London is in shambles. We are a total mess living in a facade of western modernity. I shock people whenever I use the term “third-world” to describe London. Before I get attacked by the PC police I want to clarify that I am not employing this term in the pejorative sense, it is more suggestive than descriptive. The Made in Chelsea trope portrayed on television couldn’t be further from the reality of millions of Londoners.
As well as unprecedented child poverty, young adult unemployment and low pay and high housing costs, Londoners are forced to succumb to polarising class issues that rarely make the agenda of Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions. The streets of London as never expected are home to the homeless, much like the condition of the roads and footpaths in India. I don’t think I encountered one homeless person when I was living in the Netherlands. In the three years to 2011/12 2.14 million people were in poverty in London (890,000 in Inner London and 1,250,000 in Outer London). Overall 28% of people in London are in poverty, this shocking figure calls for more attention to be shown to the darker side of this magnificent city.
I am sick of the rosy trajectory presented to tourists who envisage the whole of London to be like Covent Garden. Almost 700,000 jobs in London pay below the London Living Wage. This number has increased for five consecutive years, particularly among men working full-time.
It is not surprise that the cost of living in London is uniquely high. The world is presented with one image of a thriving Oxford Circus and then another contradictory, harrowing side is left out of the media completely. The international community is shocked to hear that the cladding in the Grenfell Tower caused the inferno in Latimer, this is not only illegal but indicative of the low-quality living in London. Contractors are deleting evidence of their work because they are embarrassed of how London is being portrayed by the council’s appalling lack of recognition which caused the deaths of marginalised people.
The Grenfell Tower fire could have been avoided. It would have cost the council £5000 to install fire resistant cladding and £200,000 to put in sprinklers. How could our government allow such a catastrophe to happen in an ostensibly first-world city? Sounds like something that happens in a Bangladeshi factory. Why are we allowing capitalist greed to supersede the importance of marginalised lives? Would such a disaster have happened in Stockholm? Rotterdam? Los Angeles?. Absolutely not.
The people who died in the Grenfell fire didn’t come from a “Made in Chelsea” lifestyle. They were innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire between money-hungry elitists and authorities that are guilty of neglecting people who live on the poverty line simply because they are not relevant to the hyper-capitalist culture. Would this fire have happened in Mayfair? Probably not since the government actually invests money in the central area. The estates of London? Who cares about them! They’re poor, let them suffer!
It is no coincidence that both mental health and poverty are on the rise, the two are closely inter-linked and in some cases they are by-products of one another. Not to mention that a 6 week queue for mental health services has been extended to over 7 months waiting time due to NHS cuts. The characteristic of a third-world city is the oppression of individuals who possess limited options in life. Poverty is a prison which keeps people trapped in cycles of depression and marginalisation. In 2016 it was predicted that child poverty is set to rise by 50% in London. Does this make the news?
Adjectives such as corruption, greed and fraud, traditionally associated with third world countries, seem to be common place in London’s political and economic sphere. London is one of the most polluted cities in the world. According to the World Bank, if we rank the 3,226 cities with a population greater than 100,000 (according to their pollution levels), from high to low, London comes 2,516th. Tube commuters travelling on the Tube are exposed to eight times more air pollution than those who drive to work, a study has found.