London’s shifting character

In amongst the riot post-mortems was a salient comment on Radio 4’s Today programme. XXX discussed the way in which London has changed in social terms. Where once the city was largely a working class one, with the middle and professional classes living in the suburbs, the metrovilles built in the 30s, more recently this has changed. London’s property – its houses – have changed hands and whilst the working classes have moved out those professionals haved moved in. Victorian terraces which were once a powerful symbol of urban poverty and decay, with blackened facades and cramped interiors, have become the desirable pied-a-terres of the urbanites.

Where does this leave the working class? I wonder if the slum clearance programmes – which had an explicitly social funtion, as well as a purely hygenic one – fundamentally altered the the socio-geographic relationship of Londoners to one another. It has been said that London’s network of boroughs mitigated against over separation of classes as each had to have a certain proportion of social housing stock. I wonder how this has changed and if there has been a similar reorganisation of people in common with Paris, where the moneyed centre lies in contrast to the poverty-stricken banlieue.

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