With Scotland under Alex Salmond striving to achieve independence and growing clamour in Wales and Northern Ireland, Thomas Stringer observes that London might have even greater cause to call for independence.
AT FIRST glance this might seem like a false premise. For one Scotland has traditionally had its own separate entity, only becoming part of the UK in 1707 some 300 years ago, ever since then having still exerted a degree of autonomy, if not political or economic, then certainly cultural. Historically there also appears to have been a greater clamour within for autonomy Scotland than within London. And Geographically Scotland also seems to be a more logical candidate for a region of the UK to become independent.
However when one inspects the facts closer, it becomes apparent that independence for London makes at least much sense as it does for Scotland, indeed possibly even more so, as I shall make clear.
Who can hit London the hardest
From a purely economic context it quickly is clear that London has good cause to demand independence. Salmond talks of London as if the fact that the house of Commons resides there means that it is London itself is dictating term, in fact the opposite may well be the case with politicians on all sides competing to see who can hit London the hardest, either be it through attacks on London’s Banking industry or the liberal democrats proposed mansion tax which would overwhelmingly affect properties in London that are on the most part by no means mansions. An independent London would be able to protect its own interests and would not be hampered by these politically motivated attacks borne of a peculiar type of envy of London’s successes.
London should not allow itself to be treated like a cash cow
London should not allow itself to be treated like a cash cow by ministers eager to gain political advantage. Currently, London is the only UK region to be in net surplus, and overall it subsidises the rest of the UK by the grand total of over £20bn annually, a full £7000 per household. So it is clear to see that Londoners have a far greater cause to feel economic grievance.
Culturally London is massively misaligned with the rest of the UK. This difference is clearly visible and has been widely noted by many commentators, including Ian Jack of the guardian noted last year that; ‘Never has London’s atmosphere as a rich city-state felt so extreme’
This discrepancy is particularly highlighted by the politics in London. In the London mayoral elections, the candidates compete frantically to disassociate themselves from their national parties in a bid to prove how autonomous they are. Indeed, Ken Livingstone, when asked what the thing he most wanted to achieve a mayor is quoted as having said; ‘Total Independence for London, A republic of London’. Though this may have been said just a little tongue in cheek, he said it knowing full well that it was to political advantage.
On big specific policies too London stands out, on AV for instance 60% of the areas that came out in favour of AV were located within London. It uniquely understands the value of immigration and cultural diversity that arises from it. It is a city built on immigration, with one-third of residents now born abroad. This compares starkly with a UK government currently attempting to place arbitrary caps on immigration.
Some would argue that London would not be able to stick up for itself, or would not have a prominent place in the word, but this is misguided: it is of note that over half the members of the UN have lower populations than that of London.
The City state as the preeminent method of governance
Many widely respected commentators have increasingly recently been advocating the City state as the preeminent method of governance. Renowned economic historian and prolific author Niall Ferguson argues that it is the competition between the multitude of small states in 16th and 17th centuries that caused the economic success story of the West over the last half millennium. Nassim Nicolas Taleb author of ‘The Black Swan’ argues that the City state, being small and well defined, is the most stable of all the methods of governance, and least likely to suffer black swan events.
In essence the arguments made for Scottish independence can be said for London to a far greater degree. And with all the recent talk on this issue it may well not be as beyond reach as it once may have seemed.
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