London’s metropolis


Some people still define London narrowly. On a visit to Richmond I was asked when I would be returning to London. They see it as the old cities of London and Westminster, with a cluster of inner London boroughs.

More today see London as the Mayor’s territory, or see it as all that area inside the M25. The large motorway ring around the city has for some defined it geographically with this large physical barrier.

In practice  today the economic metropolis of London stretches well beyond the M25. Whilst crossing from Staines to Egham entails  crossing the motorway and leaving political London, nothing else much changes at that border. The same is true travelling from Chevening to Sevenoaks or from Caterham to Redhill or from Rickmansworth to Amersham. Economic London extends its reach.

If you define an economic area by its network of contacts, by the similarities of its jobs markets and  the ability and willingness of people to travel around to get jobs or contracts, then the London metropolis stretches much more widely. You can make a case to say that all the area bounded by Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Reading, and Basingstoke   shares common characteristics. Significant numbers of  people do travel to London for full time jobs from all those places.  Many more businesses and institutions within that area have regular contacts and transactions with central London. People will get up and travel in search of work or opportunity within this wider zone.

The total area is an area of high skills, high value added, and relatively good incomes by UK and world standards. It contains five major universities of world renown (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE and UCL) and several other good Russell Group universities. It contains much of the financial service, legal and management services and consultancy expertise that the UK sells abroad, several brilliant retail centres, many important cultural centres and a strong diversified industrial and commercial base. It also accounts for the majority  of the value of UK commercial and residential property.

Some elsewhere think this part of the world attracts too much public sector investment, as it has recently enjoyed the Crossrail project. Yet relative to the size of its population and success of its economy, investment in transport has been poor in recent years. Tomorrow we will look at what this large city region needs if it is to carry on growing.


  1. Lifelogic
    May 21, 2014

    “what this large city region needs if it is to carry on growing”

    Well it needs a five runway Heathwick with a 15 minutes HS train link (and certainly not moving to the Estuary).
    It needs a new road bridge or tunnel in the East and a decent circular road inside the M25
    It need the government to stop blocking the roads as a deliberate policy.
    It need no HS2 but a few gentle capacity improvement to rail and tube.
    It need employment laws to be largely scrapped and fewer regulation everywhere.
    In need to be out of or just free trade with the EU.
    It need a tax regime similar to the non dom one, but for all. Where you can pay £30K or £50K and no more. After all you are paying much more than your fair share even at that level.
    It needs the other regions to stop over taxing it and learn to stand on their own feet.
    It need stamp duty to be 1% for all not 5-15% (for “non natural persons”).
    In needs the government to run the NHS and Schools properly or perhaps better just get out of the business and issue vouchers.
    We need fewer pointless degree graduates (certainly well over 50% currently) and more engineers, technicians, (real) scientists, medical people, plumbers, electricians and builders, business people, sales people.
    We need far more flexible planning.
    We need fewer silly Boris bikes being trucked around and blocking the pavements.
    More parking so we do not have to drive round in circles looking for them.
    Its need IHT to be abolished.
    Few traffic light it works better when they are down.
    We need less government by a factor of about 50%
    We need a government that is not pro EU, green crap, socialists as currently.
    In short we need to be even better and far richer than a Greater Switzerland on Sea.
    It needs lots of fracking in near Blackpool and elsewhere.
    It need the BBC anti-science propaganda factory of green crap, big state pro EU drivel to be closed down or hugely reformed. Has Cameron found a green crap, pro EU, big state token woman yet for the Trustees?
    It need a better, cheaper, quicker, far more efficient legal system with sensible balance of risk.
    It needs Cameron’s lunacy of enforced equality agenda in insurance, pensions etc. to be abandoned.
    Have I missed anything?

    1. zorro
      May 21, 2014

      Better immigration control so that jobs at sensible wage levels (no hidden state subsidies for employers) are made available so no excuse for claiming dole.


      1. JA
        May 21, 2014

        When the latest Britain-for-sale, hock-my-house-to-simulate-growth, funny-money inflated boom goes *pop* the welfare system will go with it.

        Then we’ll see what a vibrant city London is.

        Dr Redwood,

        We are going to need vast investment in homeland policing – not infrastructure.

      2. Lifelogic
        May 21, 2014

        Indeed and what is iht ratter Osborne on about in the Telegraph today with his Britain’s free market status is at risk with ukip. It clearly is with the eu, the greencrap subsidies, train,subsidies, the financial transaction tax,hs2, restrictions on trade outside the eu, silly employment and equality laws on insurance and pensions and a coalition racist eu only immigration policy Look in the mirror you silly man.

