According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual index, London is among Europe's least "livable" cities. The index looks at a number of factors, including stability, healthcare, environment, education and social unrest.
Sam Jordison is co-editor of the Crap Towns books. He lives in Norwich
London is a cruel city. A quick walk from the steel and glass money temples of the Square Mile to the rundown estates of Bethnal Green shows you most of what you need to know about its harshness and its problems. There's appalling poverty within braying distance of the bars where City boys slam down thousand-quid bottles of champagne – but none of their wealth ever trickles down, and none of them know or care about the tragedies on their doorstep. Instead, they help ensure that as the prices go up, life gets ever more expensive even as it is valued ever cheaper.
Depressing as that walk may be, I'd still recommend it more than struggling through the public transport network. It isn't just that the trains are overcrowded, overheated and unreliable – it's that you have to pay such an insulting amount for the privilege of travelling in such misery. Don't drive either, unless you enjoy traffic jams, toxic fumes and being cut up at junctions. Don't cycle unless you're prepared to accept that every single driver on the all-too-narrow roads holds your life in contempt.
Talking of contempt, I haven't even got on to landlords, rent, and the fact that a shoe box in Brixton will cost you more to live in than a palace in Norwich…
Liz Hoggard is a London-based journalist
So much of what you say resonates at a primal level (especially your arguments about housing, rubbish transport and a world of class privilege). And yet, you know… London saved my life. For many of us it is the great liberal, democratic space. London accepts you if you're slightly odd or different or counter-culture. It gives you room to manoeuvre, room to breathe. It's the place you come to when the place you came from, in my case the West Midlands of the 80s, despairs of you. London is more thrillingly diverse than any city I have ever lived in. In this survey they talk about quality of life, and for me that means acceptance and freedom – meeting people who are not like me, who stretch and question my narrow sense of self.
Yes, of course all great capital cities are slightly passive-aggressive. And how on earth will twentysomethings ever buy a flat in zone 2 again? It is, genuinely, a moment of shameful inequality. But arguably we have to learn to be creative – to think outside the obvious boundaries. It's important to keep redrawing the map.
The ordinary working people I meet at home and in offices, that's my London; not the oligarchs and the property developers and the Candy brothers. The very best bits of London are free. I can walk a huge, fascinating landscape that extends beyond the tourist trap of the West End. We need to celebrate – and share – that more.
SJ I sympathise with your delight in London as an escape and, yes, its diversity is exciting. But I'd also say that most big (or even medium-sized cities) in the UK offer similar opportunities. Manchester houses all colours and creeds. Its counter-culture is just as exciting, and available for half the price and hassle.
I also wonder how true it is that London is such a safe haven nowadays. Aside from the fact that most people can no longer afford to escape there, there also seems to be a sad conformity among those that do. The big-beard, tight-trousered, fearless-bike hipster phenomenon, for instance, is essentially tribal and conservative. As a hopelessly dressed overgrown indie kid (and an obvious nerd) myself, I feel far more comfortable in my current home in a provincial city than I ever did in London.
And let's not forget that this supposedly liberal bastion has a mayor who is currently buying up water cannon to blast dissent. It has a police force mired in corruption and over-fond of kettling and beating protesters. On the other side, it has simmering discontent. One of the main reasons cited when London came third from bottom in this livability index was the threat of civil unrest, and a repeat of the 2011 riots. Too many of London's communities feel trapped and oppressed. Enjoying the city and its "free" opportunities is a privilege that few can afford.
LH As I travel outside the capital I notice a growing resentment about London (interestingly, Cameron's cabinet are rarely pictured visiting Liverpool or Manchester, because they know the reception they would receive). But I do rejoice in the internationalism of my city, the way I learn so much about different cultures, different politics and cuisines, just by attending a local street party. I also have little love of hipster tribes who treat the city as their private playground. London has a relatively young population, but the fixation with the lives of 17-year-olds in Shoreditch does us all a disservice. I want to know about the lives of 70-year-olds, too; the pioneers who have seen London change. What interests me about the "gentrification" of many parts of London is that it is the outsiders, the artists, who move into a gritty area, colonise it with pop-ups and galleries, cafes and community spaces, and then are priced out when developers move in.
I think no one was surprised by the anger the riots embodied. It was heartbreaking to watch our city burn, but also very moving to be part of the "riot-cleanup" operation. In Peckham, my area of south London, images of the Peace Wall, where black, white, young and old queued up to sign coloured Post-it notes with messages of goodwill, went round the world. There are huge lessons we need to learn about the riots – arguably a response to consumerism gone mad. But decent people gave up their time, got their hands dirty. A new grassroots movement was born. It should not be underestimated.
SJ You're right that the riots showed the good side of London, too. I was full of admiration for the people who went out and cleaned the streets and who tried to build bridges afterwards. But did you get the sense that the fundamental problems were addressed? Inequality has only got worse in the years since. Opportunities have disappeared...
You are also right that the 70-year-olds who pioneered so much of modern London are often fine people; I'm just worried that they are among the only ones who can afford to live and be happy there. It's turning into a playground for the old and international rich, while the real children have nowhere to go.
LH You're absolutely right that some of the solidarity and and sense of empowerment was squandered (see also the extraordinary "glow" London felt during the Paralympics). But I do think this city is endlessly inventive. We've embraced the London overground, cycling and walking, finding one-bed flats in zones 4 and 5; remaking our city in a time of adversity. What is so heartening about the postwar creatives such as Mary Quant and Terence Conran is that they built their own shops and cafes and theatres in bombed-out London, Mary told me, because they had no money. The city rewards entrepreneurs; but yes, they need to remember to take other people with them, to share their good luck.
Some of the most interesting work going on in London now is around the politics of "scarcity". We need to release spare space, as well as investigate new models for flexible living and co-housing, rather than build skyscrapers for the global super-rich. My city is not for sale, whatever the mayor thinks.
- How come I cant pull myself together?no_redirect=1
- What happened to the Howard Hughes estate
- What things are important in studying
- Can I export a software from Japan
- What does prepaid interest mean
- When did the Aryans come to India
- What are the qualifications for advertising
- How often do you bind your chest
- What does thermodynamics mean 2
- What does Respa stand for
- Was Americas land purchased or stolen
- How does someone know true fear
- Which was the worst post dreadnought battleship
- Why isnt nicotine a Schedule 1 drug
- Medically does weed cause age progression physically
- How are you supposed to store jewelry
- What is the past tense of bullshit
- What is your favorite restaurant in Guam