dissolution of your own group can be considered moderate. But there’s nothing to choose between the factions anyway rendering ‘moderate’ otiose: it would be practically impossible to admit higher numbers than under current regime: last year’s being the highest annual non-European influx ever.

John Munro
John Munro
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Max Hastings clearly loathes Johnson as well; as do numerous other prominent Tories. Hastings came out with something interesting a couple of years back. He stated “Everybody likes Boris, until they meet him.”

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  John Munro

Spot on I’m afraid. Boris is a clinically obese Tory fraud, an engaging opportunist, and an accomplished bluffer.

However, but for C-19 he might have got clean away with it.

Frankly, after the walking disaster that was Theresa May, who else was there?

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Heffer was right. Johnson’s siding with Leave was opportunistic. He’s a diehard globalist / communist who as Mayor even proposed offering amnesty to people here illegally. No different to Corbyn only Johnson openly sides with banksters. Otherwise two cheeks of same globalist a*se.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Liz Davison

Stupid evil is always preferable to intelligent. He opportunistically bumbled into removing Britain from the EU, providing the ground for the destruction of the cosmopolis when the inevitable black swan would chance along. Painful, no doubt, as the author points out, but poetic justice for what neoliberalism did to flyoverlandia; and, the sine qua non of any paradigm shift. Next you need to withdraw from NATO.

oldsteveuk
oldsteveuk
3 years ago

Almost as if HS2 isn’t needed….

Michael Slyfield
Michael Slyfield
3 years ago

The loud heralding of the unabashed marvels claimed for Cross Rail prompted a number of Local Councils and Developers alike to invest in a spectacular building boom along the A4 corridor, right out beyond the Reading and Slough conurbations. In recent years, Developers have made no bones as to their target market, well at least as far as the high numbers of 4-5 bedroom, and gardened, houses are concerned, namely those more affluent London dwellers who must pay exorbitant prices for quite meagre properties. Although still not cheap by most other standards, the price differentials between, say Fulham or Docklands and such places as Wokingham are appreciable.

This is gradually resulting in a civic and cultural upturn in a number of those smaller towns and villages who stand to immediately benefit; towns that, throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, saw their High Streets and local traders wither and atrophy in the face of satellite retail parks. It seems that many of those fleeing City life are looking for far more than a financial benefit; and a number of Town Councils are responding by not only facelifting their own town centres but also by creating a number unusually well appointed ‘garden villages’ and up-market hamlets with an almost nostalgic ambiance.

Up until Lockdown average sales have been steady but relatively unremarkable; however, since then they have become unprecedented. A race is now on to find and buy properties off plan, so much so that some Contractors are no longer bothering with new Show Houses because, as one told me only last week; “There’s hardly any need right now”. At least as far as the Thames Valley is concerned, London’s loss is our gain.

However, few have yet to wake up to the potential implications that a reluctance to re-embrace London commuting might bring, and I suspect that Cross Rail may very well prove to be the catalyst for something else entirely. With a little foresight some regional businesses have already lucked in, I’m sure that companies like Gigaclear, for example, who are providing an ultra high speed broadband infrastructure to rural communities, simply cannot believe their luck – and neither can those of us who’ve had to struggle for years, out in the sticks with a maximum download speed of 3.5 Mbps!

Regional business hubs and shared office spaces are nothing new; but the increased potential of something a little more rural and, dare I say, a little more family friendly, should not be underestimated; particularly if local Councils and Developers could ever resist their urge to milk public (a big ask I know).

There are currently a number of Developments, within 5-10 miles of where I’m sitting now, that are highly likely to have sufficient demand to support a small facility. Something wisely, adjacent to local schools, shops and child care; with perhaps free parking and those facilities beyond the scope of the average home office, such as the occasional meeting/presentation space or a stand alone parcel/freight storage & despatch unit etc. I can imagine that for some, the inclusion of such a resource in close proximity to a potential relocation site might well prove irresistible.

If the present tendency does indeed continue, and corporations actually see an advantage in sponsoring such facilities; perhaps from the consequences of an urban scale down; this could eventually reshape the work/life balance of many thousands. Starting in the Home Counties, the trend would likely echo around a number of city centres and, ultimately transform and enhance many rural communities, bring much need revitalisation and employment. I could even foresee the re-establishment of many defunct Pubs and Post Offices; not to mention the proliferation of upmarket Coffee Shops and Patisseries all over the show.

