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How London killed the Cockney Workers have been displaced by the 'meat grinder'

Whither the fridge and freezer?


May 24, 2024   7 mins

Ruby Murray, one of the most popular musical artists of the Fifties, is remembered today less for her schmaltzy ballads than as Cockney rhyming slang for curry. Now, though, Ruby’s gastronomic legacy has become a battleground.

Dishoom, the restaurant chain founded by the Tilda rice heir Shamil Thakrar, has launched court proceedings against Tariq Aziz, described as a Middlesex businessman, who trademarked “Ruby Murray” in 2019. And this court case encapsulates in microcosm a profound change that’s taken place in the East End over the last century — while shedding light both on some of the factors driving it, and also why the change has become so difficult to discuss.

It’s easy to romanticise the Cockneys, the eponymous London-born working-class demographic associated with rhyming slang. In reality, though, the argot that gave the world “Ruby Murray” originated as a means of confusing the police in the cramped, squalid, and frequently criminal working-class cultures that emerged in the wake of 19th-century urbanisation. The American writer Jack London described this bottom rung of working-class London life in The People of the Abyss (1903), as a kind of ever-hungry meat grinder.

Here, as he put it, “decade after decade, rural England pours in a flood of vigorous strong life, that not only does not renew itself, but perishes by the third generation”. As an admirer of Nietzsche and keen advocate of eugenics as well as an ardent socialist, Jack London doesn’t fit comfortably into modern political categories. But the meat-grinder he described in 1903 is alive and well — and it has long since chewed up and spat out the Cockneys themselves, even as their cultural traces live on in the current court battle.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of white British Londoners fell by 600,000, almost three times the fall in the previous decade. And this has been especially marked in East London: by 2013, the white British working class, once synonymous with the borough of Newham, had dwindled to 17% of the total population.

“The Cockneys simply gave ground: sometimes sorrowfully, sometimes resentfully, for the most part quietly.”

Why? In 2013, the BBC’s Mark Easton argued that this was a story of “working-class aspiration and economic success”. Yes, he said, the Ford factory at Dagenham had recently closed its stamping plant at a cost of 1,000 traditional working-class jobs. But the workers had been compensated by winning London’s house price lottery, leaving them “without a job but with a sizeable chunk of capital in their home”. Cue families dispersing into Essex, Kent, and England’s south-East coastal region.

Who now occupies the houses they once inhabited? This is more sensitive. In a 2016 documentary on East London’s shrinking Cockney population, one moustachio’d older man acknowledges that “We’ve always been a country where immigration has played a part”. But he says of the scale of change: “I feel we’ve been ethnically cleansed.”

This is obviously hyperbolic. But from a borough 56% white British in 1991, Newham’s demographic had shifted radically by the 2010s, to 30% white British with some 40% ethnic groups originating on the Indian subcontinent. And a repeated theme, among the Cockneys in the BBC documentary, was unease at perceived closed quality among their new neighbours. Tony, an East End stallholder who views himself as “Cockney” in the sense of working-class East Londoner if not as literally born within earshot of Bow Bells, tells the camera: “You feel alone.” And this is because, as he puts it: “The Muslims stick together.”

His response, along with many others, was to move further out with his girlfriend and new baby. Is this bigotry? In contemporary terms, perhaps; but it wasn’t “white flight” in any classical sense, for Tony describes himself as of mixed Cockney and Jamaican heritage. His girlfriend, meanwhile, is East European. His decision is thus inexplicable from the progressive viewpoint of “multiculturalism”, while his mixed heritage makes it also confusing from the far-Right one of race essentialism.

The thinker who explains Tony’s perspective best — and especially why discussions about migration are not reducible to crude or hostile fantasies of racial purity — is also, ironically, the one commonly accused of advocating precisely such hostile fantasies. Renaud Camus is a bĂȘte noire for the Left and centre-Right, for having coined the phrase “The Great Replacement”. This term has taken on a life of its own, usually framed as an elite conspiracy to replace native European populations with migrants from elsewhere: an obviously absurd idea, not to mention one associated with racially motivated violence. For having coined it, Camus is accused of being a “far-Right white nationalist”, making it risky even to mention his name, for fear of guilt by association.

