I have a cousin who, every time London comes up in any context, runs through a tired litany of complaints about it. London is expensive, London is dirty, Londoners are rude, London is this, London is that. Of course he has never actually lived in London, but that doesn't seem to matter. Nor does the fact that I have done so for the last twenty years...
For at least the last 1300 years, English people have been having this conversation. Is there a new twist to it in 2010?
Apparently, '...the biggest charge against London is that it sucks talent and resources out of the rest of the country
Ever since Dick Whittington left the Forest of Dean in the 14th Century in search of his fortune in London, ambitious provincials have headed to the city in search of streets paved with gold.
Did Dick Whittington need London's size and variety to find his niche? Or did his departure to the capital deprive the Forest of Dean of an outstanding Lord Mayor, maybe even one who could have arranged some golden paving for his home town?'
Sucks? Really? Or do talented people gravitate towards the place where their talents will most likely bring them substantial rewards?
I would say that there is a substantial amount of evidence that London could look out on the rest of England, and say, "Are you going to let us do all the work?"
Most of the other big cities in England are now hideous wrecks. In the absence of the great cavernous heavy industries of the mid-twentieth century, the occupants seem to have largely given up on work, and decided to concentrate on soap operas and heroin. They can do this largely because of the enormous amounts of money generated by the City of London.
If the new coalition government can achieve anything in the next five years, I would like it to be this. Take away the 'sitting around on your arse at other peoples expense' option from the five and a half million people currently doing that. You will notice that I don't say 'sitting around on your arse' option. That is the great big con which Labour constantly pull. I am happy for those five and a half million people to continue sitting around on their arses - just not at taxpayer expense.
Labour have created a norm whereby millions of people deem that if any effort is required of them- whether it be moving towns, changing careers or learning something- then the government is being cruel and heartless. A promise has been given that their lives will be easy apparently. Well, nobody outside of the Labour party has promised that, and Labour did it with the intention of stealing taxpayer money to fulfil it.
So if by 2015, there isn't the option of arse-sitting, I will be a very grateful man. Because if there is one thing that can be said about London, it is that by and large, it works for its living.