Thursday, 26 September 2013

London becoming the playground of millionaires?

Next year's local elections in the 32 Boroughs that make up the greater city of London may be one of the last times before we see a real decline in Labour’s vote and support, as areas such as my own a part of East London start to change in terms of people demographics, the truth being that working people move out and the rich and better off move in. It has been my unfortunate experience during the course of some 36 years to have been witness from a trickle to an avalanche of change in this wonderful city I love so much.

What makes London so special a city I don’t really know, the shape of its winding old river with its Isle of Dogs. And as, Samuel Pepys referred to the "unlucky Isle of Dogs." You have to really love London as I do to have lived here as long as I have. This is the greatest city on earth, its story is the thing that legends are made from, its history is second to none. But nothing will ever compare with its diversity, its character and the people that made that character as real now as in the past tense.

Capitalism is characterised by the constant revolutionising of the means of production. This means that from its earliest inception one of its key features has been restructuring:
once-dynamic industries go into decline and new ones spring up. Most importantly, this means that the working class is also constantly changing. This process of the constant revolutionising of the means of production was recorded by Marx. He wrote, ‘All old established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question’.

So that explains much and a great deal; the decline of the river docks, new methods of transportation of goods, more emphasis on finance than heavy industry has led to the loss of thousands of jobs as many London based firms have moved out or packed-up all together, this in turn has meant that a vast traditional working class and manual population has felt the capitalist pinch and been not only put under pressure, but become the object of what some now call social cleansing.

The other day I read that an estate agent in Brixton had “Yuppies Out” scrawled across it’s gleaming glass windows.

The graffiti taps into local fears that Brixton is one of the London Boroughs on the front-line of a process of demographic change that is sweeping central London, with a combination of high rents and housing benefit cuts ensuring that places such as Brixton will no longer be affordable to those on low incomes. A similar situation across London has seen councils such as Westminster and my own Newham hit the headlines for proposals to rehouse tenants as far afield as Derby, Nottingham and Stoke.

They also call this gentrification the "Kosovo-style social cleansing" that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been repeatedly warned of but to little or no effect, his death ears are of such a balance.

Things are so bad in terms of housing provision, which we read about almost constantly and daily that even the wife of Mark Carney, the new Bank of England governor, was complaining that her family is struggling to find a place to live in London, and holy relics” despite his £874,000 pay packet and £5,000-a-week housing allowance.

Can it be that such comments reflect the reconfiguration of London, shockingly high property prices in "prime" central London continually breaking new records, while large parts of the capital move out of reach for those on low incomes.

While the global financial meltdown and double-dip recessions have left many of us counting the pennies, it seems that the streets of London are still paved with gold for some.The UK capital is home to more multi millionaires than any other city in the world according to figures that boasts London has a staggering 4,224 'ultra-high net worth' residents - people with a net worth of more than $30million, or £19.2million.

Some 40 per cent of UK multi millionaires live in London compared to seven per cent of their US counterparts in New York.

Examples of the super-rich living in London include property developer Nick Candy, whose joint fortune with his brother is estimated to be more than £1bn, and Britain's richest man Alisher Usmanov, estimated to be worth more than £18bn.In total, London is home to 281,000 millionaires, more than Frankfurt or Paris, with 675,000 in the entire country.

So the question that I'm pondering over with my morning coffee, and in a bog-standard council flat in Newham; is London becoming the playground of millionaires? 

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