Camus himself, though, emphatically disavows the conspiracy theory he is now inextricably linked with, calling it a “conspiracy theory theory”. Instead, he makes the more modest (and until recently widely accepted) argument that while each of us is an individual, we also share some common cultural traits as part of a “people”. And, he suggests, peoples are not a narrow genetic category, as some extremists suggest. Rather, a people has some physical commonalities, after the fashion of an extended family — plus history, culture and heritage, all stitched together with “desire, will, love”. It is, in Camus’s words, a “spirit and way of being on the Earth”.

In this sense, Tony is very clearly part of the Cockney people and culture: a people into which his Jamaican father assimilated. But while individuals can join a people, as Tony’s father did, at scale, Camus argues that peoples aren’t interchangeable. On the contrary: “Peoples who remain peoples cannot join other peoples. They can only conquer them, submerge them, replace them.” But, Camus suggests, for complex cultural and economic reasons, a transnational consensus has emerged that disregards this reality, claiming instead that peoples do not exist, and we’re all just individual humans who are interchangeable regardless of culture or origin.

This consensus, he suggests, has served to legitimise a movement of peoples on such a large scale that the end result is not pluralism but replacement. This need not be a conspiracy to be happening: indeed, what the 2016 BBC documentary captured was precisely replacement in this sense. That is, not a plot concocted by sinister elites in a smoke-filled room, or even a phenomenon driven by racial animus. But, nonetheless, an empirical fact visible in a comparison of demographic bar charts over time: one people giving way to another, in a geographic area, as the dominant local culture.

And in this context Tony’s decision to move makes perfect sense. For the story of the Cockneys becomes yet more sensitive, when we consider the possibility that some peoples are more porous than others, in the sense of willingness to welcome or interact with outgroups. This becomes visible if we use endogamy as a proxy: that is, willingness to marry outside one’s own immediate ethnicity, borrowing from a 2016 study on the prevalence of intermarriage among migrants to Britain. The paper shows that those arriving from Europe and (to an extent) from the Caribbean tend to mix and intermarry with local populations over time.

By contrast, migrants from the subcontinent — and especially from Bangladesh and Pakistan — were described in the paper as “relatively closed groups with few signs of marital assimilation or integration”. Notably, among these demographics, even where people “married out” this tended to be “a union with someone with an ethnic minority background rather than with a native British person”. Nor did this seem to change much between generations. In other words: though crudely put by those the BBC interviewed, the Cockneys’ 21st-century assessment of their new neighbours was not wholly inaccurate. Empirically, among the more recently arrived ethnic and cultural groups in Newham, some in particular did indeed “stick together”.

And in response, the Cockneys simply gave ground: sometimes sorrowfully, sometimes resentfully, for the most part quietly. But it wasn’t just house price arbitrage. It was also a preference for their own people. One 30-something mother, Leanne, stated this explicitly, saying of her move to Rayleigh: “It’s more English in Essex. I think my boys will be mixing more with their own.”

Against this, it’s commonplace now to claim that the English don’t exist, because peoples don’t. That the inhabitants of these isles have too mongrel a genetic heritage to share any commonalities, while every stereotypical English “tradition” in fact comes from elsewhere (including Ruby Murray, in both historic and rhyming slang form). This would doubtless come as news to Leanne, and those other English working-class communities that abandoned London in search (however reprehensible you may think it) of “their own”.

In turn, how reprehensible you find their decision probably depends where you stand in relation to the urban meat-grinder Jack London described: the capital’s ravenous, endless appetite for new arrivals on the bottom rungs, to sink or swim. For today, that grinder has long since exhausted the native supply of peasants described by Jack London, flocking in from the countryside willing to live in squalor and work for a pittance. In their absence, the cold logic of the meat-grinder has demanded fresh supplies from overseas.

The result has been the emergence of a whole new kind of urban proletariat — and, with it, displacement of the pre-existing one. For boosters of “diversity”, this is self-evidently good. And indeed if (like Shamil Thakrar) you have enough financial and social capital, it really is vibrant, full of opportunity, and genuinely indifferent to your ethnic and cultural origin.

Further down the food chain, though, a more immediate logic applies. The fewer resources you have, the more you need to rely on your neighbours. And, hence, how much you have in common with your neighbours matters a great deal. And because “peoples” in the fuzzy sense of shared heritage really do tend to gravitate toward one another, this means the competition for resources can easily take on an ethnic dimension. Poverty may sometimes be a world of culture-spanning friendships and relationships, forged in hardship; but it’s also, often, a world of ethnic enclaves kept distinct by a preference for focusing on “their own” — or by an inclination to blame every misfortune on the “other”.

