We Europeans are taking over London's financial sector. Why?

It can't be the weather.

When I arrived in London two years ago it was raining, it was grey and it took me a quarter of an hour to change from the Bakerloo to the Hammersmith and City line in Paddington, without using an iPhone map. This was the area where I had booked my hotel, the night before my job interview. Now I think of Paddington as the purgatory of London, where enterprising Europeans find a cheap hotel to transform themselves from tourists still excited about the idea of going to Oxford Street into proper unexcitable Londoners.

The morning of the interview it was raining, it was grey and I had no idea of how to turn the pages of the Financial Times without killing my seat-neighbour. I still wonder why a newspaper mostly read by people going to the City on the tube is engineered to be so tube-unfriendly.

The interview went well, I guessed what team the manager supported and I did understand his foreign Northern England accent. What really struck me, though, was his last request: you will start on Friday, and here we have dress-down Friday. “Oh great, thank you”. I had no idea what that meant. How badly do you have to dress on a dress down Friday? What’s a dress code? It was a concept beyond "Continental" business language. In Italy the only rule is to dress better than anyone around you, unless you are a journalist. In other Northern countries the rule is to dress worse than anyone around you, especially if you are a journalist.

So there I was, having done my best to be completely dressed down on my first day of work in this country, while outside it was raining and the sky was grey. It was July and I still believed Summer existed.

It didn’t really matter. There was something in that British rain that called me and many privileged migrants to this city that continuously absorbs millions of lives in the innards of the tube to then expel them into a world of dressed up business people.

I didn’t know Italy, France and Spain had such a large population until I came to London. Italians have even overtaken Russians as first buyers of prime London properties, according to agency Knight Frank, with many of them working in finance. Some say that London is the sixth largest French city, with some 300,000 Napoleonic citizens.

So why are we all here? This is the question I am trying to answer.

The latest UK unemployment figures show that the jobless total has decreased to 2.51 million, while the number of people in work has risen by 24,000 in the three months to April.

These figures are better than in many other European countries, but they are not enough to explain the appeal of this country and its capital to many highly educated and experienced Europeans.

I left my secure Euro-welfearised job to come here. Was it for the money? Not at all: in London you dream about earning more money, so that you can spend it on a hideously expensive rent.

My contract is much weaker compared to my Italian one. But when I meet with my friends on Sunday at "our" pub in Pimlico nobody seems to be too bothered about the easiness with which that contract can be broken. This lightness – in the back of our mind – is part of the attraction. It’s what makes things move in an era where speed is the key factor and the economy is less and less made of tangible goods. It’s – and this is where part of the calamite-effect comes from – the possibility to accept new energy. Looking at the faces sitting around that pub I hear lots of languages – or lots of ways of speaking English - and one thing becomes clear: to be a real Londoner you cannot be really from London. You have to be like wind, and become part of the energy that flows into the city. The capital of the country is a huge vase that contains people who left their roots but have found a way to grow. And it is not only for its geographical position that London has become such a crucial centre for finance, a world based on volatility, on speed, on risk and on what is defined in opposition to the "real" economy.

Will the appeal and the energy of this country collapse as a Lehman Brothers dream?

Two years later, 457 Costa coffees, some warm beers and many typically British curries later, outside it’s raining and the sky is grey. I believe Summer exists only on the Central line, not in real life. At the pub we complain about the weather, the NHS and the bad wine, which as soon as it arrives in England becomes sad, expensive and 10 times less good. Many know that a life here has its risks and shortcomings, but the bet has been successful so far. Keep the umbrella in your handbag, and it will be a sunny day.

Photograph: Getty Images

Sara Perria is the Assistant Editor for Banking and Payments, VRL Financial News

Photo:Getty
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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.