“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bursting bubbles in the aspiration nation.

The wealth gap between the South East and the rest of the country is hardly new but the differential in house prices, job opportunities and income is increasing all of the time. But just as it is possible to live in a South East bubble, with only the vaguest idea of what life away from the capital is like, so too is it possible exist in  a bubble within a bubble, with a completely distorted view of  how London and the Home Counties actually work.
There are fears  that Osborne's Help To Buy scheme will result in another huge hike in house prices, especially in the capital. This is being talked about at the moment in terms of how "difficult" or "less difficult" life will be for people "trying to get a foot on the ladder". The jargon somehow makes it all seem like a minor inconvenience rather than a real threat but a further rise in house prices, rents in the private sector increasing yet more and the dwindling stock of social housing could combine to make life in London such that "difficult" would hardly be the word.
Travelling around central London it's very easy to run away with the impression that the whole city is populated by suits. Such has been the drive during the last quarter century to popularise the view that finance and the moving of reports and agenda through cyberspace is the stuff that makes the metropolis work, that this fantasy world has come to replace reality in the minds of many of us. As the cost of keeping a roof over your head  becomes more of a problem the rich will remain unaffected while the lower echelons of the finance and service industries may indeed find life more difficult. But that is not the point. These people do not actually run the city at all. Contrary to what many seem to think, the world does not consist entirely of offices staffed by suits in the daylight hours and night cleaners who come from God knows where to empty the wastepaper bin for the minimum wage (if their lucky). Water, sewage, energy, food distribution, hospitals, transport, construction and repair. This is what makes a city tick and if the thousands of people who work in these industries can no longer afford to live in the city that they run how will the infrastructure not collapse? Difficult? You ain't seen nothing yet.

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