Charles Wright: Report calls for ‘equitable growth’ across London

Ahead of the mayoral election, Sadiq Khan set out an ambitious pledge to boost economic growth across the city with a target of creating more than 150,000 “good” jobs by 2028. This week, a new report from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) sets out just how challenging that might be.

Produced with the Centre for London think tank, the report looks in detail at the economic landscape across the city’s 32 boroughs. While acknowledging that London remains the most productive place in the UK, it acknowledges, it paints a stark picture of “deep geographical disparities” in output, productivity and opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, central London is the capital’s economic powerhouse, generating 66 per cent of its Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2021. It also provides most the jobs, with Westminster, Tower Hamlets – home of Canary Wharf – and Camden at the top of the tree, rivalled only by the business clusters around Heathrow.

Productivity is concentrated in that same area, although – “alarmingly”, the report notes – only four boroughs, Tower Hamlets, Hounslow, Camden and Westminster, are currently recording productivity levels above the citywide average.

The figures reflect London’s recent sluggish productivity growth overall, at just 0.2 per cent a year since 2007, as well as revealing large variations between boroughs. Tower Hamlets generates £66.50 per hour worked compared with Lewisham and Haringey, bringing up the rear, with £28 and £30 per hour respectively.

Inner London also has more businesses – 10 per cent of alone are in Westminster – and a concentration of the most productive sectors, including finance and insurance, professional, scientific and technical, and ICT. These industries, along with the real estate sector which is more evenly spread across the city, produced more than half of the total GVA it produced.

Outer London, by contrast, has more manufacturing, although industrial land there is increasingly under pressure, and higher proportions of both lower paid jobs – 21.2 per cent of them pay less than the Living Wage Foundation’s London Living Wage – and residents with no qualifications.

The report highlights Barking & Dagenham as having the highest levels of deprivation among all London boroughs, with 42 per cent of children living in poverty, the smallest number of jobs and a contribution to the city’s economic output overall of just 0.7 per cent. There are significant variations within boroughs too, with Tower Hamlets, for example, heavily dependent on Canary Wharf for its overall ranking.

The research showed that London remains “in need of levelling up too,” in the words of LCCI policy chief James Watkins says in his foreword. “Policymakers must not view London as a single entity, where wealth and opportunity are spread evenly. Not all London boroughs are equal. We cannot overlook the capital when considering measures to boost economic growth in the UK.”

The report was a “roadmap for informed decision-making and collaborative action to ensure London’s prosperity is inclusive and sustainable,” said LCCI chief executive Karim Fatehi. “We look forward to working with businesses and local and national government to develop solutions to foster equitable growth across the capital.”

Centre for London chief executive Antonia Jennings added that “tailored solutions and collaborative efforts” were needed to ensure continued citywide economic success, while Jason Perry, Conservative Mayor of Croydon and executive member for business, economy and culture at the cross-party London Councils group, highlighted the need for wider devolution to the boroughs.

“We welcome this report and its recognition not only of the variations between boroughs, but also the variations within individual boroughs that can be just as stark,” Perry said. “This is further evidence of why we need more local decision-making and empowerment of boroughs to tackle the challenges in their communities, which will help us grow all of London’s local economies.”

Read the report in full here. X/Twitter: Charles Wright and OnLondon. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.

Categories: Analysis

Charles Wright: The future of new tall buildings in London looks mixed

The New London Architecture (NLA) built environment think tank’s latest annual tall buildings update arrived last week, accompanied by now predictable headlines: with almost 600 “skyscrapers” in the planning pipeline, the city is apparently on course for becoming “Manhattan-on-Thames”.

Certainly, there are some pretty big buildings in the offing. “Roaring” demand for top quality office space is driving development in the Square Mile in particular, according to the report. Yet it paints a mixed picture overall. Beyond the city core, could the era of the high-rise actually be coming to an end?

