Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why London Cannot Prosper on Hype Alone; Bridging the Gap: If Enough People Believe London to Be Successful It Will Inspire Them to Make It More So

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why London Cannot Prosper on Hype Alone; Bridging the Gap: If Enough People Believe London to Be Successful It Will Inspire Them to Make It More So

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW GILLIGAN

AS THE economic ground starts to shift, just a little, beneath our feet,here is a question for our rulers.

Does the reality of London match the hype? According to the Mayor, we areliving in "the world's most successful city", a glass-and-chrome economicBabylon where anyone can make of themselves whatever they wish; a colour-blindcapital where harmony and tolerance are accepted by all. It is "rebuilding itstransport system" and "leading the grouping of world cities on climate change".

In the Mayoral election's opening skirmishes, Mr Livingstone's supporters havetalked of London's "multicultural unity" and "progressive consensus" as if theywere givens. Watching the BBC's London news, with its endless coverage ofBollywood festivals, recycling projects and gay football tournaments, it'sclear that at least one branch of the media has also bought into the dream.

Speaking as a progressive, an environmentalist and a supporter ofmulticulturalism, I wish it were true. In part, of course, it is. London is apowerhouse of wealth. It looms larger in the world than it has done for years.It is easier to be what the Americans call a "minority" here than anywhereelse.

But London is also the national capital of the BNP, and a thriving centre ofradical Islam. The world may come to London to get rich, but a lot of Londonershave missed out. We haveunbelievablythe highest unemployment of any region in Britain. Plagued by a serious lack ofqualifications and skills, the East End boasts a lower rate of economicactivity than even the most depressed parts of the Tyne or the Clyde. A town ofopportunity, indeed.

Compared with the Green achievements of any, say, German city you could name,the record of this supposed "world leader on climate change" is hopeless. TheTube is not being "rebuilt"it is being retiled. And far from embracing Ken's "progressive consensus", moreLondoners actually voted

Tory (or BNP) at the last local elections.

For all his Castro-Chavez windowdressing, it's really from New York that MrLivingstone takes his melting-pot city model. And one of his most importanttools is profoundly American toothe creation of what we might call a "civic myth." A myth is not a lie; it issomething which contains elements of both fantasy and reality.

The main US civic myth, the "American dream" of limitless opportunity, inspiresmany Americans, because it is just true enough. Of course, the US containssavage barriers to opportunity.

But some people do make itand the mere fact that so many believe in the dream makes it more real than itwould be otherwise.

The idea here is similar. If enough people believe London to be successful,modern, progressive, and tolerant, that will inspire them to make it more so.

Until now, I think it has worked. …

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