        1. zorro
          May 21, 2014

          He is probably equating ‘free trade’ with the idea of a ‘single market’ in the EU….. Not particularly promising with regards to worldwide trade. Has he forgotten about other world trade agreements? Perhaps he should speak to those other economic powerhouses of Asia, China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan about the benefits of the EU and get them into the EU ‘free trade’ area…..or perhaps not.


    2. JoeSoap
      May 21, 2014

      The whole state education system turned back to a meritocratic one where kids study mainly what they re good at with others having similar interests and compete to be best.
      Ignore the need for legislation on race gender or age issues as they looked after themselves for several million years until about 20 years ago

      1. zorro
        May 21, 2014

        But there are so many jobs tied up in the race industry…..think of the dire position if worldwide harmony broke out……. What about the diversity coordinators, think about them?!


        1. Lifelogic
          May 22, 2014

          Indeed how many mainly pointless human rights and employment lawyers would have to get a real job too.

  2. Pete
    May 21, 2014

    The city of London does not need help to grow. It needs an absence of government interference. Just as the rest of the country does.

    1. Gary
      May 21, 2014

      Without govt help london would be far smaller. London exponential growth is the result of financialisation, which has required govt underwriting to survive. Special tax haven status for The City big boys, bailing out banks and so also bailing out all related financial industries, concessions for foreign hot money to be ploughed into London properties, HTB to put a floor under property prices, lax legislation to attract big corporations with “anything goes” financial gambling products, artificial low rates to magnify reserves and enable further leverage on balance sheets.

      Take that away and you gut London, and perhaps the rest of the country benefits as investment moves out of London. Keep all this in place and London keeps growing, and the rest of the country keeps shrinking.

      We are in an almighty pickle.

  3. Mike Stallard
    May 21, 2014

    Historically London has been just one of the places which were the focus of the national wealth. Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow were as wealthy. People who couldn’t quite get there made do with York, Shrewsbury, Norwich or some town in Cornwall whose name escapes me.
    And today it stands alone.
    But London has always sort of spread. So it is far too big for any form of boundaries. It has more or less taken over Peterborough. Unlike New York which went up, London slopped outwards. Today it is slopping right up here to the Fens where the more adventurous are arriving. They have changed it from a rural backwater into a thriving set of suburbs, all clean and anonymous and shiny. With buses!
    So please clean up your dog poo and do not shoot pigeons!

    1. outsider
      May 21, 2014

      Dear Mike, Back in the 1870s my Victorian great grandfather, a Smithfield meat trader, held a season ticket between London and Peterborough, where he was a civic worthy eventually elected mayor. So there is nothing new in this London connexion. No doubt it was much expanded when the city became a London overspill development. The issue is whether the Peterborough economy depends on London. I suspect that your newer Eastern European citizens might be surprised at any such suggestion. An annual season ticket now costs almost £6,000 (£9,600 first class), certainly still a viable option for the few but not, I suspect, for the many.

      1. Anonymous
        May 21, 2014

        £6000 is a lot of money but works out at 13p a mile assuming 48 weeks, 5 days a week.

        “Build more houses !” says Mark Carney.

        Until what point ? When we finally run out of space and end up with exactly the same problems ?

        WE ARE FULL

        ALL politicians willfully ignore this problem and this is why they are having to behave so disgracefully over UKIP.

  4. margaret brandreth-j
    May 21, 2014

    If this area is an epicentre for growth, then why do we need to increase its activity? Would it not simply be a better solution to keep the market activity stable and allow for growth elsewhere?

    Whilst HS2 is probably over the top for the risk factor, the idea of it being a way of clawing back business to other areas is sensible. The areas shouldn’t be exclusive to a few cities around the City of London.The growth in the North underlines this point.Whilst I complain that Manchester’ good’ jobs are too far and few between, the citizens have suffered , perhaps unknowingly, for a cause , its overall economic growth and potential.

    I am not a supporter of the north/ south dichotomy . We now have many ex southerners living in the north who prefer to live here .We have houses which are semi rural and are only a few minutes away from motorways , giving easier living and a way to get more out of the working day. Whilst HS2 was promising time off travelling to allow many to get work more quickly , thereby increasing activity, in the north we have a natural demographic distribution of residential areas to places of work.