NLA has been monitoring tall buildings in the capital since 2014. Over that period, 270 meeting their definition of 20 storeys or higher have been completed, the report says. They are by no means all office behemoths, albeit the very tallest are clustered in Canary Wharf and the City. They average 28 storeys and most are residential, delivering 58,000 homes over the ten-year period. Of the boroughs, Tower Hamlets, which contains Canary Wharf, tops the league with 71.

While office towers predominate in the centre, residential towers have “mushroomed” across the city, at Nine Elms and Elephant and Castle and from Wembley, Earls Court and White City to Stratford, Romford and Poplar Riverside as well as further out, in Croydon and Redbridge.

The year 2023 saw 47 schemes awaiting planning permission, 21 approved and none refused. Forty-one are in inner London and 27 in the outer boroughs. Their average height is 28 storeys and they are again mainly residential. Ealing led the pack with 10 projects in the pipeline, followed by Southwark and Greenwich with nine each.

But residential development has been particularly hit by a sluggish housing market, high interest rates and construction cost inflation, along with new fire safety requirements sending architects back to the drawing board. Only a pivot to providing purpose-built student accommodation has kept some of them on track. And, critically, it is harder for high-rises to get planning permission.

Government changes imposed on Sadiq Khan’s London Plan, with new rules governing both the height and location of tall buildings, are now making their mark, the report says. Enthusiasm for them in the suburbs is waning, with borough leaders and, following a number of planning setbacks, even Transport for London, losing their appetite for high-rise in favour of more modest developments.

“Outside the City, the scale of tall buildings is coming down and there is more interest in developing 12 to 18-storey groupings,” the report says. “The changes in the 2021 London Plan have given councils more power to dial down height—and they are using it.”

Sustainability concerns also continue to put pressure on developers. Can inherently carbon-intensive high-rises truly be sustainable? Or does the higher density they deliver, fostering reduced transport emissions and making more efficient use of land and resources, carry the argument?

“This debate will not die away soon,” the report says. “The increasing scrutiny of embodied carbon and the loud calls to reduce it are placing a new requirement on towers to justify their existence.” Meanwhile, Town Hall planners are increasingly advocating a “retrofit first” approach.

Better design is needed too, the report suggests, to help endear tall buildings to a sceptical public. That means more focus on ensuring that towers “give more back” to their community. Think of King’s Cross, in contrast to the “one site at a time” Nine Elms development which was taken forward “without an overall masterplan that would have encouraged a more mixed-use neighbourhood”, one contributor to the report says.

And there are increasing calls for a new London-wide approach to tall buildings, addressing their cumulative impact across the capital and on neighbouring boroughs, with Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson putting the case in the report.

Wilson cites what he calls the “damaging effect” of competition between the City and Canary Wharf for tall buildings, resulting in random development. A more Parisian-style approach setting out an “overall London strategy about where tall buildings belong” is needed, he argues.

What can we look forward to? London is at an “important juncture”, the report argues. The Square Mile looks set to continue to grow upwards, with a healthy pipeline and new buildings such as 22 Bishopsgate ensuring that skyscrapers are no longer the “fortresses they once were”.

But for residential high-rise the future is much less clear. The report suggests that the strongly-held view within the development sector is that with available land remaining scarce and population rising, London must continue to strive for higher densities. And in many areas, “that means continuing to build upwards”.

The conundrum – not least for Mayor Khan as he reviews his current London Plan policies and looks to expand his use of mayoral development corporations – then becomes marrying the need for consistently high design quality, which comes at a price, with the political pressure to boost delivery of new homes. That’s not always been successful, the report warns. Alongside exemplar towers, there have too many “mediocre ones”, fuelling the backlash we’ve seen across the city.

But if height is reduced in favour of low-rise high density further out, it asks, “where does this leave bigger sites, and the increased pressure to ramp up supply?” A likely change of government, with a possible shift on Green Belt policy, adds another level of uncertainty.

The end of the high-rise outside the city core then? Not yet, the report concludes. The continuing pressure for more homes means tall buildings – as long as quality is not sacrificed for quantity – will remain at least part of the solution. The war of the suburbs may not be over.

