You are here:   Boris Johnson > London: A New Rome?

London in late-Soviet bloom

Civis Romanus sum — I am a citizen of Rome. This cultural identity transcended ethnicity, geography and politics by the time Roman power was at its peak. Modern London's own ethnic badge states confidently, "I am a Londoner". The city's ambition has all the hallmarks of a ship in full sail on an ocean of provincialism. Governed — appropriately — by a classicist, London views itself as nothing less than the New Rome to which all roads lead. In truth, London is enjoying little more than a late-Soviet bloom and is becoming a relic.

It was probably 1976 when Communism reached its ideological and political zenith. Yet, what had seemed like an unstoppable force throughout a decade characterised by many questionable fads and dreadful fashions collapsed ignominiously a mere 13 years after its heady peak. Killed by complacency and mis-allocated resources, its dogmatic corpse was swept into — Leon Trotsky's words — the dustbin of history.

Undermining London's transnational character is the fact that the city has become a vast subsidy junkie where Soviet-style inputs support the entire edifice. Without annual fixes and long-term capital injections London's future is more Moscow-on-Thames than a new imperium. Nowhere has this become more apparent than in the city's bloated transport plans.

Take Crossrail. How much was this £15bn project driven by the lobbying of Canary Wharf bankers seeking their own direct route to Heathrow Airport? At Heathrow Airport itself the over-leveraged owners dream up ways to spend another £14-18bn on a third runway.

Consul Boris, however, is less keen on that option and prefers to erect his own Trajan's column in the shape of an entirely new airport, which will merely consume £50bn of other people's money so that there are more direct flights between London and Kazakhstan.

At least some of Westminster's proconsuls have finally asked some hard questions about HS2. Justified as a Watling Street on tracks for Imperial London, the £50bn project (or is it £80bn?) seems now to resemble little more than a ZiL lane for some northern MPs. The cost of the £600m Cheshire diversion allows the Chancellor's Tatton-based successors to enjoy the speed of getting there without noisily trespassing on voters' gardens.

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.