    This was the plan of many retail outlets many years ago . It has worked well and I cannot see any reason why these areas should not be improved upon to incorporate banking etc. Tesco’s output may have decreased slightly due to competition from stores like ALDI , but it is still way up in the top hundred. It worked for TESCO and could for much more than these retailers.

    As an academic come business man you must realise that whereas your roots are in the south and those institutions , the change in those areas is significant and to some extent perceptually devalued by its own, although I still hear that many like the buzz of London, but for northeners like myself Milton Keynes is joined at the hip to London. It is perceptual . Perception allows the realisation of what could be.

  5. Bert Young
    May 21, 2014

    Those who live and work in London today are very brave folk – the pollution is unhealthy , real estate is beyond most pockets , choice of schools for those with children are few are far between and , the overall cost of living much higher. I lived and worked there for many years and enjoyed every day – the challenges , the business opportunities , the central contacts , the hub of ideas all added to the day to day buzz and excitement . The substantial changes in communication technology has enabled many organisations and individuals to move outside and fostered the development of satellite and new offices . All this is very understandable and worthwhile , however , what I now observe is that many who now live near me in South Oxfordshire , face the daily toil of commuting to London ( at substantial cost ) with a direct bearing on the value of their family life and health . The consequence is the pushing of all sorts of boundaries centred around economics ; this will continue unabated . London is once again very much back in my life .

  6. Douglas Carter
    May 21, 2014

    Apologies in advance Mr. Redwood, since not only is this off-topic but also may cause you to slap a nearby forehead in irritation so please feel free to discard this contribution if you see fit.

    In recent days you’ve avoided a certain contemporary matter which culminates for the voter tomorrow – Thursday. I suspect there are specific reasons for that and I won’t speculate, but the absence is of course observable.

    Not for me to put words in your mouth or direct your use of your keyboard, but in the post-election days I would imagine you’ll be considering an analysis of the vote. May I request you consider one aspect of this odd period?

    Whether justifiably or no, the headline – specifically ‘headline’ – news of this period has been ‘UKIP’. No matter my efforts and attentions, I have see almost no media scrutiny of the other party respective campaigns. No analysis, consideration of root-and-branch policy, posture and strategy and TV studios bereft of accountable politicians actually discussing this. Just a few short weeks ago you agreed with me that politicians complaining about people ‘banging on over Europe’ in the lead-up to EU elections was a little bizarre.

    Douglas Alexander – for example – is said to have directed as subdued a campaign as possible so as ‘not to put off potential voters’. That, from a party whose senior members have occasionally mooted support for taxpayer funding for Political parties. (But will wilfully abandon a nationwide election for self-advantage?)

    I know for party partisan reasons you will have a leaning to write on the results with your loyalties in mind. But would you consider adding a consideration of this extraordinary campaign period? A campaign in which it seems some parties have happily abandoned the stage to essentially one single MEP Candidate in being in order – what seems on observation – to conveniently abrogate the inevitable and unwelcome scrutiny.

    It will be the icing on the cake come early next week when finally released from policy-enforced entombment, the most egregious Europhiles associated with each party – such as Mandelson – in a long pre-planned and agreed itinerary – will be scuttling from sympathetic microphone to friendly supportive interviewer to sanctimoniously warn of apocalypse and the descent of civilisation as we know it. I would be surprised if any of these interviewers reminded their guests that those same studios were available for precisely the same purposes for the months leading up to the elections – but that the opportunity was never taken up to take advantage of the venue?

    Apologies in advance and in conclusion John – not trying to hijack your article, but I hope you’ll wish to consider giving a few thoughts to that.

    Reply I have not written about the elections in advance of the vote for obvious legal reasons. I do not wish to write about all the parties and candidates for neutral/balanced commentary and I am not an official Conservative site pushing the Conservative message. I will write on the day following the poll. I do not agree that only one party has been subject to strong scrutiny. I have read a lot recently about Mr Miliband’s campaigning activities, for example, which included a lot of criticisms.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      May 21, 2014

      Reply to reply,
      When you do comment, perhaps you will dare to criticse your own party leadership’s involvement in abusing people who wish to vote UKIP? For as Janet Daley writes in today’s Telegraph: “And there was me thinking that the entire anti-Ukip press barrage which went so far as to trawl the social media records of every Ukip candidate and public supporter was, if not orchestrated, at least enthusiastically endorsed by the Conservative leadership.When exactly did it occur to Mr Osborne that the dedicated army of researchers who were gleefully digging up all those embarrassing tweets by obscure Ukippers ÔÇô and splashing them on the front pages of newspapers ÔÇô were, in fact, only adding to the impression of a political establishment out to extinguish the voice of the people?”