X/Twitter: Charles Wright and OnLondon. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE

Categories: Comment

Julie Hamill: Big Apple encounter, Regent Street

I plug in my iPhone to charge but no zig zag appears in the box. The settings indicate that the battery needs replacing as it’s almost four years old and lead me to the Apple Genius Bar. I get a same-day appointment for 10.50am at the Regent Street Apple HQClever. History has taught me these appointments are always longer than ten minutes, so I take my laptop with me so I can work while I wait.


I’m seen by a guy named Steve. He is quite familiar to me but I’m not sure why. 


As he is running all the diagnostic tests I pull out my laptop and open it to a flyer on Canva, which Steve spots.


“Oh, you’re a DJ?” he says.


“No, I’m a writer, but occasionally I guest DJ at The Dublin Castle.”


“Oh, I know that place,” he says. “I’m a DJ.”


“I thought you looked familiar!” I say.


“I doubt you’d know me, I DJ’d in New York.”  


Well, my ears spring right up, as I lived in New York from 2000 until 2005 and while there DJ’d a couple of times at Shag, a bar in the West Village. Words start spilling out of my mouth faster than my brain can deliver, and we search to connect our Empire State adventures.


Steve DJ’d (and founded) a famous club night, NyLon, which wasn’t far from where I lived in Manhattan. I am of course, familiar with it as the streets and avenues used to be covered in NyLon (New York-London) flyers. 


He was there from the Nineties through the two thousands, so while my malfunctioning phone is getting checked in the back we track all the familiar places we frequented, from clubs, shops and subways to dive bars, diners and drug stores (that weirdly sold bread).


By day, Steve managed the Paul Smith shop, by night he was Steve McMahon, the NyLon house DJ. By day, I worked at Ogilvy in Midtown. We dive directly to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to find a ton of advertising people in common. Much like London, New York is a big city of possibility that also has a connective smallness where you can be anonymous AND bump into everybody you know.


After diagnostic tests on the phone, the DJ-turned-genius tells me the charging prongs are also damaged. I can either charge wirelessly with a new battery or get a replacement phone.


I swallow the cost of the phone (gasp), everything gets transferred and we say cheerio and good luck. You just never know who you’re going to meet in the big Apple.


Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo: Apple Regent Street.

Categories: Culture

How to support

I brought this website into existence in a simpler form on 1 February 2017 with the goal of continuing and expanding on the writing about London I had been doing elsewhere since the 2008 election for Mayor.

Since then, boosted by an epic five-week crowdfunding campaign I launched on its first birthday, On London has kept going and growing, adding to the sum of high-quality journalism about the UK capital and carving out a small but unique and influential space for serious news, analysis and commentary about a city that is, all at the same time, truly fantastic, deeply troubled, frequently misrepresented and often misunderstood.

On London strives to reflect all of that and also to illuminate the key themes and issues, providing an antidote to the harmful populism that is infecting too much of British life, including its media. It is a very big job for a very small organisation. I run all aspects of On London from one room in my home in Hackney and rely heavily on a marvellous group of fellow writers to provide their own insights and expertise.

I don’t want any other day job. But doing it takes up a great deal of time and also requires money, not least in order to pay those contributors to the site who rely on writing to make a living, and also to enable me to pay my share of the household bills as well as those of the company.

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There are, of course, many other media organisations and individual journalists seeking your financial support. All I can say is that there really is no other website like On London, and everyone who writes for it cares deeply for the city it documents.

If you aren’t already a supporter, you have a choice of three ways of becoming one:

  • By paying a recurring £5 a month or a one-time £50 a year using any “donate” button on the website itself. You will be added to my Mailchimp mailing list for On London Extra and also get a bespoke version of the little Tuesday morning round-up of recent On London output I call On London Latest.
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Categories: Culture

Julie Hamill: King Charles on the Jubilee line

I’m looking down at my phone, even though it hasn’t got a signal. I peer up over my specs and see that everybody else is doing the same. No chat is required this morning, no pleasantries needed, no conversations before coffee. It’s headphones on, chins on chest and let’s just get to where we’re going. The last thing anyone wants to do is look up and catch an eye for fear of a smile or, worse than that, the terror of seeing someone they know. In the morning, the London Underground is under strict “look down” rules: control chatter, remain dull.

