From Muslim immigration to White Flight to an Islamic Republic of London in just 20 years? We are only 10 years into this frightening transformation. But in just the last 10 years, more than 600,000 white Britons have fled their former towns in London for less violent, less hostile, less Muslim (‘Asian’ as they call it in the UK) areas.
UK Telegraph (h/t Traduction) Imagine if Glasgow disappeared. Not overnight and not physically, but imagine if everyone who lived there decided to leave, in the space of 10 years. Argyle Street, in the city centre – empty. Byres Road, next to the university – derelict. The Crow Road – abandoned. Or consider, instead, Sheffield, or Nottingham, or Belfast. All cities of about 600,000 people. Imagine if everyone who lived there upped and left. All those tenements, riverside apartments, suburban villas, all lying vacant. You’d sort of notice, wouldn’t you? You’d expect people to talk about it, at least.
Not the opening scenes of a dystopic science fiction screenplay, but the unfictional, real London, whose white British population has declined by roughly the population of those cities in the 10 years between the last two census surveys. “White British” (as opposed to Eastern European) citizens now make up less than half of London’s population. This is a change of profound significance, by any historical benchmark.
We have a phrase to describe the phenomenon – I used it a fortnight ago, in a piece about the Tories’ attempts to woo votes from ethnic minorities (a term whose meaning has changed: in London, at least, we’re all “minorities” now). The departure of people from London’s hitherto majority grouping is called “white flight”.
It’s tempting to be caustic about the current, undoubtedly brief, spasm of media interest in the phenomenon. No one seemed to mind as inner London became more and more multicultural: that was what made it so “vibrant”, after all. Only as the profile of the suburbs changes (Enfield’s white population has dropped by nearly 25 percentage points in 10 years, for example) is it worth any serious attention: the BBC website carried a piece just this week.
To read the BBC article, by the home editor Mark Easton, there is nothing to worry about. Indeed, the historic shift of London, from a city of white Britons to a mixture of minorities, is a cause for celebration, and not just because of that oft‑lauded “vibrancy”.
That the proportion of white people in the borough of Barking and Dagenham has dropped from four fifths to less than a half in a decade is nothing more than the natural desire of increasingly prosperous people to retire to the seaside. I’m paraphrasing Mr Easton a little, but that was more or less the suggestion in his commentary. It’s a rising tide of prosperity that first of all flushed the Eastenders from Bethnal Green to Dagenham, and it’s the inexorable rise in property values that leads their descendants to move from metropolitan Essex to that beautiful county’s coastline.
“Leigh[-on-Sea],” said Mr Easton, “is a particular favourite.” After all: “Many residents from Barking and Dagenham will have taken the train along the Thames Estuary towards Southend on a work excursion – the old beano to the seaside.” And so everything is dandy?
Fundamentally, none of this is strictly about “race”, but rather the cultural constructs we layer on to genetics. But the scale of white flight demands more than issuing congratulations to the second and third generation children of immigrants, who’ve done well in life and moved from Zone 2 to Zone 5 of the Central or Northern Underground lines. It’s also absurd to assume that the grandchildren of cockneys are moving still further out, just because their houses have increased in value.
Take Bethnal Green. The people leaving Dagenham now are themselves displaced Eastenders. The borough they first left behind would be unrecognisable to their grandparents, with a mayor whose election was supported by an Islamist group with unpleasant (to put matters mildly) views.
Hate crimes disfigure its streets: in an ironic reversal of one reason for the East End’s fame – that it was where indigenous, working-class Londoners faced down home-grown fascists – the streets of Bethnal Green and Whitechapel are now scenes of increasingly violent attacks on gay people. The BBC doesn’t talk about this, oddly, or wonder why the Eastenders’ movement is always away from their original homes: there are plenty of expensive properties in E2.
Discernment is required: nobody decent is arguing for a return to the homogeneity of Call the Midwife’s Poplar. Finally, politicians have admitted that to notice the scale of the immigration engineered by the last Labour government doesn’t make one racist. But neither is it wrong to discuss the cultural changes that large-scale immigration can cause. Six hundred thousand Londoners have left. They didn’t all sell ex-council houses in Barking, in order to purchase five-bedroom cliff-top villas in sunny Leigh-on-Sea.