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Should London leave the union?

15 May 2014

We’re four months away from Scotland’s day of destiny, with the London-Scottish media fraternity becoming increasingly alarmed, and ironically (considering their total unionism) far more noticeably Scottish. At the Telegraph Graeme Archer made a characteristically elegant appeal to Sir Malcolm Rikfind to step forward, and there would indeed be something touching and rather beautiful about the grandson of Jewish immigrants being the man who saves Britain. The film script would write itself, if someone were to make a film about the Scottish referendum (which I admit is pretty unlikely). Sir Malcolm’s son Hugo meanwhile seems to think that the end of a 300-year union that helped export liberal democracy and the rule of law around the world is somehow more important than who gets to run the Tories.

And what unites a fair proportion, if not all, of Scotland’s prominent English-based unionists is that they live in what is effect the Union’s fifth country – London, which is now more different from the rest of England than Scotland is.

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Neil O’Brien, formerly of Policy Exchange and now of the Treasury, wrote about London’s separateness for the Spectator a couple of years ago. On a range of cultural issues the capital has become an outlier in attitudes compared to the other eight regions, so that on social rather than economic matters it’s easier to talk of a London/England divide than a North/South one. Chief among these topics is immigration, which Londoners are very keen on and the rest of England is very much against. David Aaronovitch has written before on these two different countries, saying how he’d rather share one with lots of Mo Farahs rather than Nigel Farages. Good for him, and the many others who feel the same, but his vision sits so squarely at odds with how most English people feel it’s hard to see how it can be reconciled without bitterness.

So why not make London independent? It’s not as crazy an idea as we might think. Nation-states emerged partly as a form of mutual protection, but with greater collective security in the west and higher levels of free trade the downsides of regions going their own way are much reduced (in fact most of the world’s successful countries are small). And while logic would say that in the age of globalisation nationalism would be reduced because people are crossing borders and intermarrying, it could also mean that people are moving to parts of the world that suit them better, and therefore the differences between regions are becoming exaggerated. This has certainly happened in the US, where conservatives have been migrating to conservative areas and liberals to liberal ones for some time now. Scotland’s independence movement has less to do with an ancient ethnic nation than its more social democratic political identity, which they like to think is closer to Scandinavia than to the folk down south. That’s why the rising poll figures for the Tories are bad news for the No campaign.

And in England itself people on either side of the M25 have a vastly different vision of the country they want to belong to. I’m something of an anomaly, being a Londoner but one who would rather not see his city turned into a Bladerunner-like dystopia with South American-levels of inequality, which is what metropolitan liberals and liberal Conservatives seem to desire.

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Show comments
  • Andrew Smith

    ridiculous little article

  • Michelle Trimborn

    I live in Cape Town, Western Cape, the only province(region) that keeps voting DA majority approx 60% whilst all the other regions vote ANC. We are “accused” of wanting to be a separate country. We are culturally different (and criticised for same) and Cape Town is as far away, geographically, from the other 2 major cities as Zagreb is from London. Hearing the London and the Scotland debate is interesting.

  • Thoughtful Ulsterman

    I always get the impression that city slickers are so caught up in their own bubble, having everything on demand, that they often become myopic as to fully appreciate the wider causality of anything.

    They become even more detached than most as to where finite resources like crops, meat, water, electricity, energy come from. They are often ambivalent to the needs of primary or secondary industries. They are so used to being surrounded by so many people available on demand that they forget the importance of community. They become blasé to the importance of the nationhood which allowed the city to be built and thrive in the first place.

  • justejudexultionis

    I love the way all these formerly Scottish but now London-based journos like Hugo Rifkind and Graeme Archer are so keen to defend the union when the fact that they themselves have only been able to have any kind of meaningful career by moving down south is a terrible indictment of the pulverising, destructive effect that that very union has exerted upon Scottish culture.


  • Simon Fay

    “David Aaronovitch has written before on these two different countries, saying how he’d rather share one with lots of Mo Farahs rather than Nigel Farages.”
    If Mr A needs a lift to the airport to catch his flight out to the Horn of Africa I for one wouldn’t charge him for the petrol.

  • flippit

    Though your article’s tongue in cheek I have to point out that London is the capital city of my country. The capital where the head of state of all us lives and the Parliament representing all of us lives and the statue of Nelson stands and the British Museum is and the National gallery…. all those things that belong to us as a nation happen to be there and the fact that an awful lot of people from just about everywhere have decided they want to live there because it’s glamorous and wealthy doesn’t change the fact that it’s our capital city and belongs to us citizens not just its residents.
    By the way, an awful lot of us in this country north, south, east and west and especially the midlands, have racially and culturally diverse populations, we’re very much used to it and integrating nicely..mostly.

