Since at least the beginning of this century there has been a mood abroad – cultural as well as political – to trash the place that contributes most to British culture and the British economy. Without London and its population, we in the rest of the United Kingdom would be unable to continue living in the manner to which we have become accustomed and which we seem to consider our birthright. But suggest as much in the English provinces, the West Country, East Anglia, the Home Counties, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and people look at you as though you were mad – or, worse, secretly in the pay of the spivs and swindlers of Canary Wharf and the City of London.
When did you last hear a politician – Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or Scot Nat – singing the praises of our metropolis, celebrating the earnings the City pours into the Exchequer or testifying to the outstanding work ethic of Londoners rich and poor? When did you hear a culture secretary single London out for mention for its massive contribution to the arts, theatre, opera, classical music and the rock and pop scene? When has any health secretary ever pointed out that Londoners’ obesity rates are the lowest in the country because private car use in the metropolis is almost impossible? When, outside London, did you ever see anybody walking up a moving escalator?
I love Derbyshire, one of whose rural constituencies I represented in parliament for almost seven years. I consider rural England my home now, and my London flat the place to go when work requires it. I gnash my teeth, however, when I hear those whose home is in my adopted county casually denigrate their capital city as though it were commonly agreed that this is the Babylon of England.