Even in 1903, Jack London noted this phenomenon, in which “the men themselves ascribe their homelessness to foreign immigration, especially of Polish and Russian Jews, who take their places at lower wages and establish the sweating system”. London, though, lays most of the blame on the ruthless logic of the market: “Don’t blame the man who offers to work cheaper than you and gets your job.” Either way, whether you prefer to point the finger at ethnic in-group preference, or simply the logic of the meat-grinder, for the Cockneys the reality was the same: a culture forged in London’s meat-grinder was, in time, displaced by it.

They took most of their culture with them. What’s left now is a fight for the right to trademark a lingering trace of their dialect. Under the circumstances, they could have no more ironic memorial.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago

As usual a fantastic analysis. Whether you call it “the great replacement” or not, it’s no theory and as James O’Brien likes to say, “it’s just counting”.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago

James O’Brien obviously prefers Chiswick to Newham, perhaps we should ask him why?

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew R

I have a pal who loves multi-cultural.diversity. She lives in a very upmarket,prosperous and no public transport way out suburb of a Wales/England border town. That’s how they all live,the diversity fans,where it can’t reach them.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 month ago

If there was a part of, say, the middle east that had been 56% palestinian in 1991, and now was less then 17%, I feel fairly sure we’d be hearing it called all sorts of things.
The Palestinians themselves would likely call it a nakba.
So what then should one call this precipitous drop in the indigenous population of the UK’s capital city, I wonder.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

One district (with others similarly ‘replaced’), not figures for the whole city; but we get your point.

MH’s willingness to tackle this head-on is admirable

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

By ‘tackle head-on’ you mean she wrote about it? As far as I can tell, she hasn’t advocated any remedy, nor suggested that a remedy is even desirable. Now if she had called for the repatriation of all Middle Easterners and Asians, that might have warranted the label ‘admirable head-on tackling’.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

There is a lot wrong with this article. Firstly in Jack London’s time there was no welfare state. Now we have huge levels of welfare payments that has created an alliance between those claiming housing support and their landlords.
In broader terms, our economic policy since at least 2008 has been to create economic growth through population growth. Given that the British native population is not replacing itself, immigration is necessary. Asset prices, shares and property, depend on continuing immigration. That was why Brexit was such a threat to the elite and why puppets such as Johnson and Sunak have deceived the British people by claiming to want to limit immigration while increasing it substantially. .
The great social advances of the 20th century were won because huge armies had been required to fight two world wars. They were won through union militancy. Since Thatcher came to power there has been a drive by our economic elite to destroy the social base on which this union militancy was built – white working class solidarity. That is why immigration from the West Indies is not favoured. West Indians integrated with British people including within militant trade unions. Immigrants were needed who did not have or would not adopt the same traditions and would splinter the working class.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

What absolute nonsense. Immigration on the levels we’ve seen occurred because, as Commonwealth subjects, they had the right to come and live here. Your “working classes” trope is entirely ignorant of the technological changes which reduced the need for large numbers of manual labourers in the workforce, a process that continues apace and now extends into the technical and professional classes.

Viewing events through a failed ideological perspective is as much part of the problem, since the only solutions you’d have to offer (as with the Labour Party) ceased to have any relevance decades ago. Not that the Tories have anything better to offer.

Point of Information
Point of Information
1 month ago

Parsons egg of a comment:

“welfare payments that has created an alliance between those claiming housing support and their landlords”

Strongly disagree, having worked with some big social landlords and lived in private rented a accomodation with neighbours in the same but funded by housing benefit – renters and landlords have conflicting interests, i.e. safe healthy homes vs minimising maintenance costs to avoid bankruptcy.

“In broader terms, our economic policy since at least 2008 has been to create economic growth through population growth”

Quite – this model of economic growth has done enormous damage in the UK and globally (China is also facing the consequences), it is a Ponzi scheme that collapses when the resources for ever expanding populations are strained.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
1 month ago

The other issue is that if it were not for high levels of immigration, the housing costs would be lower and the ‘indigenous’ population might be able to afford to have some children. I have a debate with a Conservative councillor friend who opposes new house building. I point out that there are two options, reduce immigration or build more houses and that under his precious Conservative party we are getting the opposite of both.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

The reasons for people having less children are complex and poorly understood. Most countries are affected – especially those with advanced economies. Korea has it worst.