Until a dog comes on.

Entering at Green Park is a young owner with a gorgeous football-faced King Charles Spaniel. The dog has a smile like a slice of watermelon and a non-stop tail. As he moves around sniffing his surroundings, all chins lift and all eyes widen.  Headphones come off and mouths move from straight line expressions into glee and wonder. People look as if they’ve seen the glow of the sun for the first time, AND have been handed a winning lottery ticket. AND a banana.

The dog proceeds to visit everyone, quickly choosing favourites to sit beside and lean on, largely dependent on who’s giving the best scrub of his ears. “Casey”, as I see from his collar is his name, sits between my boots. His fur is as soft as baby skin and my smile is instantly lost in his gummy chops. The happiness of this dog, who simply wants to please all, is totally transformative. His presence instantly evaporates all introspective sleepy blankness from our carriage, which he has blessed by choosing. He has broken the look down.

I can’t help myself. I strike up a chat with the owner. I’m only doing what everyone else wants to: ask the dog’s name, his age and find out about his personality.

Casey is six years old. His owner tells me he’s still a puppy at heart and loves to travel by Tube. He’s so chilled and, like so many dogs I see on “big” trains, he lies right down on the floor at full spread and makes himself at home. My man owns this carriage now, and people laugh as they have to step over him to get on and off.

As he comes over to lean on my leg (and leaves a gift of fur on my trousers) I declare my love to Casey and his newly groomed boxing-glove paws, trimmed in at the wrists. I tell the owner I want him to marry my own dog, Dolly, who is ten. The owner tells me that Casey is a submissive boy who does, in fact, enjoy the company of older girls, so they could well be a match. Everybody is smiling and looking and talking to King Casey as gets up again to conduct a few royal visits. He is every inch the celebrity he deserves to be.

The owner says goodbye and some people wave directly to the dog, like he might lift his paw and wave back. For a few seconds all the heads remain up, enjoying eye contact and exchanging acknowledgement of a new atmosphere and a good feeling. As the Tube pulls away, all the chins drift down again, and look down is resumed. But for those few stops he joyfully reigned over us. It was pawesome.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.

Categories: Culture

Lewis Baston: How and where Sadiq Khan saw off the latest failed Tory campaign

Sadiq Khan’s re-election as Mayor of London on 2 May 2024 was historic. No previous Mayor has won a third term – Ken Livingstone tried and failed in 2008 and 2012, and Boris Johnson had moved on to other things by 2016. Khan’s 11.1 percentage point margin was also a record for a mayoral contest between candidates for the two biggest parties, though he fell just short of the distance by which Livingstone, running as an Independent, defeated the Conservatives’ Steve Norris in 2000. His vote share was also just short of the highest yet, achieved by Khan himself in 2016, and Johnson’s in 2012.

For the third time, Khan polled over a million votes, a mandate no other British politician has enjoyed, with the exception of Johnson in 2008. The scale of his victory was similar to that projected by pollsters Savanta and Redfield & Wilton. YouGov erred in Khan’s favour while whispers just before the count that it would be a close-run result turned out to be highly inaccurate, revealing the credulity of senior BBC journalists.

Screenshot 2024 05 15 at 12.05.31

The London Assembly elections conformed to the broad pattern of the mayoral outcome. Labour maintained their leading position with 11 seats, the Conservatives dropped by one to eight, the Liberal Democrats and Greens held steady at two and three respectively, and Reform UK won a seat for the first time. The Tories lost West Central constituency to Labour and the South West seat to the Lib Dems, the latter being the first time a party other than one of the big two has achieved a constituency win. However, the London-wide list element of the Assembly elections, determined by proportional representation, compensated the Tories with one additional seat.

