London in the mind

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…there was no Mayor of London, Greater London Authority or City Hall.  Bankside Power Station was just about to be re-born as the Tate Modern. The year was 2000, and I was teaching and researching at the London School of Economics. Together with my colleague Tony Travers, I became involved in an exhibition in the Oxo Tower, called “Our London, Our Vote” . The purpose of the exhibition was to help explain to Londoners what the role would be of the new Mayor and London Assembly, to be elected that May. As part of the exhibition, I put together some quotations about London for one of the display panels – quotations not from politicians and public officials but from writers, artists, poets.

Here they are below:

London “is an idea, almost a metaphysical entity in the minds of those who contemplate it”  A.N.Wilson

“We do well perceive in our princely wisdom that our City of London is become the greatest, or next the greatest City of the Christian World.”  King James I, 1615.

“When I was a child in Trinidad, the wharves were lined with cargo boats coming from and heading to the London docks. The clothes we wore, much of the food we ate, all the luxuries of life we associated with London”   Darcus Howe, journalist.

“Rain grey town/known for its sound/In places/small faces/abound”  The Byrds, Eight Miles High

“Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn/A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many/I had not thought death had undone so many” T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land

“It is odd how one imagines that just because the sun is shining in London, it is shining everywhere else”  Hanif Kureishi

“Hell is a city much like London/A populous and smoky city”  Shelley

“If I had to sum up for you what London seems to me, it’s a community of unpaid extras in the most expensive theme park on the planet”   Malcolm McLaren 


We’ll always have Paris (2) – and soon there may be more of it?

There is a very interesting interview in the Journal de Dimanche with Anne Hidalgo, first Deputy Mayor of Paris, Socialist candidate in the Paris Mayoral election later this year, and current favourite in the polls. In the interview (which is in French) Ms Hidalgo responds to questions about the proposals for a ‘Greater Paris’ which will create a metropolitan tier bringing together the City of Paris with its surrounding 124 communes and four departments on the 1st January 2016. Ms Hidalgo is clear that this is not about ‘annexation’ but rather about recognising the sense of Parisian identity that extends beyond the relatively narrow administrative boundaries of the City of Paris:  “Les habitants du Grand Paris se sont déjà approprié depuis longtemps le mot “Paris”. C’est une réalité. Maintenant, il ne s’agit pas d’annexer quelque territoire que ce soit, mais d’inventer ensemble, en respectant les communes et leur identité.” Moreover, Ms Hidalgo explicitly refers to some Anglo-Saxon rival world cities: “Il ne s’agit pas de faire le Grand Paris à l’image de Paris, mais plutôt de faire le Grand Paris à la même échelle que le Grand Londres ou New York.” She is also very careful to make clear that she does not envisage the City of Paris disappearing into the new metropolitan arrangement – and that she sees a continuing important role for the Mayors of Paris’s 20 arrondissements (boroughs). These issues – of efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and identity, and the potential trade-offs between them – are of course core to the study of metropolitan governance world-wide. It will be fascinating to see how a new system of multi-level governance for the Paris region works out in practice.

We’ll always have Paris

…which is just as well as it’s more than a month since I attended an international seminar in the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris on “Innovations and the Making of Metropolitan Identity”.

I spoke on London’s experience of metropolitan government, and in particular metropolitan leadership, alongside Ernesto d’Albergo of the University of Rome La Sapienza, and Gilles Pinson of the Institut d’études politiques de Bordeaux.  My slides are attached here: Mark Kleinman Colloque International Paris Nov 2013.

The workshop was very well attended, with a mixture of government officials, academics and graduate students, and there was a lively discussion ranging from the specifics of how metropolitan government worked in London to some of the broader and more theoretical issues of metrop0litan governance and re-building citizen trust in government at all levels.

One participant lamented the lack of (in his view) an effective metropolitan tier for ‘Greater Paris’ comparing the City of Light unfavourably with the metropolis at the other end of the Eurostar line. I began to wonder if I had perhaps slightly over-sold London’s governance arrangements, and so pointed out that less than 20 years ago, there was no metropolitan tier in London, no popular campaign at that time for its re-instatement,  and the most exciting development being the conversion of the headquarters of the former Greater London Council into an aquarium.

Metropolitan governance proceeds by fits and starts rather than on a smooth utility-maximising trajectory.