Permacrisis? What Permacrisis?

London

Where is all this new money coming from?

For a while London has returned to normal, so long as vaccination can be provided in a continuous rollout cycle. We’re free to choose whether we want to mask and distance. My neighbourhood remains wary thanks to its large population of Chinese and Japanese students, for whom masking is second nature. Londoners learned to be vigilant about terrorism but it remains to be seen whether they’ll continue to take the virus seriously.

What’s noticeable suddenly is that the nationwide recession forcing families to choose between eating and heating is only cutting into the city’s poorer neighbourhoods. Other areas are filling with conspicuous wealth again.

Once the abnormal becomes the new normal it can be smoothly incorporated into daily life. Gridlock and traffic pollution has returned, and the workforce has obediently gone back inside their offices. Restaurants have massively pumped up their prices and yet need to be booked in advance once more.

Where is all this new money coming from? Why are Knightsbridge and Marylebone so conspicuously moneyed again?

It’s not the Russians – although there’s plenty of evidence that they’re still in London. Money flows into the city as it always has, but now London has become the playground of the super-rich from many other countries, just as Johnson wanted it to be.

In the same way that every new garden patch is instantly colonised by insects, every new venue is magically filled with punters despite the eye-watering inflation. For every annual price hike there are now four a year, but whoever is coming to spend in London doesn’t seem to notice. They eat, drink, dance and pay for girls in high-end joints that send bike messengers around with cocaine. Is this what Johnson meant by ‘levelling up’?

The upper echelon and its cronies made fortunes in the pandemic. Are any of us really surprised? It’s hard to tell yet whether the public has been fooled by Boris’s shambling spaff-monkey persona, or whether they spot his real intentions; to turn the UK into a morality-free Switzerland that can continue to service the worlds richest, most corrupt elites.

I look out at the city and wonder how those like me who remember the old London will cope now. It’s a big new world for those with wages to match.

The average annual salary of a writer in the UK now stands at just £10,500. That’s around £7,000 below the Minimum Income Standard. 

22 comments on “Permacrisis? What Permacrisis?”

  1. Stu-I-Am says:

    Let’s face it, London (and England) has always been a kind of theme park for the wealthy. Its lax financial oversight, myriads of accountants, lawyers and ‘reputation managers’ only too willing to earn their exorbitant (to normal folk) fees in the service of usually ill-gotten gains began not long after WWII. Of course, thanks in large part to the Russian oligarchs  and a compliant, amoral government, it has turned into the gaudy ‘Kleptopia,’ where anything can be bought.

    Despite Boris’ latest attempt at trying to sound statesmanlike when it comes to the oligarchs and isolating Putin, there is a real concern about whether the effects of at least two decades of the infiltration of dirty (but soon nicely laundered) money into the English political, economic and legal system has simply compromised the nation and its capital beyond reclamation. And oh yes, as for those poor ink-stained wretches, there is nothing for it but to offer yourself for sale to an oligarch or similar. Short of owning a football club, or sending your offspring to an illustrious public school — nothing says ‘English’ like owning an actual producer of literature or two.

  2. Margaret Hart Robertson says:

    I watch in horror from Spain. Mind you, I’m lucky. I’m Scottish. But I left when “Thatcher Milk-Snatcher” (and now kids have rickets again and Vitamin D deficiency is rife) and have not renewed my British passport as yet because of the repellent “King of the World”, desperately in search of my Irish ancestry to see if I can swop. “All pigs are equal…” I find it frightening people are having togo to bed at six just to keep warm. Ot that the abhorrent Rees-Mogg considers people’s outrage at the lies they have been told that he considers it “disproportionate fluff” and is capable of welcoming a war to distract attention. I sometimes wonder if the place has gone mad. And then I touch base with my Scottish friends and realise it hasn’t. What can I say? I have read my first book of yours, “London Bridge is Falling Down” and I’m distressed. I just love the Paddington notion of Bryant and he’s gone! Being totally undisciplined now and moving onto Oranges and Lemons. One thing I will never stop loving about Britain is the quality of the writing and creativity that comes out of it so thank-you for reconciling me for a minute or two with everything good about a place that certainly doesn’t deserve the Russian-rigged government they’ve got.

  3. Helen+Martin says:

    I remember an assertion at one point that there are some streets in London where “security guards” will tell casual pedestrians that they are not welcome to stroll down this “private” street. Is that true? And what would happen if you persisted in walking there? Or, heaven forfend, took out a camera to take a picture? I just wonder what one’s money can actually buy.
    We don’t think of the average Russian, soldier or not, as hating Ukraine, but I wonder how far up the line you have to go before you find people who are actually at one with Putin, have seen independent news and still agree with him.
    How does Boris square support for NATO with encouraging these Russian millionaires to settle in London? Shouldn’t his government be encouraging them to leave?

