Statistically speaking

In the latest YouGov poll, only 48% of Londoners said that they would choose to remain in London if given the chance to leave.   Oddly though, only 1106 people were asked.  In a city of 7.75million, there is no point asking for a reflection of the population’s thoughts when you are only bothering to ask 0.02% of that population.

However, to interrogate the research further, we discover that of the 52% that would consider leaving, 16% would only move to another part of the south east, which isn’t really going very far at all.   The next biggest percentage is for those seduced by the bucolic beauty of the south west, with 15% of Londoners considering relocating or retiring in Somerset, Devon or Cornwall.  6% of people have no idea where they would move to if they left London.  

Not off put by the fact that 6% of the people asked were so clueless about their intention to leave that they lacked any imagination to pluck a region out of a hat for where they would like to head to, YouGov then asked these 1,107 random people to tick the words most appropriate to London from a list.  Top of the popular list for words was “expensive” (65% of people ticked that) , followed by “dirty” (43% ticked that)  and “varied” (only 20% of people thought that). 13% of 18-24 year olds claim London is “beautiful”, whilst 3% of 40-59 year olds think London is “boring”. 2% of all people think London is both “slow” and “sad”. 1% of people think that London is “narrow-minded” but again, only 1% think that London is in any way “old”.  Even the old people who are old don’t think that London is old.   Now, we all know that London is pricey – and is becoming increasingly so especially in terms of housing stock.  But here is the dilemma : should London become cheaper, cleaner and everything else-er, another 3 million people would immediately want to relocate here.  And that’s what current resources would struggle to cope with, as would, I imagine, any world city.  Prices are unsustainable, but what they do sustain is population.  So, what London doesn’t want to do is drastically improve its cost of living, as that would be disastrous demographically.  Another 750,000 from Redcar & Cleveland?  1,450,000 relocating from Preston to take advantage of the clean air and London’s new cheap as chips property market?  Try getting a seat on the Victoria Line then.

The comments on internet newspaper articles tended to come from the disgruntled, smug ex-Londoner demographic, but they list their reasons for leaving the city as being the same as those who left in 1868 – pollution, lack of civility on public transport and over-crowding.  What they disliked about this city was that it was – plainly – a city, which begs the question : what were they doing here in the first place?  Fools.  Meanwhile, over at The Executive Summary released by the GLA in 2010 refers to native Londoners leaving London and settling elsewhere in the UK as “migrants” which is odd, as they’re only moving in some cases to a county ten miles from where they were born.  But this presents an idea that London is itself its own country, with it’s own laws, practices, rules, bus routes and unique demographic, and to some extent this is correct.    Whilst immigration from outside the UK has been considerable, with 1,380,000 migrants arriving in London from overseas in 2001-09, interestingly enough 1,460,000 migrants arrived in London that were natives from the rest of the UK.  Therefore regional migrancy has overtaken international migrancy during this period, with most regional movers aged between 20 and 29.  How dare they?  Damn immigrants coming here and taking our jobs – from Carlisle! No one who is 4 or 64 moves to London, it seems.  This is a shame, particularly for the oldies.  London is not a great place to work, but it’s a brilliant retirement destination.  The advantages of the over 65s here include free travel anywhere in the city, discounted tickets for almost every cultural event and a continuation in many London salons of the Pension Tuesday perm price, which is a major consideration.  As for the under 4s, the possibilities here are endless for tomfoolery, japes, zoos, jelly, dinosaurs museums and park picnics featuring sandwiches filled with sticky, heavenly jam.

But this report throws up other peculiar statistics as well.  In 2008 there were 790,000 births in the entire country,  which was exactly the same as 1991.  But, to look at London on it’s own, the births in 1991 in the city was 106,000 and in 2008 it was 128,000.  So if London’s producing more children, and yet the birth rate for the UK stayed the same, what on earth are they putting in the water in Lincolnshire / Fife / Cardiff that results in people producing less babies? (note to self: Take investigative tests of Welsh water to verify spermatoza-killing properties)  Do people just get pets instead?  Or, perhaps this is a reflection that more people under the age of 35 live in London anyway, because it’s exciting and dynamic and full of bars and sometimes they go to those bars and then they go home and then wake up pregnant.  London also has a higher level of babies born to non-UK mothers, but again these statistics are designed to perplex us : 55% of babies in London are born to foreign mothers, says the Daily Mail, with great joy in its usual harmonious, generous, sophisticated soul.   This equates to 24% nationally, but I’ve never been convinced that Ireland should count as foreign.  Also the babies don’t know, nor, my dears, would they care why the natives have less children then the incomers.  Have you ever tried to ask a baby a question?  It’s a most unharmonious business generally involving sponge-finger-bribes, a breast pump and whatever you do you just end up with your hands covered in shit.

Of course, having a gridlock of prams in the city is only one side of the problem.  The other side of the problem is that we have population issues because people have started living a really, really long time.  Baby girls born in London in 1999 had a 33% of living to be 100.  100.    Who wants to be 100?   No one on this earth wants to be that old, it isn’t natural.  People used to sort of keel over at 70.  That’s considered unfashionable now.  It’s passe to pass away.  They hang on 92, 93, 94, 95…oh give me strength… and refuse to die when really we should be lining them up opposite a firing squad.   People are more likely to live past 65 in London than anywhere else.   The Over-90s are expected to double their demographic to nearly 100,000 by 2031.   Brilliant.  Probably because – look who’s about to toe the pension line in 15 years – yes, that’s right.  The Baby Boomers.  All those people who got free maintenance grants in the 1980s for University and bought their first flats in Swiss Cottage for £80,000 ten years later, (the bastards) who were conceived to the plaintive, retiring classical tones of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.  They’re coming up to retirement age.  And there’s millions of them.

This is what I have learned from the GLA Executive Summary:

1.When people die they tend to be old first, then die.

2. When people are born there is a marked tendency for them to be rather young and on the smallish side.  Anyone who produces an offspring over a foot tall ought to head to the nearest circus and secure form of employ.

3.  When people hit 40 they stop having babies.  Who’d have thunk it?

4.  No one moves to Northern Ireland.  There isn’t much point.

5.  In 2001, most people who moved within the UK only moved within a 10kilometre radius.  That is how adventurous Britons are.

 Yet the most apparent thing about this is that nothing can change London, not people moving in from across the country – or across the countires – that the bleeding, beating heart of what makes this city our city depends on its shifting, pulsing and moving populus grapsing the nettle, taking the dive, breaking into opportunity.  Perhaps this great unintangible is what makes it so hard for people to leave.  How can London be anything solid and still when it insists on flying by so quickly beyond our bus and car windows?  How can a city be summed up by an adjective?  What purpose can it possibly serve to ask Londoners to tick a word on a list to sum up their thoughts and their feelings on an entire metropolitan experience?  We are all happy and all sad, and when, at the end of the day, the Oyster card returns to the creased coat pocket and we shake the tube dust from our hair, which one of feels that London is simultaneously “new” and “old”, “expensive” or “cheap” or “narrow-minded” and yet as wide as the sun?   These thoughts – all thoughts – are here.  We shed people and we grow them, in, out, birth and death.  This is a world city and the world is here, heralding an experience that could never stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being measured by anyone’s poll.

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this. This blog is updated every other Thursday, so the next update will be Thursday 14th February.  Thank you


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