Dissident Congress website

On being a Londoner

By Russell White

As a Londoner, born and bred (and I'm talking of real London, not Middlesex, Kent, or Surrey, which have each suffered partial or complete annexation by the sprawling conurbation) I can only look on in embarrassment at my place of birth. Why? Because, in every respect it no longer resembles the place in which I grew up, and which is laughably called our capital city.

To those from outside London, the culture shock must be surreal, for much of it is devoid of its original indigenous white English population. The shock sensation of visiting a city where one is visibly a minority must be as severe as that which I encountered on holiday in Torquay a few years ago... though in that instance the roles were reversed, and I (unusually) was part of the majority and amongst my own kind. May I use a cliche? Many's the time when I am the only white person on the bus, particularly during the "out of hours" periods when most Africans work (nights and earlier mornings) which coincide with my shift pattern.

The odd thing about "multiculturalism" is that there is no "back up" system for white people in non-white neighbourhoods. Where are the "English in Brent" projects, the "white history months", the "White Voice" newspapers to equal the "black" equivalents? If you're Irish these exist, if you're English you are out on a limb. Most people are not aware of the sizeable chunks of London which are heavily non-English. They may read about barely perceptible districts like Brent, Newham, and Southwark, but they mean as little to non-Londoners as Moss Side, St. Pauls, and Toxteth mean to me. If you were visiting Liverpool would you bother with Toxteth, unless you knew someone there? It is the same with outlying London districts. And those are where most Londoners live, including me. Another side effect of the change in population is the loss of community life, which was never as strong in London as in smaller close-knit towns and villages. I don't expect to know who lives in the next street to me, but it seems that even if I did there would be no common ground, as the remaining English are far removed from those I grew up with. There are few normal, average types in London anymore, it would seem. There are plenty of "alternative" individuals, who have nose studs, Rastafarian hair, and wear Nelson Mandela T-shirts. There are umpteen politically correct upwardly mobile Guardian readers, wearing John Lennon style glasses. There are loud-mouthed thugs with pit bull dogs and cropped hair, but genuine law abiding hard working Cockneys have moved out to Essex and Kent. On top of that there are the walking wounded, many of whom would have once been institutionalised but who have been left to fend for themselves, often at risk to themselves and others.

That is the mouldy excuse of a patchwork quilt known as "London". That is the "diversity" we are meant to crave and enjoy. London is not a city for the elderly, and increasingly not for traditional families either. If you are young, there are many outlets for a good nightlife, and various bars, clubs, and restaurants. For those with a good income, little has changed over the years. Chelsea and Hampstead types will still meet and marry other Chelsea and Hampstead types, and enjoy the good life and the "finer things". Wealth and security do not a freedom fighter make! Catford and Edmonton types however, simply get pushed out of their capital city as newcomers move in.

Despite all this Londoners pay through the nose for accommodation of all kinds. The capital is so expensive, that those born and bred there often cannot afford to stay as rents and mortgages outstrip the annual salary of the average worker (which is still more than most people across the country). It feels like a third world country, but without the reduction in prices. In short one gets the worse of both worlds. All my life (I'm 37) London has been multiracial, yet only in the last few years has it seemed multicultural. I cannot recall "anti-racist festivals" being held in the 1970s, and when the National Front marched through Lewisham all those years ago many thought they were making an unnecessary fuss. How little we knew. Today even the immigrants of the past (and their children) are looking to stem the flow of immigration which has made London unrecognisable.