It is fair to say though that even if people in their early 20s suddenly decided that having 3 or 4 kids was what they wanted, they would struggle to do so.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Something in this, and it’s certainly the case that the balance of power between labour and capital determines where the share of wealth generated ends up.

It’s also true that white working class solidarity (and pride) has been lost. But is there evidence that this has been followed as a deliberate policy? By government? By shady elites?

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago

Labour’s relentless metropolitan sneering at a vast swath of working class identity was the problem from 1997 onwards. It never recovered.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

More like from 1960 onwards. My old Dad meant well. He used to say “they’re as good as us”. But see the danger in that well meant and innocent comment. Black faces were late arriving in our neighbourhood but when they did I realized they didnt think they were “as good” as me,they thought they were a hell of a lot better,with justification too,the nurse on the ICU ward,the man building up his business,why would they. But at least they “fitted” into British life. They loved music,a party,a good time,cool clothes,going to church.
White girls found Black Men sexy and ditto other way round,so they had kids,married or not,and integration began. But if you only marry your cousins to keep your bloodline pure and your culture intact then you dont seek or want ” integration” and why would you when the natives are lazy slackers who can’t do sums.

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 month ago

The same process is playing out in any sizeable English city.
I find Tony’s observations far more relateable than those of Camus. Allow me to give two examples of my own: Earlier this year I made a day trip to Wembley Stadium. It felt like visiting another country the inhabitants of which appear to be from Asia/the Middle East, and many of whom were obviously Muslim. As the article mentions, they avoided all contact with any visitors (themselves from famously multi-cultural Midlands and northern cities). Only the police force had significant numbers of indiginous people in their ranks, many of whom were from elsewhere going by their accents.
Upon returning to said Midlands city, I was treated to the spectacle of Muslims publicly praying for the first time ever.
I feel sad resignation and not a little angry when I see all this and more. My visits home are becoming less and less frequent – mainly because the experience is such a total downer.
Does that make me a racist?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

If we have been subject to mas migration for the last 70 year against the wish of the British people how is it not an elite conspiracy to replace native European populations with migrants from elsewhere or at least to deracinate them

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

For it to be a conspiracy it would have to have been done with replacement as a deliberate aim in itself. I’d need a lot of evidence to believe this was the case. And I’d need to know the motive.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

To break the homogeneity of the British people to make them more malleable and less of a threat to the power of our elites.
To suppress wages
To avoid having to invest to improve productivity while loading the cost onto the tax payer
To make rent seeking more lucrative

Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Does it still count as a conspiracy if it’s a self-organising conspiracy?

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 month ago

Because that is not the deliberate intention.
The underlying forces are forces of globalization and an elite class who are ideologically committed to globalization as a symbol of ”progress”, and the frictionless flow of capital/ people – the idea of people as being interchangeable component parts in a global market system, cleverly managed by said elites.
Massive demographic change is just a second order effect of this ideological commitment. As a result of their belief system, they simply don’t believe it matters.

David Morley
David Morley
30 days ago

Yes I think that’s right – I don’t think it’s the case that western elites are anti white western people as such. It’s not some kind of slow but deliberate genocide. It’s globalisation.

Pip G
Pip G
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

No, Harry – it does not make you a racist. A racist would make verbal or physical attacks on “the other”. As the article explains, it is simply a fact that the predominant ethic culture has changed. One may question whether more should be done to help the incomers to subscribe to English values and culture, but France suggests that does not work – witness the banlieus.
We must tread carefully as the liberal elite will accuse us of racism; but why is it that one particular group, as such (there are exceptions), refuses to assimilate, while Indians, West Indians, Africans and others become part of our society?