      1. The PrangWizard
        May 21, 2014

        Indeed so, and now we have a UKIP candidate stabbed. The Establishment and the anti-UKIP media’s response ‘nothing to do with us, gov’.

    2. Lifelogic
      May 21, 2014

      Interviews by the bbc of Miliband and Cameron this am especially have been pathetically soft and wet. Why does Cameron want to keep free movement of anyone within the eu regardless of ability to support themselves? Why does he want to restrict doctors and top people from Australia and India yet allow criminal drug addicts to come from all over the eu and send benefit money home to their children. What has he against Switzerland as a model and why does he think tax payers should waste money on 5 times the cost not on demand electricity?

    3. Anonymous
      May 21, 2014

      Reply to reply: You haven’t heard about Mr Miliband on the BBC.

      Not his Wiltshire Radio gaff which was comedy gold. What if Nigel Farage had done that ? It would have made top billing on BBC 1 news.

      If you don’t think that UKIP has been ganged up on in the last week then you’re living on a different planet to me, Dr Redwood. I (and many I know) are utterly shocked by it. For example. The deliberate misquoting of Peter Hitchens on Radio 4. The tweetings of a BBC political editor against UKIP. Robert Peston re-tweeting “There will be a lot of idiots out there voting for a dodgy party – make sure you get out there too.” (to that effect)

      But then you and I do live in different planets don’t we, Dr Redwood ?

      BTW. Will all these imitation UKIP parties – designed to hobble UKIP – be counted as one block vote to assess the anti-EU sentiment that is out there among the British public ?

      OK. UKIP may well lose because of this clever (one suspects establishment led) tactic but the anti EU votes will still be cast. Shouldn’t they be assessed afterwards ? Oughtn’t the Tory Party, in all fairness, go out of its way to measure the democratic will against the EU among the electorate ? It should be easy to do. To work out how many people voted for ‘out’ of the EU parties, including UKIP.

      Whether they voted UKIP is entirely irrelevant. They voted for parties promising to leave the EU and one would imagine that the Tory Party would be keen to discuss this in the interests of democracy.

      And please. Tell your PM (not mine) to stop calling people rude names.

      We have all been very grown up, mature, accommodating, patient and polite (despite some of the worst provocations – including a soldier being decapitated on a London street.) Now that we dare to exercise our dissatisfaction as we should – democratically, peacefully, lawfully, through the ballot box – the person we choose as our representative is smeared and we are told that we are idiots.

      Yes I’m angry.

      With YOUR party.

      Reply I try to stop unpleasant attacks by bloggers on this site. Supporters of UKIP who like to appear on my site often want to call their rivals names and make unpleasant and sometimes completely unfounded attacks on people.

  7. Leslie Singleton
    May 21, 2014

    London doesn’t HAVE a Metropolis as your Title today would imply: it IS the Metropolis, etymologically the Mother City. As I have said before, I have American friends who regard London as the Capital of the World and we should find more ways to promote the English speaking peoples around it. Odd the lack of attention paid to the disparate languages involved in the EU. Very important to my mind if a family from somewhere I can hardly find on a Map, who hardly speak English and expect their children to be educated at a local school are to move in next door. I was born in London and, a la Farage, parts of it frighten me these days. Changing gear to pollution, as one does, what happened to trolleybuses? Why are they not perfect for purpose??

  8. alan jutson,
    May 21, 2014

    People and businesses will eventually start to move out of London and go elsewhere when it becomes too expensive, and too difficult to move around within it, and get to it from its outer regions.

    Well aware that success brings success and acts like a magnet, but eventually the mould gets broken as people and businesses see that sometimes there is an advantage in other areas, both for businesses and the workers in far more pleasant, less congested, and less expensive areas to live and work, which still have good transport and technology links with the rest of the World and UK.

    Yes London and its surroundings may be booming at the moment for some, but remember, nothing lasts forever.

  9. lojolondon
    May 21, 2014

    Come on John, talk about the EU elections – due tomorrow!

    Funny how Labour openly admit that they avoided all discussion of the EU and their strategy was to brand Conservatives who wanted to discuss immigration as ‘racist’.

    Now UKIP raised the subject of the EU, so all the LibLabCon and media have only one simple message – how being anti-immigration is ‘racist’.

