AN op-ed in the New York Times slamming the UK’s response to the Ukrainian crisis is making waves. Its author, Ben Judah, makes some decent if unoriginal points about how London depends on Russian cash, but his piece is so full of holes a fisking is in order. Here goes.
1 “On the [Shard’s] top floors, ultra high net worth individuals entertain escorts in luxury apartments. By day, on floors below, investment bankers trade incomprehensible derivatives.”
Wrong. The flats haven’t been sold yet. There are no rich owners and no prostitutes. There are no derivatives traders – the only financial firm that has moved in is Duff and Phelps, which provides various corporate advisory, valuation and restructuring services.
2 “The old imperial elite has become crude and mercenary...Britain’s ruling class has decayed to the point where its first priority is protecting its cut of Russian money...Any moralising remnant of the British Empire is gone.”
Nonsense. The UK establishment has always been mercenary and generally put growth first, and it continues to moralise (about the environment and much else). The old elite liked to invade countries; the modern one cannot, having run out of cash. But forget the elites: the UK public doesn’t want to risk a recession by waging a trade war. The author says that the UK is betraying the US, but America has practised a similar kind of diplomacy for years with China, Saudi Arabia etc.
3 “The townhouses in the capital’s poshest districts are empty.”
A laughable exaggeration. Yes, some overseas buyers keep their properties empty. But Kensington and Chelsea’s resident population fell just 2.2 per cent in the decade to 2011; it remains the second most densely populated local authority in England and Wales. Other boroughs with prime property have seen their population soar.
4 “The grotty Southwark riverside”
Out of date. The London Bridge area is being transformed; major multinationals are based in More London and the regeneration zone keeps expanding.
5 “A city where oligarchs are celebrated and migrants are exploited but that pretends to be a multicultural utopia.”
Garbage. On most metrics London is astonishingly well integrated – the one racist/fascist party has all but vanished, school kids whose native language isn’t English now get almost identical results as native speakers, more and more children are of mixed parentage, all jobs are open to migrants, including the governorship of the Bank of England. London is probably better at integration than any other major city. The idea that migrants are all being exploited is extreme ignorance. Just look at any office in a bank, a tech firm or any business; a vast chunk of the best-paid, best qualified people are migrants. And among the low-paid, most have been able to send money home or drastically improve their lives.
6 “Near the Shard are the immigrants from Lithuania and Romania, who broke their backs on construction sites, but are now destitute and whiling away their hours along the banks of the Thames.”
Complete fantasy – and numbers of Eastern Europeans in work keep rising.
7 “The planning regulations have been scrapped”.
How wrong can anybody be?
The main claim is that Londoners have become the “oligarchs’ valets.” What the author doesn’t mention are the equally important Russian-German gas and trade ties, how our trade policy is determined at EU level, or how China and the US operate their own interdependent relationship of convenience. The West needs to become much tougher on Putin – but ending globalisation would be utterly foolish.