A video that understands the world much better than London’s current Mayoral administration – banklondon
At the core of the differences in policy between Ken Livingstone’s administration and Boris Johnson’s was a wholly different perspective on the future of the world and therefore of London’s place within it.
Ken Livingstone understood that the globalisation of the world economy is a genie that can never be put back in the bottle. It has unleashed gigantic forces which, simultaneously, have the potential to create a better future but which will also overwhelm anyone who does not recognise them and attempts to remain in a narrow, purely national. economic, social, cultural and environmental framework.
Within the internationalised economy that has developed huge new economic powers were also being created in China and India that would fundamentally change the world in which London had to make its living.
Those changes, simultaneously, gave London an opportunity to prosper and to create for Londoners a future in which they had more choices and a better quality of life than ever before. London was the most international city in the world – a decisive advantage in an internationalised economy. If it used that card to be the world’s greatest international economic and business centre it would prosper and simultaneously the range of choices of Londoners would expand. But that process of globalisation would inevitably be not only economic, it would have deep social and cultural implications. London would gradually absorb new elements into its traditional culture, creating something which had never existed before – the world’s most internationalised culture which. in turn. would give London outstanding creativity and cultural life.
This was the vision of the city as riding the wave of globalisation – not that globalisation would bring no problems, but that these problems could only be solved in the framework of the increasing internationalisation of London in all areas.
If London tried to go down another route, to retreat into a narrow national framework, the economy of the city would be deeply damaged, Londoners prosperity would lessen, their choices would be less, and London’s cutting edge creativity and culture would decline.
That latter route is the one Boris Johnson has chosen. While verbal adherence is given to the implications of developing London as the world’s greatest international city in practice the strategy that brought London such success is being systematically undermined and a quite different strategy embarked on.
A planning regime is being introduced which undermines London’s ability to compete with the huge development in the new Asian financial centres. All representatives of London’s ethnic minorities, who are the social side of globalisation, have been purged from the highest management levels of the Greater London Authority. London’s budgets for marketing itself abroad have been cut by nearly one third and the integrated body for promoting London abroad abolished. Grants to ethnic minority and minority national cultural projects are being cut. A director of culture has been appointed who is openly opposed to multiculturalism – resulting in an increasingly banal and backward looking character of the GLA’s cultural policy which adds nothing to the city’s cutting edge culture. London’s offices abroad have been kept open only because of the total hostility of the business community to their closing, Boris Johnson’s contemptuous behaviour when in China for the Olympic Games, symbolised at the closing ceremony and his ridiculous ‘ping pong’ speech, damaged London in what is probably the most strategically important market in the world. London has been removed from the leadership of the international group of C40 cities combating climate change.
In short, while a camouflage in maintained in words in what really counts, that is actions, London is being progressively removed from the cutting edge of international development. A London that one year ago was ranked ahead even of New York as the number one city in the world, even in US media, is gradually at first, and then more rapidly, declining from its previous standing.
No one more symbolises that shift than the Mayor’s Director of Policy Anthony Browne. Here is what Browne had to say in total contrast to the real trajectory London needs for success:
‘The eternal human urge for self-segregation — surrounding yourself with people like you — is likely to triumph over the more ephemeral economic and political incentives to leave what you know… Few in Japan are remotely bothered that, outside a couple of districts of Tokyo, you never see any whites or blacks, and the Ghanaians are unperturbed that white people there are as rare as snow.
‘It is not Hackney that is the future of the world, but Japan… The Japanese like being in Japan because they can speak Japanese, measure their flats in tatami mats, and eat raw pilot whale intestine (it’s as disgusting as it sounds). And they don’t have to catch a plane to visit relatives. Sharing the same language, culture and values as the people you come into daily contact with may not be excitingly multicultural, but it means you end up with deeper relationships, a sense of community, belonging and security.
‘From the English in the south of France and the Canaries to the Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets to the Jews in Israel to the African Americans in Harlem to the whites in South Africa, self-segregation is one of the most powerful forces in human communities. The white flight — or white self-segregation — which is such a feature of US cities is now endemic in the UK, with hundreds of thousands of white Briton’s fleeing the effects of the government’s open border policy on London each year. Self-segregation is apparent all around us, but there is a reluctance to accept it because it mocks multiculturalism… We are a world of stick-in-the-muds.’
Of course, while Anthony Browne vividly reveals his own narrowness what he doesn’t mention is that Tokyo is the greatest symbol of a financial disaster in the modern world.
Tokyo had all the financial resources which London and New York possessed to emerge as a leading international business centre rivaling them. And it totally failed to do so. Tokyo has remained a narrow, essentially national, market as compared to the international development of New York and London. That narrow national inwardness has created the greatest financial decline in history – with the fall in the value of the Japanese stock market now being even worse than New York’s after 1929. Japan has suffered almost 20 years of virtual economic stagnation.
That Anthony Browne considers that this financial disaster in Tokyo represents a model London should follow shows he his completely out of touch with the modern world. Not to mention that even his statistics on London are wrong and demographic studies show London is becoming less not more ethnically segregated.
To understand why the backward looking perspective of Browne/Johnson is quite unable to stand up to the forces of the modern world readers might like to watch the following video. Entitled ‘Did You Know’ it is on the subject ‘Globalisation and the Information Age’. There is more information on it on the blog Key Trends in Globalisation. Those who believe that humanity can be pushed back into its narrow national boxes should watch this – it only takes six minutes. The silly backward looking culture of Johnson and Browne will simply be swept away by the forces which are at work in the world. All they will achieve is that instead of London working with the grain of the leading economic, social, cultural forces in the modern world, and reaping all the benefits of this, instead London is adopting the strategy of a backwater. The only question that follows is how much damage Johnson and Browne will do to the city.