    • justejudexultionis

      Correction: ‘London *used* to be the capital city of my country but is now just a dumping ground for foreign billionaires and people who worship money to the exclusion of all else’.

  • global city

    The Post war ‘mixed economy’ and central command, that ran through everything from Nationalisations to council composition, sucked the life out of the rest of the country and placed all major resources in London… now we are slagged off as lacking entrepreneurialism and skill….. we are told that London is the golden goose and suggestions made that the city should now rid itself of it’s parasites.

  • wudyermucuss

    immigration, which Londoners are very keen on –
    Very droll.

    • justejudexultionis

      Yes, exactly. White British Londoners love multicultural London so much they’re all moving out to Kent, Essex etc… just so they can hang out with other white people.

  • AtMyDeskToday

    “in fact most of the world’s successful countries are small”

    Interesting comment in the Specy, given their regular vituperative denigration of Scotland as a small country that cannot make it on its own.

    • justejudexultionis

      So true.

      SAOR ALBA 2014

  • DavidL

    The Singapore of the West. It could work.

    • justejudexultionis

      Singapore is a nasty, sterile place with lots of money – just like London, really.

  • Bonkim

    London is an overcrowded dump – disparate cultural and economic groups of people living in virtual apartheid. Yes London is floating away from mainstream England. Don’t like it, don’t go there, don’t wish to live there.

    • AtMyDeskToday

      I had a neighbour move in next door after she had lived and worked in London for 30 years. In conversation I learned that in 30 years she had never been able to have a conversation with any of her London neighbours and had simply fallen out of the habit.

      • Bonkim

        Country folk don’t speak to strangers either. Also people today have many toys to play with and speaking to other people last on their minds.

    • justejudexultionis

      It’s good for a couple of days. I go there often to use the facilities and then leave to a more sane place.

  • abystander

    I quite like London. When I am there I see little acts of human kindness, stranger to stranger, fairly often.

    Problem is, for England, its the centre of everything, finance, culture, government etc.

    This has nothing to do with the Scottish people’s sovereign right to choose the form of government best suited to their needs.

    • FrankS2

      The Scottish people may have a sovereign right, as you say, but they don’t get a vote unless they live in Scotland – and in which case, they must share it with non-Scots who also live there.

  • Raw England

    This is why I like you, Ed. As foppish and irritatingly moderate as you are, you have your finger on the pulse of the native people.

    Yes, London is a different country now. Its a foreign-majority, parasitical abyss draining what’s left of England. And the views of Londoners are literally – literally – the exact opposite of the actual English peoples.

    Its disgusting that this cancerous city holds all the political/media power of the nation. Its causing immense hatred and resentment.

    Rather than your suggestion, tho, I’d rather we amass around London in our millions, invade it, and reclaim it via force.

    • allymax bruce

      This commentor, cites an ever-growing realisation among the Public,
      that journos like Hugo Rifkind, and his Thatcher-government politician
      father, believe they have free-reign to insult, demean, smear &
      deride, any particular person, politician, idea, Nation and/or Peoples;
      they both have done it to us Scots over the years, and it’s completely
      and utterly wrong! The MSM does the same thing with Scotland’s First Minister Alex’ Salmond, and they think they can get away with it! No, not anymore; the Public have the right to disavow the ugly, nasty, evil MSM whenever that MSM goes too far. Hugo Rifkind somehow thinks he can publish, to the whole world, that Scots are somehow parochial; that they are skirt-wearing, talisker-drinking, neanderthals; only because he thinks so. He doesn’t create an argument, or set an assertion; his hyper hysterical hemorrhages, (he calls articles), make plain his accusations, without contest! Where does Rifkind get-off thinking he is allowed to besmirch a whole Nation of Scots, only because he believes his ancestry is somehow better? The Public have the right-to-reply to Hugo Rifkind’s ugly accusations. Moreover, it’s even more dis-ingenuous & insulting of the Rifkind to not allow that Freedom of Expression, (Hugo’s vis-a-vis his Spectator article comments column), as Freedom for Expression; as a right-to-reply. Who does he think he is? His latest article wrankles and goad’s my faith, Yes-voting Scots, and seemingly anybody that disagrees with him; is that what he means by when he says he’s of superior descent? That he considers himself absolutely better than the Whole Nation of Scots?

      • Raw England

        Exactly, AllyMax.

    • HookesLaw

      Go somewhere else to peddle your sick racist bigotry.
      London does not have a foreign majority. 2011 census shows 24% Non UK nationals. Of course you only count Aryans as ‘British’. Personally I am quite plesed to see rich French people fleeing socialism to pay British taxes.

