Screw it, here's a map of Paris superimposed on London

Aww, look at the cute little thing. Maps of Paris and London taken from Google Maps.

Paris, as we may have mentioned before, is surprisingly small. It has a population of only 2.3m, which isn't that many for one of the great cities of the world. It's also only six miles across. This is a case of “underbounding”: a situation in which the formal limits of a city are far smaller than its functional area, which

a) creates a whole load of problems for the people who govern a metropolitan area, and

b) stops lovely family cities websites from make any sensible statistical comparisons.

Anyway. Because it's Friday afternoon, we decided to kick back, relax, and super-impose a map of Paris onto London, to give you some sense of exactly how small Paris really is.

We've placed the Île de la Cité, the historic heart of Paris, on London's Trafalgar Square, in an attempt to align the centres of the two cities. You can see the results above.

Imposed on London, the Périphérique ring road, which forms the border of Paris proper in most places, crosses the Thames roughly at the Battersea Bridge and the Rotherhithe tunnel. The city stretches south to the borders of Brixton, and north to those of Holloway. Its westernmost outpost is around Wormwood scrubs; its east is at Greenwich. Montmatre sits above Camden Town.

So, yes, Paris is small – smaller than inner London, and not much bigger than its old rival’s central business district.

Except, this isn't really the whole of Paris, is it? It's the official city limits, yes. But any sensible definition would include the suburbs lying beyond the Périphérique, that are economically dependent on the city itself.

The French government has, belatedly, realised this, and from next year there will be a whole new body: the Metropole du Grand Paris, which will cover the whole urban region. At time of writing the exact boundaries that will have are a bit hazy – so, we've used this map to super impose the city's entire urban area on the London region too. (The red patch at the centre is the city proper.)

That looks much more like it – suddenly, London is all but invisible.  Greater Paris will actually be bigger than Greater London, once the deed is done.

That will help to reintegrate the banlieues and, hopefully, make the city work better.

So there we have it. Join us next week on CityMetric when we'll be firing up our trusty copy of Microsoft Paint once again and asking: Who would win in a fight – the Incredible Hulk or Superman?


 

 
 
 
 

Could twin towns bring Britain back together?

An unlikely pair. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Twin towns: an irrelevant novelty to most of us, a peculiar name on a village’s welcome sign. But could linking one British town to another – a domestic reinterpretation of this long-standing European practice – help bring Britain back together in a time of national crisis?

Born in the aftermath of World War II, town twinning aimed to foster cooperation and solidarity across Europe. Communities entered formal alliances, nurturing friendships and shared histories. Coventry forged links with Dresden and Volgograd, then Stalingrad, marking the devastation faced by their citizens during the war.

The democratisation of Greece, Spain and Portugal during the 1970s led to a new wave of twin towns across Europe, as did the fall of the Soviet Union a decade later. Since its inception, the focus of town twinning has been on uniting people through relationships. It is a testament to the initiative’s success that many of these remain to this day; Coventry recently enjoyed a performance at the city’s cathedral by Volgograd’s children’s choir.

While European relations have improved since the 1940s, unity at home has received less attention. As a result, Britain is riven with deep economic, political, educational and cultural divides. These fault lines are increasingly determined by geography, with a growing gap between our big metropolitan cities and almost everywhere else.

In comparison to other European countries, we face staggering levels of regional inequality; six of the ten poorest regions in northern Europe can been found in the UK. As outlined by Alan Milburn, the government’s former social mobility tsar, “the country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division. That takes a spatial form, not just a social one.”

These divisions are poisoning our body politic. As Adam Smith argued in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, putting yourself in someone else's shoes is vital for developing a moral compass; in doing so "we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him..." But this is difficult when we have little interaction or experience of those with opposing views.

This is increasingly likely in geographically polarised Britain, with the places we live dominated by people who think alike. Our political leaders must commit time and energy to bridging these divides, just as the leaders of Europe did in the aftermath of the Second World War. By forging links between different parts of the country, a new era of domestic town twinning would do just that.


School exchanges between sister towns would offer an opportunity for children to be exposed to places, people and perspectives very different to their own. This would allow future generations to see things from an alternative and opposing perspective. It may also embed from a young age an awareness of the diversity of experiences seen by people across our highly unequal country.

MPs would be encouraged to spend time in their constituency’s sister town. First-hand exposure to voters in a very different part of the country would surely soften the views of even the most entrenched parliamentarian, making for a more civil debate in the Commons. Imagine the good this would do for Parliament today, with Brexit gridlocked because of the unwillingness of MPs to compromise.

In 2016 the Carnegie UK Trust launched its Twin Towns UK programme, a pilot linking twenty towns across the UK to examine how they might develop together. Emerging benefits include a reduction of insularity and a greater awareness of the bigger picture. Its focus was not on bridging economic divides – towns with similar socioeconomic characteristics were twinned – but initial outcomes from the scheme suggest a broader programme of domestic town twinning could have a powerful impact.

Looking further back, Camden has been twinned with Doncaster since the 1980s, a relationship that unionised Camden Town Hall workers forged in a display of solidarity with striking miners during the 1980s. Funds were raised to feed families of striking workers at the pit and Camden locals even drove north to deliver presents at Christmas. Though the relationship appears less active today, it serves as a powerful reminder of twinning’s capacity to bring people from very different places together.

As we prepare for Brexit it’s imperative that we protect existing twin town relationships with our European partners. This is of vital importance when we know sadly many of these are under threat from austerity and gloriously un-PC mayors. But we should look to breathe new life into these traditions too, where possible. Domestic town twinning would do just that: a step towards bringing Britain back together, just as a continent was reunited after the devastation of war.

Ben Glover is a researcher at the think tank Demos.