David Brown
David Brown
1 month ago
Reply to  Pip G

political Islam doesn’t want to assimilate but to dominate and turn UK into a new caliphate. It will use whatever means necessary, including democratic politics

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

No, it makes you honest. The numbers show this is true. Who in the world would thumbs down what is obviously true???

glyn harries
glyn harries
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Ask yourself: were you against the massive migrations of the Irish to British cities in the 19thC, or were you against the massive migration of poor Jews from eastern Europe to London’s East End? And both groups kept themselves to themselves for decades, different places of worship, diferent schools and social places and culture, but that gradually disappearred. Nowadays no one, except loonies, objects to people of Irish or Jewish background.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  glyn harries

In which English city did the natives actually become a minority because of Irish or Jewish immigration? What has happened in London is on a scale never seen in the 19th century.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

And exactly the same in Paris. Despite the fake but fun faux traditional Paris surface it’s now the uni-culture of everywhere.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  glyn harries

But the Irish certainly aren’t paying it forward are they. Look how a significant and voluble sector of the Irish are welcoming migrants. We made their Nan cry in the 1950s with that card in the window saying No Irish,for decades they bashed us with that, what cruel racists we were,we made Nan cry. The implication was they’re not like that,theyre better than that. So what happens when they get to show their superiority on this matter. They riot on the streets.

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  glyn harries

You, bizarrely, phrase your “rhetorical” (aggressive-aggressive) questions as though you think people can live for 170 years.

O'Driscoll
O'Driscoll
29 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Glyn, there are 250,000 Jews in the UK after around 150 years of Jewish immigration, against over 4,000,000 Muslims in half that time. The most popular name for a boy in this country is Mohammed, not Binyamin. There can be no comparison between the waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th century, and the current mass immigration. You can like it, you can loathe it, you can be indifferent about it, but there is no comparison.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

I think we must now treat the work “racist” with the contempt it deserves. It has been overused by those who would control us and is thus meaningless. Many such words have now infiltrated our society and all must be resisted.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago

And, as the post Roman world of Southern England was defined, and named after, those who came to these Isles, in search of opportunity, pushing the native Britons out (culturally, but not genocidally) so a new epoch is upon us, and maybe what is and once was will also be a distant memory of a half forgotten people.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

It’s a fair point, but the ancient Britons who survived before being replaced were illiterate. It goes without saying that the cultural artefacts of the period between say, 1215-2015 will survive for all to reminisce over.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

That’s possibly true from a broad historical perspective. But it will hardly provide solace to those who feel they are being pushed out. Indeed, if it had been presented to them in this way there would have been resistance.

The extent to which the Anglo Saxons replaced the Britons is still disputed. And we don’t know what role the Britons played in an Anglo Saxon dominated culture. But in relation to the earlier beaker invasion the replacement was almost total. So it can go pretty badly for the incumbents.

There is also a difference between history simply happening, and it being pursued as policy.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
1 month ago

There is a politician in Canada called Naheed Nenshi. Born and raised in Toronto, he is a politician, a three-term mayor of Calgary, and now a candidate to lead a left-wing party in the province of Alberta. Multicultural success story, right? Well, not quite, perhaps. Interviewed on public broadcaster CBC, Nenshi, a Muslim, stated that the neighbourhood in which he lives in Calgary is “One of the least diverse in Calgary ‘cause there’s no white people there. Now it’s very South Asian. When I get to my neighbourhood, I can exhale, this is where I live, these are my people, they look after me and I look after them.”
Just so. For a politician in Canada it is de rigueur to preach multiculturalism. Nenshi has done so, too, but at the end of the day he just longs to be with his own ones. No one would begrudge that. Everyone has their own ones. But what of the larger ‘community’, the city of Calgary? Can it, by virtue of being predominantly white, for now, still say of its community that these are my people and I look after them as they look after me? The question is purely rhetorical.
So what is the culture of a multicultural society? A “post-nationalist” ( Trudeau’s description of Canada ) remnant of what it once was, by the looks of it, with pockets of the unassimilable. The execrable Trudeau kept the country’s flag at half-mast for five months because of a calumny for which there was never a shred of proof and still isn’t. Perhaps he should have left it that way. A flag at half-mast perpetually would be the perfect symbol of a multicultural, post-nationalist state.
The subject of ‘your own ones’ compelled me to listen once again to that great song by the great Van the Man – Irish Heartbeat. I feel better now.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago

The equally great Christy Moore had a song Irish Ways and Irish Laws
Once upon a time there was
Irish ways and Irish laws,
Villages of Irish blood
Waking in the morning,
Obviously you couldn’t sing a lyric like that with ‘English’ instead of ‘Irish’.
Even the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is now forbidden; it’s now ‘Early Medieval’

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Shouldn’t song lyrics, you know, rhyme?