    I find it fascinating how the public, outside of the Westminster/MSM bubble are not buying it, and how appealing the UKIP message is for Labour supporters, as Labour has become the party, not for the worker, but for those who refuse to work!

    We live in interesting times, I cannot wait until tomorrow.

    Reply I am not an approved Conservative site for the elections nor do I wish to provide neutral and balanced commentary on all parties in the contest, so I will be commenting on them after polling.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 21, 2014

      This government immigration policy is clearly racist against any non eu countries by definition and Cameron confirmed this am he want that to remain just so.

  10. Robert Taggart
    May 21, 2014

    Lundun – the City = the M25 and all within – speaking as a mere provincial from without !
    Lundun – the region = the Home Counties + ?

    Lundun be fine to visit, but, oneself would never want live or work down there – no fresh air !

    1. Anonymous
      May 21, 2014

      Not so.

      It is now a clean city in large part. It has some beautiful countryside surrounding it too – for the moment.

  11. Robert Christopher
    May 21, 2014

    a typo John M24 ??

    1. Robert Taggart
      May 21, 2014

      The inner ring ? !

  12. Demetrius
    May 21, 2014

    Above all it needs guaranteed reliable supplies of cheap food, cheap fuels and cheap energy in the short and long term. Oh dear.

  13. outsider
    May 21, 2014

    Dear Mr Redwood, Your line of argument seems to be laying out a terrific case for HS2. The main, if unstated, case for HS2 is to allow the folk of Birmingham and eventually South Yorkshire and Leeds to become part of the prosperous London region. Personally, I buy neither argument but the two go inextricably together.

    1. acorn
      May 21, 2014

      Talking of Trains. You will like this JR. “[French] Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed an “absurd rail system” for the problems. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company,” he said, “this is what happens.” .

      RFF is the French equivalent of Network Rail. Even SNCF couldn’t stop the EU competition regulations, (based on the UK privatisation model).

  14. outsider
    May 21, 2014

    Dear Mr Redwood, I am reasonably familiar with the city of Cambridge, not least because my brother lives there. There is certainly heavy daily road and rail traffic between Cambridge and London but my impression is that the City’s prosperity does not significantly depend on that connexion. If London ceased to exist and the capital moved to Carlisle, Cambridge would remain pretty prosperous.
    You are far more familiar that I am with the city of Oxford but I suspect that the MINI factory, which employs 3,800 people directly, may be more important to its economy than proximity to London. So I rather challenge the idea that Oxford and Cambridge universities are part of the greater London region.

  15. forthurst
    May 21, 2014

    London has a vast commuter belt much larger than that of the larger in population but smaller in size metropolitan Seoul which also contains most of their best universities, although in world ‘rankings’ their highest is only fiftieth: strangely this does not inhibit the Koreans from beating the socks of us when it comes to electronic and other branches of engineering. The main difference between the Koreans and us in respect of the city and its main metropolitan area is that those that need to work there are the same as those that live there.

    It is perfectly true that much of what takes place on the periphery of London is directed from London; many London-based businesses have administrative offices etc further out where the rents ae substantially lower and the schools better.

    Without great industries, great metropolital areas do not have a point; the only way to rebalance the UK as between London and the rest is to create policies which encourage the growth of industries which no one in his right mind would locate in London; unfortunately, most of the policies of this government and that of many prervious adminstrations have been deeply hostile in effect if not intent towards maintaining and growing a thriving indigenous engineering industry. Much industry was lost by political meddling in order to create ‘winners’, whilst failing to enforce the most essential prerequisite for industrial harmony, namely allowing employers to insist on dealing with only one union. The steps that have to be taken to encourage more ‘Derbys’ is get rid of ‘green crap’, reinstate grammar schools, change the emphasis in tertiary education towards technical universities and colleges for all skill levels, come down like a ton of bricks on City spivs who believe that forcing viable businesses into adminstration, then selling off the assets is an acceptable way to transfer wealth from the productive sector to the non-producers who are far too prevalent in the City; on the contrary, there should be lending institutions who specialise in working with industry as in Germany rather than trying to rip it off with swaps of various complexions.

    1. forthurst
      May 21, 2014

      Furthermore, in relation to transport, rather than focusing on wasting enormous sums on high ticket items like HS2 for moving bodies, the focus should be on talking to industrialists about their requirements for moving goods and raw materials, far more important to industry, and where road or port improvements might create an actual benefical use for public funds.

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