      I see that Ipsos Mori are showing the highest support for decades for staying IN the EU. So why are UKIP polloing like they are? Because they are peddling cheap racism which appeals to sick nasty animals like you. In another age you would be a concentration camp guard. Go back under your stone with the other insects.

      • Raw England


        London IS a foreign majority. Whites (AKA English people) are the minority in the occupied city of London.

        And I keep telling you: I’m not UKIP. UKIP are moderate and extremely politically correct.

        I’m not just against recent immigration; I, like most native English, am against all the parasitical immigration we’ve had since 1950.

        • alexander

          Greater London and adjoining areas are overall around 65% white with 50% of that being white British / English. So in terms of an ethnic block the white English are the majority and will be for some time to come. And if you want to live in a ‘white english’ area there are plenty of places like this in London. I suspect you have already made that personal choice though.

        • styants64

          HoolKsLaw – mental case.

      • Bonkim

        Many immigrants are Aryans Hookes Law. Racism and ethnicity are relative, people will always find factors – not just skin colour, or facial features that differentiate their particular group from others even if there were no immigrants.

        • Darris Hawks

          Therefore there’s no problem with it and we should embrace the hatred of immigrants?

          • Bonkim

            Jumping to conclusions – twisting words to suit your twisted brain.

    • Bonkim

      London also makes the money that the rest of the country needs to survive. Britain is 75% dependent on imports – someone has to pay the bills.

  • asalord

    Articles such as this one provide more proof of the gradual disintegration of the “united” kingdom. More please.

  • you_kid

    Curiously the City of London with its own police force and Mayor already has. That other Mayor who used to edit this rag feels he needs to defend this foreign nation ever so often. This is totally unexplained why.

    • Andy

      Exactly. Some of the ignorant oafs who slag everyone off know diddly sh*t about history. The City of London – that is to say the historic square mile – is already partly a city state. I can see a number of advantages to it becoming, in Law, such an entity, with Her Majesty as sovereign.

  • andagain

    I wonder if it really is a good idea to have most of Londons workforce have to cross an international border to get to work in the mornings. It is difficult for a city to declare independence from its own hinterland.

    If it can, I suppose the City of London ought to declare independence from Greater London.

    • HookesLaw

      Its just another silly article from Mr West.

      • andagain

        If one part of the country can declare independence, I don’t see why it is so silly to consider the possibility of another part doing so.

    • Alexsandr

      many people go from france to geneva to work. They seem to manage.

      anyway I dont think its london leaving england. I rather think it will be the rest of england leaving london. It is increasingly irrelevant to those in the provinces.

      • andagain

        “Many” people perhaps. But not most people.

  • HookesLaw

    Silly article. Another one. There is nothing new in the central role London has played in the country going way back before the days of the Restoration.

  • allymax bruce

    Ed, Hugo Rifkind doesn’t give a flying fox about Scotland; he’s only interested in his Pharisee parasitic ‘observance laws’, continuing to oppress, and subjugate Scots Christians, and Scotland.
    I say, fuck Hugo Rifkind, and his sicko-father; fuck-off back to the Pharisee’s if you can’t accept the will of the Scottish Peoples!

  • MirthaTidville

    obviously a quiet news day at the Speccie, Guido having beaten them to all the important stuff


    England would be poorer and people would be living on London’s streets unable to leave or afford property, but at least the rest of England could have its own conservative immigration and human rights policy.

    • Simon Fay

      “England would be poorer”.
      Given London’s cancerous influence I’d say remove the tumour regardless of the alleged effect it has on my bank balance.

      If Scotland says “Yes” in September…

  • Englishoak

    I can’t even begin to state the obvious and many problems with this infantile scenario. Sheesh. What inward looking and looting idiots must reside in the truly stinking and very violent city of London.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ..and then London fragments in to its constituent parts. It is neither politically, socially economically, religiously, or culturally coherent. Left to it’s own devices it will end up as a rainy mix of Kingston, Lagos and Lahore with a civic polity to match. London independent? You mean the Square Mile surely?

    And an English Army would make short work of a multinational, multiethnic mercenary London Defence Force as it’s inhabitants’ loyalties increasingly lie elsewhere.

  • Wessex Man

    What a stupid childish article where on earth does the Spectator find these people, Scotland is a seperate country that will hopefully soon be Independent from the UK! London is the vibrant captial city of England and the UK.

    This man shows he is not up for the job by writing such nonsense!

    • HookesLaw

      England and Scotland are better off together. Slamond is desperate for more people like you in England to shout their ignorant mouths off.

