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July 2008

A friend from St Petersburg came to visit me last week. “There is something special about London. Something special about the people. I want to find it.” In her 20s, a fan of English music and writers, she was hoping I could direct her to the throbbing aorta of London, that street corner, that club, that pub where the very elixir of Albion could be imbibed.

I couldn’t, because (A) as I’m middle-aged, I rarely want to leave home; (B) as I’m dependent on the Victoria Line, I rarely go anywhere because it’s almost permanently closed down and (C) I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the English have been almost completely dri-ven out of central London.

London has become the capital of Europe and seems to be running a campaign to be the über-city. It’s gained in sushi bars and Slav beauties since my youth, but its Englishness has been diluted. Its chief features now are the gloomy weather, the bad temper of its citizens and the failure of anything to work.

The English are now close to being a minority in London (and I don’t care what the official statistics say; I’ve lived here most of my life and I’ve witnessed the change). The English may be the largest single group, but they’re on the back foot. Walk down Oxford Street if you think I’m wrong.

Let me add that I couldn’t care less if this island is entirely composed of Austrian bankers, Belgian ticket-inspectors, Chinese accountants, Kurdish barbers, Niger­ian estate agents, Somali security guards, Thai chefs etc., while the few remaining Anglo-Saxons collect their sickness benefit on the Wirral.

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