There is less to say about Khan’s third win than there was about some earlier mayoral elections. That is partly because it conformed to expectations but mostly because so much less detail has been published about the local results. Unlike previous elections, no data has been published about how each electoral ward voted and, as yet, there is no data is available below the level of Assembly constituency. It is not possible to match individual voters’ choices between the three ballots, so inferences from the aggregate numbers about what people were doing with their votes are not rigorous. But it is likely, that we can use the large numbers to tell a story, particularly if the simplest explanation also has a politically plausible logic.

Screenshot 2024 05 15 at 12.18.09

Both Khan and Conservative candidate Susan Hall ran substantially ahead of their respective parties’ vote in the Assembly elections, particularly the London-wide list component. The same thing happened in 2021, though to differing degrees: Hall ran 5.5 points ahead of the Tory list compared to 2021 Tory candidate Shaun Bailey’s 4.6 per cent, but Khan’s advantage over the Labour list more than doubled from 1.9 points in 2021 to 4.1 points in 2024.

Neither appealed more than their parties to the extent that Boris Johnson did in 2012, as reflected in a 12-point advantage over the Tory list in 2012. But it seems likely that the change in electoral system to First Past the Post encouraged tactical voting for the frontrunners among electors who would previously have given them second preferences.

Screenshot 2024 05 15 at 12.30.51

The pattern of mayoral over-performance of the party baseline and its changes since 2021 add support to the argument that it reflects tactical factors, particularly on the Labour side. Khan’s best performances relative to the Labour list were in Lambeth & Southwark (+11.2 points), South West (+11.1 points) and North East (+10.6 points).

Correspondingly, the Lib Dems in South West and the Greens in the other two constituencies were down by double-digit margins in the mayoral vote compared to the list. In each case, the net switch to Khan was greater than in 2021. It is plausible that there were 10,000 voters in each of North East and Lambeth & Southwark who chose the Greens on the list and Khan for Mayor.

Screenshot 2024 05 15 at 12.34.28

Hall’s best performances relative to the Conservative list were in the strongest Tory areas of outer London Bexley & Bromley (+12.6 points, see chart above), Havering & Redbridge (+11.8) and Croydon & Sutton (+9.5). These were also the constituencies with the largest gaps between Reform UK vote shares of the list and mayoral ballots. It is likely that around half of Reform UK list voters supported Hall for Mayor.

The tactical argument is the same as it was for the roughly half of the Green vote who opted for Khan. However, while the Greens and South West Lib Dems account for most of Khan’s advantage over the Labour baseline, the Reform UK factor only explains about half of Hall’s overperformance. The rest is harder to trace. Hall did relatively well in South West (+7.6) so this may reflect the choice made by right-wing Lib Dems. It is also possible that some normally Labour voters in outer London chose to support her for Mayor instead of Khan.

Voters in South West (chart below) faced a particularly complex set of calculations. The mayoral election was predominantly Conservative v Labour, while the constituency seat was a three-way contest that could credibly be represented as being mainly between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, and the list election was a free-for-all. The results were personal and tactical victories for Khan for Mayor and Lib Dem Gareth Roberts for constituency AM. Nobody got much more than a quarter of the vote in the non-tactical Assembly list vote.

Screenshot 2024 05 15 at 12.40.24

Compared to 2021, the biggest pro-Labour swing in the mayoral election was in the City & East constituency, home of London’s largest concentration of Muslims. Labour’s list and constituency Assembly votes were down in the constituency, but the party does not seem to have suffered a Gaza revolt on the scale seen in elections in the West Midlands or the towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Given that Labour’s leads were already very large in Newham and Tower Hamlets in 2021, it may be that Barking & Dagenham, where Khan won only narrowly in 2021, was what powered the local pro-Khan swing.

While Khan’s victory was to be expected in a city that has voted Labour at every election since 1997, at a time when his party was riding high in the national polls his comfortable but not landslide margin does point to a distinctive quality of City Hall politics. Incumbent mayors in other metro areas, including even Andy Street who lost narrowly in the West Midlands, polled above their party baseline. Yet Khan’s vote was below what Labour can expect in a general election.