David Brown
David Brown
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

aka dawn of Islam

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 month ago

Harrington’s ability to write at the socio-psychological level is outstanding. Tony’s discomfort mirrors our own and was one of the reasons we left the UK last year. With no end to economic stagnation,and thus an increasingly fraught discourse over how the pie is cut, things can only disimprove is our thesis.

Buck Rodgers
Buck Rodgers
1 month ago

It’s always seemed very cruel to me that a distinct group, recognised for 800 odd years (cockneys referenced in Chaucer apparently), gets called racist when they lament their swift decline.

Sandy Henderson
Sandy Henderson
1 month ago

Another outstanding piece by MH. The fundamental issue she raises is whether the recipient ‘people’ are entitled to take issue with an incoming ‘people’ who ‘keep to themselves’. The British largely keep to themselves when settling overseas in (say) Malaga, Sorrento, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc, which persists owing to an ingrained complacency about learning another language. In the UK the ‘keeping to themselves’ is more often because of religion: both Judaism and Islam are practised by outward expression as much (at least) as internal belief and such outward expression often explicitly or implicitly precludes assimilation or inter-marriage. Some wish to problematise this; I am not sure what to think. If there is a problem, it lies with the religion rather than the religious.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
1 month ago

You’re right. For me, the issue is Islam.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago

The ‘keeping to themselves’ aspect of Judaism is mostly confined to the very small London district of Stamford Hill, favoured by the Hassidic sect. Apart from some orthodox Jews who wear a discreet kippah, there are few outward expressions of faith among the Jewish community and a great deal of inter-marriage with non-Jews. That cannot be said for the other religion.

Sandy Henderson
Sandy Henderson
30 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

That’s because there are many secular Jews who don’t practise the religion; if you conflate them with religious Jews, it rather misses the point I am making. And there’s Barnet, Muswell Hill, Golders Green, Mill Hill, St John’s Wood, Hampstead Garden Suburb, Highgate, Hackney, Haringey, Brent, Enfield, Hendon, Finchley


El Uro
El Uro
30 days ago

You, as almost everybody here, are afraid to be named “Islamophob”.

Dr E C
Dr E C
30 days ago

Jewish immigrants here have traditionally been at pains to be seen to be patriotic: flying the Union Jack, contributing money to monuments etc.

The current lot explicitly hates us & what we stand for (freedom, democracy, separation of church & state, women’s rights etc) & some of their number openly say they are planning to replace us.

Bruce Fleming
Bruce Fleming
1 month ago

Prompts a reminiscence of an old joke.
Q. When does Saddam Hussein have his tea?
A. When Tariq Aziz. 

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
1 month ago

As in France, the British political class has utter disdain for the indigenous people of their countries who may well not have a higher education.
But it’s even worse in the US, where their equivalent class utterly disdains what in the UK we call lower-middle-class families where mums stay at home to support the family and send their kids to state schools for gender and race re-education…

Dillon Eliassen
Dillon Eliassen
1 month ago

Who said it better?

“Peoples who remain peoples cannot join other peoples…”
-Camus

“People/People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world…”
-Barbra Streisand

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

id be interested to know what is going on with social housing in london ? i feel if people are moving around relatively freely, working for their place in society etc. we can manage this but if housing is getting socialised we are just setting ourselves up for conflict over a scarce resource. this is a huge issue where i am ( small town in ireland). Local working people living at home ( struggling to start families), immigrant workers living in shoddy accomodation and brand new council houses being given out to “those in need” ( more often than not also immigrants). Very hard to make sense of this world we are heading towards.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

According to ancestry.com, my DNA heritage is 82% Scottish, Irish, and Northern England, 18% Scandinavian. I suspect a great many Brits have a similar profile. Are we really supposed to think of ourselves as some sort of mongrel breed?

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s ‘mongrel’ in the sense that Country and Western are two distinct kinds of music.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I’m not sure DNA is the key thing here – but it is true to say that from the beaker invasion until the Second World War all new arrivals were genetically pretty much the same.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Am I the only one who felt this was a piece lacking any kind of conclusion? I felt it was building up to a point which never really came.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

I think she was smart enough to leave the inescapable conclusion unsaid. And the piece was all the more powerful for it.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

Perfect description of why there should be limits to migration in 21st century Britain, Europe and the West.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 month ago

This article justifies my subscription.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of white British Londoners fell by 600,000, almost three times the fall in the previous decade.
and some people lost their minds when John Cleese said that London no longer looked like an English city.

