Looks like London has come down with a case of referendum-envy: according to a poll commissioned by the View from the Shard (the organisation responsible for attracting tourists to, oh, you can guess), one in five Londoners said they think the capital should be its own country. Singapore-style city-state, here we come.
Okay, one in five doesn’t sound like much. But consider that, in 2009, support for Scottish independence was polling between 20 and 30 per cent. Now, the Yes and No campaigns are neck and neck at around 40 per cent apiece. Perhaps we should be bracing ourselves for the London National Party, replete with badges, campaign videos and patronising magazine covers.
In the extremely unlikely event that it were ever to come about, an independent London would have serious implications for the rest of the country. We’ve noted in the past that, in economic terms, England’s local economies have more in common with Eastern Europe than London: South Yorkshire’s GDP per capita is on a par with Slovakia's, while Liverpool’s is smaller than the Czech Republic's.
Whether that means the loss of London would be good or bad for those that remained, however, is not exactly clear. If the city were to annexe itself, large cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds could take more influential roles on the national, or even international, stage (as economic Jim O’Neill said when we recently interviewed him: “it's quite striking how London is the only major [UK] conurbation that features on a global scale of any relevance”). And if the country were to construct a new central government from scratch, it’d probably seem mad to concentrate all our economic and political power in one city. Losing London might finally bring about the economy re-balancing the rest of the country so desperately needs.
On the downside, there’s the poor old Queen to consider. In the course of one reign, she’d have lost the British Empire, and could be about to witness the breakup of the United Kingdom. It’d be a bit of a blow to see the capital go, too.
An independent London wasn’t the only unlikely possibility voted on by the 2,000 pollsters. Smaller groups of around 10 per cent each were convinced that
a) there'll be no monarchy by 2030, and
b) London will eventually, like Venice, be underwater.
The biggest majorities, of around 80 per cent apiece, were in favour of more mundane ideas, such as more green space and a pedestrianised Oxford street. Over half welcomed Thomas Heatherwick’s plans for a Garden Bridge. Those, at least, are ideas we can (mostly) get behind.