London’s devolved politics is mature enough to be demanding even of a candidate with the city’s favoured party label. The result also reflects a price, willingly paid, for Khan’s political courage in persevering with Ultra-Low Emission Zone expansion despite sometimes hysterical opposition and the faint-heartedness of some of his Labour colleagues after the Uxbridge & South Ruislip parliamentary by-election outcome last July. It also, less honourably, reflects the unwillingness of some – as seen in the Brent & Harrow Assembly seat results ever since he became a mayoral candidate – to vote for a Muslim, no matter how respectful he has been towards London’s complex tapestry of faith.

Because London’s electorate is unwilling to make City Hall safe for any party, the next Mayor of London could well be a Conservative. Despite everything – a terrible candidate, bad polling, campaign videos that make sense only as job applications to the US Republican Party – nearly a third of voters supported Hall. London might be safe Labour territory in general elections, but at City Hall level the electorate seems to want to keep it competitive, despite the apparent determination of the Tories to throw the result.

If the party can find a candidate for 2028 who doesn’t appear to hate London, they should be able to capitalise on a “time for a change” mood against the likely background of Labour facing the costs of governing nationally. However, if it chooses to spend its first term in national opposition embracing madness, as parties tend to when evicted from power, it could probably contrive to lose in London yet again.

X/Twitter: Lewis Baston and OnLondonSupport and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.

Categories: Analysis

Sadiq Khan ‘excited’ as Starmer pledges regional growth focus

Sadiq Khan has welcomed a promise by Labour leader Keir Starmer that boosting economic growth in all English regions will be “top of the agenda” for a Labour national government, saying he was “excited” that working with a Prime Minister from the same political party would present a “moment of maximum opportunity” for the capital.

Ahead a meeting convened today in Wolverhampton with Khan, 10 other Labour city region Mayors, shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Starmer said his party in government would rebuild Britain’s economy “hand in hand with local leaders” who were already “delivering for local people” despite a “a failing Tory government” he accused of “hoarding power in Westminster”.

Starmer picked out Khan’s community wealth building programme and a London growth plan, backed by Reeves during Khan’s successful re-election campaign, as examples of what Labour Mayors can achieve.

Responding to the summit, Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at think tank Centre for Citites, said the high profile it was given by Labour reflected “how devolution has created local political figures with greater visibility, even in a national context” than local authority leaders but added that although the event signalled that “devolution is likely to be high on the agenda for Labour” commitments about new powers over policy areas were “vague” at this stage.

Swinney also noted that the term “levelling up”, a signature term of the Conservatives since their 2019 general election win under Boris Johnson, was not used in Labour’s communications about the summit, with the term “power up” preferred.

He also warned that asking Mayors to produce local growth plans covering ten year periods risked repeating time-consuming an expensive exercises done in the recent past when “the greater challenge is access to money and powers to deliver plans, rather than the plans themselves”.

Swinney named fiscal devolution – giving regional leaders more control over how  taxes raised in their areas are spent – as “an obvious candidate” for change. Both Johnson when he was London’s Mayor and Khan have commissioned fiscal devolution proposals, centring on putting London government in charge of how property taxes raised in Greater London are spent.

Today’s development follows publication of a new report by the Institute for Government, setting out how the next government should “complete the job of English devolution”. It recommended “review and reform” of London’s devolution settlement, which was pioneering when introduced in 1999 but has since evolved to only a fairly limited degree.

“London will continue to be the biggest engine of growth for the UK, and although it outperforms other UK cities it still under-performs when compared with large capital cities in other advanced economies,” the report says. “As devolution is deepened elsewhere, London should not be left out if the capital is to fulfil its economic potential and continue to support growth in other parts of the country.”

It continued: “The next government should seek to deepen devolution to London” in the form of a bold review that “considers the case for structural reform and a new funding settlement for the capital”.

Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: On London and Dave Hill.