D Glover
D Glover
30 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

George Orwell

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 month ago

I doubt if my opinion will be any consolation at all those looking at their cities now compared to 40 years ago, and not recognising them at all for the people they see all around them, basically strangers in their own land, but I strongly believe this phenomenon of homogenisation is and will continue to play out ever faster across the globe. I think the confucian nations, China especially, will succumb soon enough as much as the anglophone west has, as will the peripheral European countries like Hungary etc. Some will hold out a tad longer, Russia perhaps, and the islamic nations. Subsaharan African nations are also interesting because their populations are still growing rapidly, but they don’t have the weath to support inbound migration on top of internal population growth, but for the same reason they also don’t have the means to stop that migration, so the potential for those countries to turn to endemic violence against incomers is I think real. You might wonder, why would there be significant migration between subsaharan nations at all, but I think this will happen.

Ultimately I cannot see why the erasure of all difference across all nations and communities across the globe, unpatatable as it is, would stop.

glyn harries
glyn harries
1 month ago

Unsurprisingly for UnHerd most of the comments ignore that, as Mary Harrington illustrates using Jack London, this process, this meat grinder, has been ongoing since London was first created, indeed it is the story of London, of all cities. Harrington uses Newham as an illustration, but in 1860 ‘Newham’ was no more than a few small villages, around the churches of East and West Ham, with some middle classes suburbs mansions, and the housing we see today was only built in the late 19thC and early 20thC. And those new streets of late Victorian and Edwardian terraces were filled by those from the slums of the East End and Whitechapel etc, bettering themselves, as todays immigrants to Essex are doing, while as Jack London notes the slums were re-filled by poor Jews from eastern Europe. So if you want to believe in some “Great Replacement”, well, it’s been going on, in cities, since time immemorial.It is literally how cities in capitalist countries work.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  glyn harries

That is certainly true, but the issue raised by the article is that those previous generations of immigrants to London assimilated into the British way of life while managing to preserve their own cultural heritage. As Mary says ‘among the more recently arrived ethnic and cultural groups in Newham, some in particular did indeed “stick together”.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  glyn harries

I think the pace and extent of immigration matters, as well as the potential for integration with the existing host culture (similarity in language, culture, values, beliefs etc), the rigidity of the incoming culture and the desire to integrate.

Also was there any point in the past that London became majority non white british? That’s a very fast pace of change. At the time Jack London wrote, for example, what percentage of the population of London would have been born outside the U.K. Also “Abyss” and “meat grinder” tell us something. It may have been going on for a long time, but the process has perhaps never been a good one for anybody.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
30 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

If you see a comparison with previous waves of immigrants to London with what is happening now, you are sticking your fingers in your ears.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 month ago

Yet another posted comment finds it’s way to the great sin-bin in the sky. I think UnHerd have put me on some sort of ‘watchlist’ as one of those people who can potentially make objectionable comments, because every second comment of mine goes into moderation these days. Which is ironic, because I don’t do ad-hominem, I don’t use bad language and my comments are completely anodyne. About the worst I do is drone on over and over about the bees in my bonnet about technology and demographics and so on. Ho hum.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
30 days ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Ha ha. Mine go to the bottom of the class, which is worse as it implies no impact at all.

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago

“By contrast, migrants from the subcontinent — and especially from Bangladesh and Pakistan — were described in the paper as “relatively closed groups with few signs of marital assimilation or integration”. Notably, among these demographics, even where people “married out” this tended to be “a union with someone with an ethnic minority background rather than with a native British person”
I’ve known several English women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi parents. All married white British men. None are on speaking terms with their families.
There is a price to pay for marrying outside.

Brian Kneebone
Brian Kneebone
1 month ago

At peak london used to be a British city with an international outlook, now it’s an international city that happens to be in England.

Walter Schimeck
Walter Schimeck
30 days ago

Great article (as usual) by MH. One thing I would add is that “a people” also defines itself through a connection with the land it inhabits. This is foundational to every Land-Claim made by indigenous peoples around the world, but is for some reason almost never mentioned by indigenous Europeans.

El Uro
El Uro
30 days ago

Overeducated “indigenous” Europeans

El Uro
El Uro
30 days ago

Thank you Mary, but stay strong. The authorities and their hangers-on in the press and universities hate the truth.