Where are London’s real no go areas?

Borough Market in happier times. Image: Getty.

Over the weekend, in the wake of the horrific attack on London Bridge, this happened:

Which is odd, because I've lived inside the M25 pretty much my entire life, and waste much of my spare time on long, pointless walks across town, and I have never been aware of encountering a single no go area. Honestly: sink estates; industrial wastelands, Mayfair... They’re all basically fine, in my experience, and if I’m not scared I can’t for the life of me imagine why the police would be.

I'm not alone in this. Yesterday, my podcast co-host Stephanie - who is great, and who you should all follow on Twitter to make up for the fact I'm about to shamelessly recycle her tweets – tweeted this:

 

Also, this:

 

A lot of people clearly felt strongly about a certain underwhelming restaurant chain.

 

(A footnote: Stephanie, who is the funniest person in London, said it was fine for me to use her tweets providing I called her the funniest person in London*. So.)

Anyway. Yesterday I did that embarrassing thing where I read Steph's tweets, forgot I'd read them, and then fifteen minutes later tweeted something similar as if they were my own idea because I'm basically a terrible person. Here was my effort.

 

(Gratifyingly for Stephanie, you will note that I did not receive the numbers she did.)

My search continued:

 

Here, just for information, is a map of the no go areas of South London:

Click to expand, but don’t say we didn't warn you.

Eventually, I found a couple:

Seriously, the queues at the bar are insane, and if you don't manage to get a drink you're basically just sitting in a multi storey car park. (Note for non-Londoners: this is literally true.)

There's also this:

Which is a vexingly popular tourist attraction in Leicester Square, at which no actual Londoner would ever be seen dead.

Others had their own ideas. South London bitterness was a theme:

So was north London snobbery:

 

For some reason, people really don’t think much of the remarkably anodyne north London suburb of Palmers Green:

Honestly, for a place that literally nobody as ever heard of, it attracted a surprising amount of ire.

A number of people mentioned the West End at Christmas:

The horror! The horror!

 

The very worst London area of all, though, a place you should absolutely never go to if you can possibly avoid it, turned out to be south of the river:

 

Probably because of one particular night spot.

 

Anyway. If you can think of other terrifying no go areas in London, do feel free to tweet me. And also, follow Stephanie – she is, you'll recall, the funniest person in London.

*She also said I wasn't allowed to say that she'd told me to do this.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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Treating towns as bastions of Brexit ignores the reasons for the referendum result – and how to address them

Newcastle: not all cities are booming. Image: Getty.

The EU Referendum result has often been characterised as a revolt of Britain’s “left-behind” towns and rural areas against the “metropolitan elite”. But this view diverts attention from the underlying issues which drove the Brexit vote – and ironically has diverted policy attention away from addressing them too.

It’s true that a number of big urban authorities, led by London, voted to stay. And overall people living in cities were less likely to vote leave than towns. Setting aside Scottish cities and towns, which both voted very strongly for remain, Leave polled 51 per cent of the vote in English and Welsh cities, compared to 56 per cent in local authorities that include towns. (Consistent data isn’t available below local authority level.)

Yet there is a lot of variation underlying this average across towns. In Boston, 75 per cent voted Leave, and in Hartlepool and Grimsby it was 70 per cent. But at the other end of the scale, there were a number of towns that voted to stay. For example, Leave polled at 49 per cent in Horsham and Harrogate, and 46 per cent in Windsor and Hitchin. In places such as Winchester, Leamington Spa and Bath, the Leave voted amounted to less than 42 per cent of the vote.

What drives this variation across towns? Data from the Centre for Cities’ recent report Talk of the Town shows economic outcomes were the biggest factor – with towns that voted Remain also having stronger economies.

For a start, pro-Remain towns generally have smaller shares of people who were either unemployed or claiming long-term benefit. (This is based on 2011 data, the latest available.)

Towns which voted Remain also had a higher share of jobs in high-skilled exporting businesses – an indication of how successful they have been at attracting and retaining high-paid job opportunities.

And both measures will have been influenced by the skills of the residents in each town: the higher the share of residents with a degree, the stronger the Remain vote.

So the Brexit vote was reflective of the varying economic outcomes for people in different parts of the country. Places which have responded well to changes in the national economy voted to Remain in the EU, and those that have been ‘left behind’ – be they towns or cities – were more likely to have voted to Leave.

This sends a clear message to politicians about the need to improve the economic outcomes of the people that live in these towns and cities. But the irony is that the fallout from the Brexit has left no room for domestic policy, and little progress has been made on addressing the problem that, in part, is likely to have been responsible for the referendum outcome in the first place.

Indeed, politicians of all stripes have seemed more concerned about jostling for position within their parties, than setting out ideas for domestic policy agenda. Most worryingly, progress on devolution – a crucial way of giving areas a greater political voice – has stalled.


There was talk earlier this year of Theresa May relaunching her premiership next summer focusing on domestic policy. One of her biggest concerns should be that so many cities perform below the national average on a range of measures, and so do not make the contribution that they should to the national economy.

But addressing this problem wouldn’t ignore towns – quite the opposite. What Talk of the Town shows is that the underperformance of a number of cities is bad not just for their residents or the national economy, but also for the residents in surrounding towns too. A poorly performing neighbouring city limits both the job opportunities open to its residents and impacts on nearby towns’ ability to attract-in business investment and create higher paid jobs.

This isn’t the only factor – as the last chart above suggests, addressing poor skills should be central to any serious domestic policy agenda. But place has an influence on economic outcomes for people too, and policy needs recognise that different places play different roles. It also needs to reflect the importance of the relationships between places to improve the access that people across the country have to job opportunities and higher wages.

The Brexit vote didn’t result from a split between cities and towns. And if we are to address the reasons for it, we need to better understand the relationship between them, rather than seeing them as opposing entities.

Paul Swinney is head of policy & research at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article first appeared.

Read the Centre’s Talk of the Town report to find out more about the relationship between cities and towns, and what this means for policy.