Just a thought …….

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

If they don’t like office work/commuting they could also try working in a coal mine, refuse collecting or even going back to manual labour on farms. Think of the saving in gym subscriptions.

W McClintock
W McClintock
3 years ago

Property, property, property. The London story begins and ends with property prices.

Mark Cole
Mark Cole
3 years ago

I am from the north but have lived in London since 1982 apart from a few stints abroad. London appears to be have many more divided ethnic suburbs now than it did when I first descended the great white slab to smokey town…and this is sometimes the source of gang wars. Unfortunately if people dont go back to work the vast majority of resulting unemployment will fall on the immigrant and lower white classes – this may be a sea change in living and working habits but only if we want it to be and understand the cost and benefits

I fear MS are right in their general view that given the chance British workers will vote to get paid to stay at home…just look at the slovenly, overweight leader of the PUBLIC SECTOR UNION – these are factual descriptions of his appearance

Full pay (unlike the private sector), full defined benefit pensions (unlike the private sector) and high job security (unlike the private sector)….

The Government should move to York – make everyone apply for the jobs and change the public sector contract – It shouldn’t be the closed shop it is

Wholesale change will be painful – the private sector will change because it has no choice but to to survive …what will make the public sector change?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Since unifications W Germany has transferred c. 2 trillion (and going) toward East Germany. Trade with Eastern Europe has boomed and outside Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden (may be Jenna?) East Germany’s population has declined.
Globalization (be in the world sense or EU sense) requires concentration of activities – hence London and services. Think of USA and the concentration of activity (NYC, LA, SF, Boston). Areas that are geographically uncompetitive are not going to make it – and those areas voted Leave. Blackpool aint gonna compete with Barcelona.
Northern England is too far away (look at the map) from the heartland of European industrial base (N. Italy, Swit+Aut, S. Germ, Rhineland, Benelux).
I used to work in Investment Banking (NYC:1998-2005; London 2006-2011) and I spend every day (including many weekends) in the office.
Since 2013 I have been working as an asset manager for a fund. It takes me 30 min (Bus 19, 38) to get to work from my home in Islington. Sometimes (good weather) I even walk to Mayfair. Before C19 I used to work 2 days (M&F) from home. I haven’t been in the office since the lockdown but I hope to get back soon. I know that many people spend 90 min coming to work so it is different, but I would guess that people would still be required to go in 2-3 days a week.
Cities never die, they just change/adapt.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Surely you mean Jena, the home of Karl Zeiss and those fantastic U-boat binoculars?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Yes,

Iain Muir
Iain Muir
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

One of the few intelligent comments here. The last paragraph in particular is spot on.

Does anyone really believe that, after 2000 years, London is going to be damaged by this? After complaining that London is too crowded/whatever, now we are being told that it will be too quiet to function. Sorry, London bashers, but London will adapt and probably improve.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

it isn’t Covid19,most Quote dont Know what it means ,its SARS2 …Covid is A Bill Gates Patent ..which sparked ‘Conspiracy theories’ fermented by Bill Gates wish to see Cryptocurrencies run by him MS,possibly Amazon,Soros foundation, Green Firms like Al Bore/gore ….Covid =Certificate of Vaccination Identification..

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

If hear you carry on posting to Unherd, the Bilderbergs will use their HAARP weather control lasers to make you get vaccine chips. Better stop for your own safety.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Cities do die, frequently. The landscape is littered with the gaunt ruins of many a famous city.

Try visiting Silchester or St Albans, just out of reach of the 19 or the 38 I’m afraid. Or perhaps further afield to Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Angkor Watt or Uxmal, there are hundreds to choose from.

As Goethe said “nothing lasts forever”.

chidozieononeze
chidozieononeze
3 years ago

Not sure I buy the “two hour commute leaves no time to exercise/socialise” argument.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

It does actually, I’m far fitter away from the office, because I have time to exercise and cook my own meals. It’s good for my mental health too, not being surrounded by gossipy coworkers and inept managers.