Last night, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Spencer de Grey and Archie Galloway discussed the future of London as a ?World City? at a Foreign Policy Centre evening beneath the luminous Great Court of The British Museum. Nations need World Cities to attract a rich enough mix of economic activity, trans-national institutions, investment – but nothing is forever and World Cities come and go. Chief qualifications for World City status are: size (Frankfurt, a small city, struggles to attain critical mass despite many advantages) and diversity (economic, social, cultural). Neither are permanently granted: London?s population is still shrinking, its diversity is threatened by loony property prices, anachronistic planning laws and now by poisonous populist nonsense about immigration and asylum. In this fleeting moment, London has an historic opportunity to boost both size and diversity, making use of the flow of economically-dynamic, educated and courageous people arriving daily beneath trains, in airless containers ? at the mercy of traffickers and bandits. Britain is for the time being popular but it won?t last forever. Inevitably another country, another national super-brand will displace Britain in the imaginations of the migrants and the flow will be diverted. We will lose this opportunity to refresh our stock of enterprising, youthful, active agents of change. Meanwhile, more accepting, less paranoid nations will thrive, saying no to stagnation. London is not full.
What do you think?
(Richard Sennett wrote one of the best books about Cities that I’ve read: Flesh & Stone ??The Body and the City in Western Civilisation. Saskia Sassen’s The Global City is the standard work in the new study of cities as living, connected entities rooted in a wider economic context).