Categories: News

Richard Derecki: The Day It Finally Came To Pass

It came in through the air bricks, it seeped under the door. Old towels couldn’t stop it, not the piled-up duvets or hastily found blocks of wood. We’d been warned of course, what with all that heavy rain and the high tide on the way but who can you really believe these days? I mean it wasn’t on Insta, didn’t see nothing on TikTok. Yes, the weather in November had been warmer than July but the seasons have all been mixed up for ages; frost and snow historical wonders, something to tease the kids about, much talked about but never seen, bit like Father Christmas. But this? Really? How could the Thames Barrier have burst?

And then it got worse. It rushed through the gaps in the floorboards and pushed up the drains. We sloshed through dirty water and then the lights went out.  There were banging noises outside and I knew the front door would not hold. I grabbed some bits and pieces; juice, biscuits and tins of beans and dashed up the stairs.  Halfway I felt the drop in pressure. A moment’s silence and then the smash of glass and splintering of wood. Cold and unforgiving. Relentlessly it kept on flowing, with murderous intent. Janet, the neighbour’s cat spun round in an eddy and into the hall. I grabbed it by the tail and shook it dry. It run off up the stairs non-plussed. Still the water kept on building, so we thought it best to squeeze through the side window and clamber onto the flat roof. We saw Nina and Alan from next door who’d had the same idea. They’d brought blankets. Clever them.

We stood and gawped, not knowing what to say. The spread of water was vast. There was no longer “The Thames”, it was now just “The Sea”. The violence of the first waves had passed on towards Hammersmith but still the water came. The houses all skirted in an undulating concrete grey. Some cars were drowned, others were washing slowly, gracefully along, banging into lamp posts, getting stuck against bended trees. Was it rising? It was hard to tell. People in their bedroom windows, arms around one another looked out distraught. One man was waving frantically, but what could we do? He turned and disappeared.

It would recede, wouldn’t it? I mean the sea would breath in and we would have a chance, surely. Grab some clothes, bottle of water, leave the cat? Make a dash for it, look for higher ground; Harrow, Forest, Primrose, Shooter or Crouch Hill which was nearest? The gloom descended, there were shouts for help, where were those who lived in basements, what had happened to those on the Tube? A helicopter spluttered slowly across the horizon, instinctively I jumped up to wave both arms, like in the movies. “Help.” “Help.” I mean they would come to get us, wouldn’t they? That’s what they were doing, wasn’t it? Looking for us, looking for survivors?

This short story was shortlisted for a prize in the London Society’s Love Letters to London competition, which this year asked for ideas about the city’s future. Follow Richard Derecki on X/Twitter. Become a member of the London Society here. Image from TV coverage of the barrier’s opening ceremony.

Categories: Culture

Emily Dixon & Jolanta Edwards: London needs more nursing and healthcare students

London needs more nurses and healthcare professionals to meet current and future demand. In fact, the city’s nursing shortages are more acute than those of any other English region. The NHS workforce plan‘s healthcare and nursing recruitment targets for London show that higher education institutions in the capital have a lot to consider. How do they best promote their courses to prospective students? Why is London the place to study these courses?

London Higher, which represents the capital’s higher education sector, has launched the second phase of its campaign to encourage take-up of healthcare degree courses, recognising that London can be an expensive place in which to study.

The 2023 NatWest Student Living index found that it had the highest monthly living costs for students of any UK student city. This can, of course, prompt hesitation among prospective London students. For this reason the campaign is highlighting that there may be additional financial support available.

NHS bursaries offer grants for every year of full time nursing study, which can contribute to tuition fees, for example. Further, means-tested, financial help may also be available on top of support for students based on their individual circumstances, with things such as travel, accommodation while on placements and childcare.

London has a variety of specialist hospitals, care centres and research institutes, providing plenty of opportunities and facilities no matter which of the 14 allied health subjects or nursing courses are chosen. It also offers a variety of placement opportunities and a unique, varied and international environment in which to study and deliver health services.

