New figures released yesterday show, well, they show that London is pretty much doing what it always does: changing. Quite how is not entirely apparent.
The newspapers managed to get some headline footage out of the statistics – the Daily Mail even ran a story about the UK population across the whole of the front page. And of course, there is some stuff to report.
Most significantly, shedsful of Londoners are upping camp and shipping out because of rising house prices (cashing in on or being scared off by). A total of 243,700 left our fair city last year. The overall population of London still managed to rise by 56,000 to a sizeable 7,512,370, which is largely due to the fact that more of us are living longer, and lots of people still flock to London believing the streets to be paved with gold.
It is this ‘flocking to London’ which is the real reason why the press are buzzing round this story: the immigration factor. Always guaranteed to generate reader interest. Whitehall panjandrums have termed this population shift (city dwellers out, immigrants in) the ‘churn’ effect, which, although appropriate, makes us feel like so much curdled milk: it is being compared with the same trend as that which redefined American cities 40-50 years ago.
But this is nothing new for London. It has been settled and re-settled back through the centuries, over-run by wave after wave of immigrants, travellers, invaders, the wealthy and the needy, and it is this very fact which defines the town and makes it such a dynamic, multi-cultural organism, like a great big fluffy urban shape-shifter.
The statisticians themselves admit that they can no longer keep track of us all:
"We have seen a very active housing market and some people are moving out to take advantage of the rising prices. London has always been a huge magnet for people and jobs but people are moving about." (subtext: 'they really should just stand still for a while so we can count them’)
and this from an ONS bod:
"This once again highlights that the Government has no real grip of immigration or any meaningful idea of the true number coming to and leaving the UK which makes planning for these large population increases extremely difficult."
Plus ça change….
So Londonist reckons this is a lot of fuss over not very much.
Image courtesy of victoriapeckham’s flickr stream.