We need more of these. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

People don’t leave London at the rate they once did

This is probably one reason that house prices are climbing. 

The Office for National Statistics just published its latest (deep breath) statistical bulletin on ‘Internal Migration, England & Wales, Year Ending June 2013’. It produces this document every year.

These things don’t exactly make great beach reads – but squint at them the right way, and you’ll find some pretty interesting insights. Much of the best stuff concerns how London relates to the rest of the UK. Consider.

You can see the story of a life in the times when people move.

Look at this chart, from last year’s document. It shows the percentage of people who move to a new local authority area at each age, from zero to 90+.

There's a small spike in early childhood, as young parents move so their offspring can have more space and/or get on the list for the right schools. Then things are pretty stable right through adolescence, until a much bigger spike, showing more than a fifth of 19 year olds switch locations – heading mostly, one assumes, to university.

There's another mini-spike at 22, as people start their careers, but then people gradually become less and less likely to move until, by middle age they’re overwhelmingly likely to stay put in a given area. That only changes at the end of life, presumably when frailty forces the elderly to move to care homes or to be near family. It's the circle of life.

London's population flows outwards.

The next two graphs show internal net migration - that is, the difference between the number of arrivals and the number of departures - from each region to the rest of England & Wales. Positive numbers mean more people are arriving; negative ones mean more people are departing.

And, as it turns out, the net migration out of London is by far the biggest figure. That's true, both in absolute numbers...

...and relative to population size. This is net interal migration, per thousand population:

But the rate at which that's happening has actually fallen.

In the year to June 2013, London’s net migration to the rest of England and Wales stood at around 55,000. But, according to figures from the city’s authorities, in 2006-7, the net outflow stood at 80,300; five years before that, it was 97,100. Look at this chart, showing arrivals, departures and the difference between them:

Over the last decade total number of those leaving has risen; but the number of those arriving has risen more. 

And London's population is still growing.

In the year to mid-2012, in fact, it increased by 1.3%, to 8.3 million. Partly this is because London is the main destination for international migrants to the UK (nearly two in five Londoners were born overseas); partly, it's a baby thing. London's birth rate in 2012 stood at 16.2 births per thousand people. In England and Wales as a whole, it was just 12.9.

At any rate, the net result of all this is that, after shrinking in the second half of the 20th century, London will soon be bigger than at any time since before the Blitz. This population increase is almost certainly one factor behind the city’s house price boom: we're just not building enough homes to keep up with rising demand.

Most people who leave London don't go very far.

In the year to June 2012, nearly a quarter of a million people (247,923) left the city for destinations elsewhere in England and Wales. Nearly two thirds of those, though, left for the surrounding regions: 40% of them went to the South East, 26% to the East.

Those figures, oddly enough, are roughly proportional to the share of London’s circumference each of the two regions occupies. The obvious reading is that a lot of those who leave the capital are only getting as far as the commuter belt. They're leaving the city; they’re not leaving its orbit.

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon - in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder