Sad in the city. Photo: Getty images
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Surprisingly, London is the least happy major city in the UK

Can’t get no satisfaction. 

Everyone knows Londoners are grumpy. They file in and out of their fancy underground network with faces of thunder, avoiding each others’ eyes and rushing home to count the pennies left over after they’ve paid their astronomical housing costs.

All this we know anecdotally - but now, you'll be pleased to hear, we have the data to prove it. Urban Audit, a branch of the European Commission tasked with assessing the “attractiveness” and “quality of life” of European cities, has released the results of its 2012 Perception Survey. It asked people in 79 cities, including 6 in the UK, about their satisfaction with everything from their cities’ healthcare to its public spaces. It then used this data to put together average satisfaction levels on 12 different issues for each city. 

If you take an average of those 12 percentages for UK cities, they on the whole turn out to be “pretty satisfied” – all six fall in the 75-85 per cent range. They’re certainly doing better than Athens, which has an average satisfaction rate of 42 per cent.

But lagging in last place among the Brits is London, which feels the least satisfied with its schools, sports facilities, health services, and pollution and noise levels. (Its schools, incidentally, are among the best in Britain.)

The only category where London came out on top was public transport. Here's a graph of the overall satisfaction levels.

The survey also asked respondents whether they agreed with certain statements about their cities. Only 71 per cent of Londoners agreed with the statement “I feel safe in London”, which places it below the European median of 74 per cent and at the bottle of the pile in the UK. Londoners feel less safe than residents of Paris, Barcelona, Zagreb, and Malaga, to name but four.  Finally, in utterly unsurprising news, only 12 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement “It is easy to find good housing at a reasonable price in London.”

So should Londoners really be so down on their city? As the UK’s largest, it’s pretty much fated to have the highest crime and pollution levels. And yes, the housing market is awful. 

But when the researchers asked the question “are you satisfied with the place where you live?”, offering respondants the chance to say they liked their city despite its crime and pollution, Londoners were still the most dissatisfied in the UK – 82 per cent said they were satisfied, which sounds OK, but it places London ahead of only 17 European cities, and behind 51. The median satisfaction level for Europe was much higher, at 92 per cent. Here's the results for some major European cities: 

One explanation for London's poor performance could be that Londoners have less pride in their city - a result, perhaps, of the fact relatively few of them were born there. In 2001, Sheffield University conducted a “sense of belonging” study across the UK, based on the number of non-married adults, one-person households and people who had lived at their current address for less than a year. (The thinking was that these were the groups least likely to have roots in an area.) The researchers' results show that, of the six British cities included in the Urban Audit study, it was those who lived in London who were likely to have the lowest “sense of belonging”. Residents of Cardiff – also the winning city in terms of satisfaction – were likely to have the highest.

In other words, despite all their phone contacts, Londoners are lonely, disconnected and dissatisfied. Someone sort out the housing market before it’s too late.

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. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.