Mile-high apartments full of trillionaire villains and their hookers: London according to the New York Times
By Sean Thomas Media Last updated: March 9th, 2014
Nice idea, but where are the hookers?
What did you do over the sunny weekend? If you are a Londoner, you probably drank a crate of champagne with your best friend Ivan and several nude escorts, in your flat on top of the Shard. Or so the New York Times would have us believe, according to a rhapsodically stupid article published on Friday.
The article, by Ben Judah, purports to be an assault on London’s political and business culture, specifically the way we lick the boots of Russia’s oligarchs.
The essay begins with a series of bizarre inaccuracies and insults – “London’s buses are still dirty” (no they aren’t), “Londoners are passive-aggressive” (no they’re not), “London’s planning regulations have been scrapped”, (no they haven’t). Then we get to the nub of Judah’s argument. He’s hacked off that we aren’t supporting America’s vigorous stance against Putin.
What vigorous stance was that? Judah explains: “The White House has imposed visa restrictions on some Russian officials”. Yes, that will have them reaching for the Imodium in the Kremlin. Literally dozens of Russians will have to cancel their holidays in Disneyland Florida.
You can, therefore, see why Judah is angry at the British. He believes we have “betrayed” America – by failing to support Washington’s mighty, iron-fisted defence of Ukrainian sovereignty. And why have we betrayed America? Because Britain "no longer has a 'mission'. Any moralising remnant of the British Empire is gone."
Judging by this, Judah wants Britain to return to the days of Empire, when we conquered peoples and casually annexed territories – just like Vladimir Putin. So this means he wants us to be more like Putin?
At this point, you’d think Judah couldn’t get any more ridiculous, but he does, launching into a loopy rant about the new London: “acres of glass windows are scrubbed by Polish labourers, who sleep four to a room in bedsit slums … immigrants from Lithuania and Romania, who broke their backs on construction sites… are now destitute and whiling away their hours along the banks of the Thames. [London is] a city where oligarchs are celebrated and migrants are exploited but that pretends to be a multicultural utopia.”
The errors and ironies in this are too numerous to detail, but let’s have a bash.
1. If Polish labourers sleep four to a room “in bedsit slums”, it’s because they choose to.
2. There are no hordes of destitute Lithuanians “whiling away their hours” on the South Bank, unless you count nice families from Vilnius licking ice creams by Tate Modern.
3. Most importantly, the entire passage, describing a city which has got rich, and erected towers, using migrant labour, and then boasted of its multiculturalism, could describe any global city in the last hundred years, and most of all it could describe New York City. Did they not notice this in the New York Times?
But the best bit comes when Judah berates his bête noire, the Shard:
“London has changed. And the Shard – the Qatari-owned, 72-floor skyscraper above the grotty Southwark riverside – is a symbol of that change.
“The Shard encapsulates the new hierarchy of the city. On the top floors, ultra high net worth individuals entertain escorts in luxury apartments. By day, on floors below, investment bankers trade incomprehensible derivatives. Come nightfall, the elevators are full of African cleaners, paid next to nothing and treated as non-existent.”
This all sounds suitably dramatic. The only trouble is that he Shard has no apartments let. None. They won’t go on sale until the summer. Nor does it have any traders in offices below, just one firm of financial advisors and a hotel that hasn’t opened.
So there are no Slavic oligarchs living it up in the Shard. There are no naked hookers stretched out on tiger skins. There are no mile-high apartments full of trillionaire villains. There are no incomprehensible derivatives being traded beneath them. There are no elevators “full” of African cleaners – as the place is all but empty. So most of these “non-existent people” are, in point of fact, non-existent, which is probably why Londoners regard them as not existing.
Apart from that, great article.