      • Wessex Man

        Oh dear , you are so up your own that you now argue that London should leave the UK and England you ridiculous little man you sillier by the day.

  • CharlietheChump

    You come late to this idea, I commented weeks ago

  • RavenRandom

    This is not a game. It’s not a thought experiment. It’s real people in a real country. Articles like this are just unpleasant.

    • The_Missing_Think

      Abattoirs aren’t excatly nice places, but it doesn’t stop you eating meat does it?

      That’s because the truth tends to be quite warty and unpleasant… in the real de-bubbled world.

      It’s quite simple really, there’s one planet Earth… ok?

      You people gifted your slice of it away, because you’re better than the waythist plebs.

      You’re now just begining, to reap that anti-natural obscene idiocy.

      Got it yet? Or are you still utterly confused by it all?

      • rtj1211

        I’m sorry, your mind is so many levels above the greatest communicators in the world that it is unclear precisely who ‘you people’ means.

        The British? Those outside the M25? Someone else??

        Do enlighten us.

        • The_Missing_Think

          Sure, it’s a tricky one isn’t it? What country was London in?

          a) Japan?

          b) Russia?

          c) England?

          Take your time.

      • RavenRandom

        I’ll go with “utterly confused”. Try again when you’re not high or drunk.

        • The_Missing_Think

          So you admit you’re “utterly confused”, but you’re still patronisingly snide with those
          that aren’t? Can’t have a tall poppy pleb can we? Ohhh no, hack it down, team MC.

          If that’s your best effort at a rational response, then that does help explain why you are so “utterly confused”.

          Try to respond with a thoughtful, fact based intelligent answer, if you’re able to. If not… go for it, flush your true identity into the sunlight.

          • RavenRandom

            It’s hard to respond rationally to what appear to be largely random ravings. One can only wonder, as I do, at the state of mind of the author.
            Your second effort offers little clue to what point you are continually failing to make.
            So I can only recommend you continue to iterate your comments toward coherence.

            • The_Missing_Think

              If allege that you can’t understand:

              “You [English] people gifted your slice of it [Earth’s surface] away”

              Then your denialism is beyond help, or more likely, you can’t face the truth.

              • RavenRandom

                Your first sentence doesn’t make sense. Try reading it again who or what is the subject?
                Your second makes no sense.
                Consequently your third is nonsense.
                You really must try harder if you want to comment effectively. I could direct you to the site for Plain English, would that help?
                Are you a “tall poppy pleb”, what exactly is that?

                • The_Missing_Think

                  The first sentance is referencing the fact, that people happily tuck into their beef bourguignons, without going through the “unpleasant” business of slaughtering a cow. The very “unpleasant” business of how the beef bourguignons happened, is bypassed.

                  London isn’t an English city anymore, as it’s now a white (English) minority city. This is an “unpleasant” fact for some English people, but again, the very “unpleasant” business of how it happened, is bypassed.

                  It’s the same mental mechanism of bypassing the “unpleasant” business in both cases.

                  You found Ed West’s article “unpleasant”, because you want to own things like London and beef bourguignons, without having to deal with the “unpleasant” business.

                  That’s how London and all the other ex-English cities were gifted away, you can’t deal with the warty “unpleasantness” of living in the real world.

                  Trying to eat a beef bourguignon, without killing a cow, is the same as trying to keep London English, whilst England is “pleasantly” borderless. Impossible.

                  I condenced it all into a metaphor, as is my choice, as it saves pixel space, and works like a crossword clue. I make no apologies for using metaphors. I’ve heard rumour, there’s a few in the widow’s mite. (ooops… sorry).

                  You’ll have to do the rest of the crossword yourself.

                • RavenRandom

                  Oh bravo. What a splendid way of communicating. First have a an idea of what you’ll say, then convert to metaphors, subtract words and ideas. After that expect other people to understand your meaning.
                  As a special bonus then get shirty and miffed when people don’t understand.
                  Genius not the least bit silly and pompous.

                • The_Missing_Think

                  Funny how your ok with well accepted global cornerstoe metaphors, but get all spluttery when an English tall poppy pleb does the same.

                  You want plain English? Fine by me. This strongly suggest you have deep issues of extreme bigotry.

                  Leaving no option, but the barge pole.

                • RavenRandom

                  So you’re an English tall poppy are you. I see, who’s told you that, yourself? Are people always trying to put you down? Does no one understand you, are you too clever for us all? When everybody reacts to your flights of gibberish in the same way, I’m afraid it’s you not them that is the problem.

                  “You want plain English? Fine by me. This strongly suggest you have deep issues of extreme bigotry”, That makes no sense, it doesn’t follow, and isn’t in fact plain English. So bravo once more.
                  You really must try harder.

