London Is Not Britain

Once again, the wind’s blowing hard. It’s getting tedious.

Cycling through somewhere like Wallingford, as I did today, it’s not hard to notice that there’s quite a different pace to the place than, say, Reading. There’s the same step-change between large urban areas like Reading and London.

London is in a league of one in Britain. That is not an inherently good or bad thing; it just needs to be remembered.

What struck me is that the pace of life generates a mood, a feeling – and thus an approach, an outlook. What that suggests is that the outlook from anywhere outside of London is going to be different from within London.

A huge amount of media content is generated from within London. A large part of our political and major business classes exist within a capital-city-defined context; the same is true of the advertising world and the entertainment business.

Yet the experience of London, to the extent that it is a common, shared thing, is only shared by about eight million people. That leaves about 52 million people experiencing something different – and having a context-generated outlook that it likely to be significantly different from that of the eight million in London.

I know I’m not the first person to make that observation – far from it.

What I wondered as I rode back home is whether the many products of what I’ll call a London-outlook, whether media content, political decisions or whatever, are to a greater or lesser extent irrelevant to or inappropriate for the rest of the population and are thus ignored by the rest of the population; or, whether London-centricity makes the rest of the population unhappy by virtue of a kind of outlook- and thus values-dissonance.

The products of people (and thus businesses and institutions) with a London-outlook are everywhere. They are hard to ignore; they are foisted on the rest of us either blatantly or insidiously. Given their prevalence, I wonder whether the dissonance between life as experienced for 52 million people and life as they are told it is or should be might in fact be a cause of deep underlying unease, perhaps even unhappiness.