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Helen+Martin Helen, you wonder ‘…what one’s money can actually buy?’ The answer is, as we have seen, anything you want. All done with the utmost discretion, of course. And, in fact, it is this discretion which tends to make London/England — and to a lesser extent other parts of the UK — especially attractive to foreign ‘investors.’ To start with, you can (or could, until Mad Vlad ruined the scam for ordinary crooks) buy permanent residency in any number of countries with a few million in petty cash, but you could never buy the same, almost sacred, guarantee of institutional circumspection which automatically comes along with ‘investments’ in London/England.

  5. Liz+Thompson says:

    I just have the one comment to make: CAPITALISM

  6. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Liz+Thompson Liz, actually it’s enough to make Adam Smith turn over in his grave. Soon after articulating what are considered the underpinnings of modern capitalism, his moral sentiments (a major component) were all too quickly separated from his economics and have only gotten ever further distant in the intervening centuries. Not so much the idea of a free market itself, I would suggest, as one perverted by unalloyed greed and an overriding commitment to maximising gains however accomplished, over other principles. The latter, in particular, has made rampant unethical and illegal financial behaviour acceptable as ‘business as usual.’ Obviously, the only downside for the millions engaging in this behaviour is getting caught.

  7. Roger says:

    Like Captain Shotover said: “The captain is in his bunk, drinking bottled ditch-water; and the crew is gambling in the forecastle. She will strike and sink and split. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favour of England because you were born in it?”

    The ship of state is sinking and no-one even knows, let alone cares. The Departments of State function badly even when – like the Home Office – they are not downright malevolent and ministers make speeches about our glorious past without admitting that – glorious or not – it is past, long past and the world is very different now.
    I first realised the country was collectively hallucinating at the BSE disaster. What might have been a lethal pandemic across the whole country – and it was the UK that was uniquely afflicted with BSE – didn’t inspire a close examination of the way we made decisions and the effect of them but (lying) speeches about our uniquely skilled pathologists and the wonders of British farming and quietly-passed laws stopping cattle being fed their dead brothers. Only recently, it’s turned out that several billion quid was paid out to crooked companies purporting to provide tests and PPE for Covid and that huge amounts have been spent on armoured fighting vehicles whose supreme quality is that the soldiers who use them go deaf. The government is blithely unconcernec.

  8. John Griffin says:

    I have enjoyed making capitalist junkies uncomfortable by quoting Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments” at them, especially where he justifies taking action against those whose greed damages others. I was cut off a West Mids radio phone-in with a representative of the Adam Smith Institute when I accused him – with the evidence of Smith’s writing – of being a sham and a hypocrite.
    Thanks Stu for reminding me!
    Worse than anything else, we are now going into full-blown ‘culture war’ as the run-up to Election 2024. The Tories have taken on the Reagan Republican tactic of smearing all opposition as “anti-American”, amplified by Bannon as a Trump tactic, and arriving heree as ‘enemies of the people’. The new label is ‘woke’: the targets non-whites, social liberals, environmentalists, LBGT, and for some of Johnson’s demi-orcs, women in general.
    While the chaos reigns, the money bleeds out of the economy, the services and land get sold to foreign buyers, and the bungs bloat the offshore accounts of the politicos.

  9. Peter+T says:

    “Oh, I didn’t know that I’d received a payment. Was that money that went into my bank account? I didn’t know.”

    “Parties? I didn’t know I’d been to any parties. No one told me. I thought they were meetings.”

    “You can’t criticise Lord Ripperov for how he made his cash. He’s a success because he’s got bags of money; and he gives some to good causes such as .. well .. me.”

    “He’s not one of us. I’ve heard that he’s a Harrow and Magdalen man; not Eton and Balliol.”

  10. Paul C says:

    Reading some C19 and C20 history books recently it seems that the great talents we produced in this country used to go in to politics. Now the great talents avoid politics. Perhaps the low calibre of our modern MPs (with some honourable exceptions) is the main problem ?

  11. Alan R says:

    Boris’s shambling spaff-monkey persona. What a perfect description.I can’t stop smiling at that.

    I watched a Babbi on YouTube recently explaining a Jewish view of why excess wealth should be generated. He explained that you must think of earning money like a jug and a saucer filling up with liquid. The liquid represents money. The objective is to fill the jug with sufficient “liquid” for your needs. But once the jug is full, you continue to work hard to make more money. The jug spills over into the saucer. The surplus in the saucer is to be used to help others within your community.

    Not being Jewish I may have misinterpreted some of the meaning, but this simple story seemed perfect as an example of how society should work. Every person only needs so much money.