The country’s largest city is also home to its most diverse population. Local communities in all parts of the capital create the possibility of working with very different demographic groups and tackling different challenges.

For example, student nurses may end up based in a specialist hospital for tropical disease diagnosis or in community care for a tuberculosis hotspot. The range of training and work opportunities in London is unrivalled. Studying nursing and health in the capital opens the door to a wide world of practice and research.

The aim of the London Higher campaign – called #StudyNursingLondon, along with #StudyRadiographyLondon – is to get potential students to appreciate the importance of nursing and healthcare careers, and to consider London as the place to study for them.

Nursing and healthcare training remain overwhelmingly populated by female and mature students. Through the campaign, we aim to widen its appeal so that it interests other groups as well. We also hope to hear from current students who can share insights into what they have found rewarding about their courses and why they have chosen to come to London.

By working together, London can make progress towards solving its nursing and healthcare shortages to the benefit of all its communities.

Both authors work for London Higher. Emily Dixon is its senior research and content officer. Jolanta Edwards, director of strategy. Follow London Higher on X/Twitter

Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: On London and Dave Hill. Image from London Higher campaign video.

Categories: Comment

John Vane: London Fiction – White Riot

Joe Thomas’s clever, compelling thriller received excellent reviews when published at the start of last year. They were well-deserved. At 366 pages, it’s a fat book but a fast, lean read, set in east London in 1978 and 1983, weaving politics, crime and social commentary into plots populated with audacious style by real and made-up people and events.

Older readers will know that White Riot is a 1977 song by London punk band The Clash, written as an admiring response to black youths confronting police at the Notting Hill Carnival the previous year. Thomas’s story conveys vividly how ripped and torn the capital was back then. Half a century ago, the far-right, white supremacist, often violent National Front was briefly the fourth most popular party in Britain and making inroads in London, include in Hackney and Tower Hamlets – an idea that seems extraordinary today.

In the mobilisation against it can be seen defining roots of today’s profoundly multicultural London, sneered at and loathed by some, yet robust and here to stay. Thomas’s story brought back strong memories of a period during which I gravitated towards London and then moved in. I knew or met half a dozen of the characters in its pages (though not a shrewdly-imagined Margaret Thatcher, who makes the occasional appearance). It is close to me geographically too. The opened scene is set five minutes from where I live. From page 11, we’re all marching to Victoria Park for the Rock Against Racism carnival (headliners, The Clash) in the company of up-and-coming photographer Suzi Scialfa and Patrick Noble, undercover cop.

I went on that march. So did a teenage girl I didn’t know at the time but would meet 15 years later and then marry. We discovered only last week that we both remembered filing past an NF pub, where a bunch of beery skinheads, gathered outside behind police lines, chanted “Sieg Heil” and performed Nazi salutes. Today, they’d be arrested. Not back then. Indeed, as Thomas’s narrative reveals, Old Bill was sometimes keener on handing out punishments to their opponents.

Much of the book is set in Stoke Newington and Clapton. It’s quite a strange experience to read of goings-on on streets you’ve walked down for four decades, near landmarks you pass every day, and round the back of a Chinese takeaway, only lately closed, where for years you were a customer. It takes in the police station death of Colin Roach and all the anger and suspicion that followed, the politics of the Town Hall and the Met, and the arrival in Britain of crack cocaine.

Are things better now? For everyone round here? I think they are. But how much better? And as you contemplate a nation – including, in some respects, a London – that is fraying and battered by new forms of nationalist hostility, you worry that we’re going backwards.

White Riot is a gripping, sobering and, for me, enormously evocative novel. Thomas grew up in Hackney, and it’s impressive to discover that he was born in 1977 and so was only a small child when the stories he tells and re-tells were unfolding. His book has had me looking harder at what’s been going on in my own backyard. But you don’t have to live round my way for it to do the same for you.

Buy White Riot from Pages of Hackney. Buy John Vane’s London novel Frightgeist there too and follow John, an alter ego of On London publisher and editor Dave Hill, on X/Twitter

Categories: John Vane's London Stories