Why must we worry about London’s success? | The Spectator
There is much talk of the London problem and the need to ‘rebalance’. Last year Neil O’Brien, now chief policy adviser to George Osborne, warned in these pages about London’s ‘overwhelming gravitational attraction’. But is this new? It seems improbable, given that a greater share of Britain’s population chose to live in London before the second world war than today. London has always been a behemoth. What has changed in the past 20 years is that the city’s long post-war decline has been reversed.
No wonder, then, that it has become fashionable to suggest London is again a place apart. In the 1920s, the novelist Joseph Roth said that Berlin ‘now exists outside Germany, outside Europe. It is its own capital.’ The same is said of London; some go so far as to consider it a quasi-independent city state in everything bar its political infrastructure. As in New York, a third of its population are immigrants. Economic output, per head, is almost three times greater in west London than Edinburgh, Britain’s second most prosperous city. Who can blame Mayor Boris for complaining that central government swallows 93 per cent of London-sourced tax revenue? And if Scotland (with its smaller population) is to be given power to set its own rate of income tax, why can’t London? There is no good answer — save to admit that the rest of Britain needs the capital’s money.