                • The_Missing_Think

                  That’s it, work it all out.

                  This messenger, still stands tall.

                • RavenRandom

                  “This messenger, still stands tall.”
                  Dear me, you’re pompous and deluded. You’re a messenger from who?

                • Darris Hawks

                  So you’re concerned that London isn’t as white as it used to be?

                • The_Missing_Think

                  Yes, very. Based on the concept of equal fairness for all races… and believe it or not… the English race. Whereas, you appear to be an openly passive aggressive, anti-white land looter, care to clarify? Answer your own question please.

                  And if they’re not a race, how come they’re prosecuted all the time as ‘racist’?

                • Darris Hawks

                  Well… no one said white isn’t a race. I’m not a land looter. I’m a Georgist.
                  I am openly passive aggressive to racists, yes.

                  You want me to answer my own question?
                  Ok. I am not concerned about the de-whiteification of London lol

  • ButcombeMan

    So this passes for serious political comment does it?

    Unbelievable. Does this place not have an Editor?

  • swatnan

    London hasn’t got any natural resources like coal and oil; its only got money, and you can’t burn money. London is practically landlocked although the Thames provides an escape route to the Continent. So the idea of London going it alone is bonkers. London also spills over in Essex and the Home Counties which means we’ll get a new breed of Borderlanders and Thieving Reivers.

    • rtj1211

      London wouldn’t stop the oiks from the home counties commuting into the Great City to work. It’s just like in Hong Kong that loads of mainland Chinese used to cross into HK to work every day.

      Most important issue for London is water: it’s completely lacking self-sufficiency there and the Home Counties might siphon off the Thames water into reservoirs upstream rather too often for their liking. Tough titty…. They could of course spend squillions on Israeli/Californian desalination plants and maybe they could sell 10 millions people’s worth of processed sewage in return for native English H2O (which presumably could fertilise the agricultural land of rump England).

  • Cymrugel

    I don’t think you can seriously compare a city with a small county.
    London is indeed very different from the rest of England, but much of its prosperity as well as the necessities that keep it going are provided by England. Its partly the arrogant assumption that this provision will continue – as the assumption that Scotland’s’ oil really belongs to bankers in the City – that makes this appear a viable possibility.
    I doubt if the rest of England will be willing to let their capital skip its moorings and make off with all the money it has been squeezing out of them for years.
    If it does, once an alternative capital has been established in say Manchester or Birmingham I think the good citizens of England will be not at all inclined to provide London with its needs and will either cut them off or make them pay through the nose.
    London’s arrogant confidence is based upon the assumption that it will make the decisions and call the shots. If it is no longer a part of England it will be wrong on both counts.

    • rtj1211

      Unfortunately, they will just buy everything from abroad.

      The real question is how things get into London if all the ports are not within the City Limits. And what the tariffs will be for transportation through the new England to deliver such stuff.

      The chances are, however, that capital flight will occur as the rich Londoners probably have properties all over the globe and bank accounts all over the globe also.

      • Cymrugel

        Hard to see how they can buy many of the basic necessities like water from abroad.

        I think a London denied support and provision by the rest of England would start to look pretty threadbare very quickly.

        I tend to agree with you about capital flight, but that would defeat the whole object of leaving which is to hang onto all the money.

    • styants64

      London and its taxpayers palms Out over fifty billion pounds to the rest. Of Britain, there is also the drawback of very high living costs here as well I think you would find like for like people that people in other parts of the country are better off, hey but keep going with your prejudice we are used to it.

      • Cymrugel

        Don’t be silly.
        If you decide to focus all economic life within a single city, even going to the extent of strangling any activity that might threaten said cities hegemony its hardly surprising if it becomes economically dominant.
        I lived in London for 14 years and enjoyed it, but the absurd extent to which it has been allowed to dominate the economy, politics and creative arts of the whole country is ridiculous.
        The self absorption of the place is extraordinary. We live on a potty little island – you could drive from one end of it to the other in a day if you really set you mind to it – yet places a couple of hours drive outside the city are spoken of and treated as if they are on the dark side of the moon.
        This is unhealthy at best and in fact has dragged down the economy, political, creative and social life of the whole country.
        Just piling up everything in one place and saying “oh but its so wealthy, vibrant and creative is self delusion of the worst kind. It’s no different to a third world dictator living in splendour behind high walls and armed guards while his country falls apart..

    • Guest

      London could start a sovereign wealth fund, too.
      Also, on the subject of the ownership of natural resources, London could switch to a land value tax and have even more prosperity.

      The conservatism of the rest of the country wouldn’t stop them from pursuing social growth.

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