    The people in power in Westminster have taken a different view. Their view is to encourage people to fill the jug and use the surplus to create a world of selfishness extravagance, privilege and excess (especially in London). A Kardashian society where only people with excess money have any worth. And to allow megacompanies, the size of their jugs overflowing like Niagra Falls, to operate in the UK and keep their excesses rather than pay tax to the benefit of the community.

    And it gets even worse. A UK interest rate of .9% on savings and an inflation rate of 6.5% is stealing money from those responsible people who worked their life and saved for their future. I hope people, Londoners especially, will build guillotines in Trafalgar Square, and sit knitting while their abusers are carted in to face the populations’ rath.

    BTW, my wife does not subscribe to this theory. She believes that all excesses that fall into our saucer should be spent in Regents Street or Oxford street, or on Amazon online. But I’m working on it.

  12. Alan R says:

    I misspelt Rabbi and missed it when rereading. Maybe I’m the spaff-monkey.

  13. Joel says:

    @alan r: i was wondering who/what Babbi was. sadly, the same thing is going on in the states. the wealthy get more, keep more, and the rest of us see what little gains we may make, get sucked up in rising costs. kids are becoming millionares on youtube reviewing toys and video games. the idea of a college education leading to a decent and fulfilling life just doesn’t seem to be happening anymore. trade school at least gives people a chargable skill. where i leave (near palm springs) everyone is vacation rental happy. people being put out of their rental houses so the owners can charge around $5000 a week. and it is spreading up through morongo and yucca valley into joshua tree. little towns have homes selling for 1 million dollars. and somehow, these people show up and are buying up these homes for cash. it is disheartening. your description of what the rabbi said is beautiful, and truly, how a kind, thriving society should work. although, i do get hooked by amazon and ebay as well. lolol.

  14. SteveB says:

    I honestly don’t think Boris has anything so concrete as a plan

  15. Paul C says:

    ………or a clue

  16. Helen+Martin says:

    And where does he stand – sit – on Mr. Putin? Or is he modeling his stance on Mexico’s where the UN ambassador is anti Russia while the president is signing a friendship pact with them?

  17. Peter T says:

    Where does BoJo stand on Putin? His talk is all aggression. As for the reality, does it even exist? The sure way of not failing is to be so stupid and dishonest that you don’t know what a waste of space you really are. Sounds crazy, but it seems to work for almost every senior figure in our government. I blame Thatcher, not so much for her policies, as for filling the top of the Tory Party with yes-people and thereby effectively purging it of the process of intelligent and constructive thought.

  18. Roger says:

    The government has made speeches about welcoming Ukrainian refugees and insists they apply for visas. Just over a thousand admitted so far. It also complained about the Republic of Ireland letting Ukrainians in without question because the Common Travel Area means they can then get into the UK.

  19. Helen+Martin says:

    Roger, what is it about governments that they can’t get their minds around refugees and their lack of government documents? We’re having that difficulty with our Afghani translators and their families. They have to get out of Afghanistan to make application and then it takes forever to process (and no problem because they’re out of the danger zone, right?) and who is going to leave their immediate family behind and why should money for daily subsistence be a problem? And all this after we promised no one would be left behind. We have veterans stepping in to try to move applications along. I even know of one man who managed to get himself and family to Ukraine, of all the ironies, and then couldn’t get help from Ottawa. His wife will probably have her baby on a bus or something while trying to get out of Kyiv.

  20. roxanne g reynolds says:

    i had not been in the habit of reading ‘thrillers’ aside from classic le Carre until my recent discovery of Mick Herron’s Slough House series. it’s been years since i had to stop and look up so many words in the dictionary. it’s also been years since i’ve stayed up until 2 am to finish a book. i just did it 3 times in the past week. anyway, what brings this up is that book 5, ‘London Rules’ has the most hysterically funny subplot involving British pols. even as a Yank who had to resort to the google several times, i could recognize the thinly disguised caricature of BoJo the Clown. i think fans of
    B & M would enjoy Herron’s eccentric characters and highly cynical take on bureaucracy and MI5.

  21. Paul C says:

    I’m no fan of Johnson but you have to say he showed real courage in visiting Zelensky the other day

    The propinquity between Slough House and B & M has been noted on this blog before – they seem so close that you feel Herron must have read Fowler. Has anyone watched the Slough House TV series ?

  22. Helen+Martin says:

    I wish they would show Slough House here. I, too, laughed hysterically at London Rules and not just at Mr. Johnson. The only problem is that you can feel Herron is too close to what is actually happening. I am reading Charles Stross’ Delirium File and seeing how easy it was for alien powers to control government figures is distinctly scary. I’m hoping for a positive ending but somehow I don’t think there is much promise.

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