For an area which was described dismissively as “having an image problem” by one of its own MPs, the perception of Croydon must be set for a thorough overhaul after the novelist, Will Self, described ours and other London suburbs as being “inherently sexual, they heave and pullulate with sexiness”. Ooo, missus.
Self was speaking to the Evening Boris, ahead of Doughnut: The Outer London Festival, a day of music, food, film and debate to celebrate outer London which is being staged this Saturday at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.
“I grew up in the London suburbs and of course I found them ineffably dull when I was a child but now I understand their excitement and their promise,” Self said.
“This last summer solstice I walked to the high point on the North Downs overnight, an astonishing walk through the outer London suburbs of Shirley and Croydon, really strange, beautiful and poetic places at night. There is such a lot there and I think people are unaware of it.”
Inside Croydon, too, is aware of strange things happening in the Shirley Hills at night time, though we have not been able to confirm whether this is what Self had in mind when he said the suburbs “heave and pullulate with sexiness”.
Self has become involved in the politics of London lately, endorsing Christian Wolmar in his campaign to become Labour’s choice as the party’s candidate for London Mayor.
Self declared that he paid over his £3 to have a vote in the Labour leadership and Mayoral selections specifically so that he could back Wolmar.
“I’ve known Christian as a colleague for more than 30 years – at a personal level he has always struck me as a principled and honest man without a scintilla of vanity, pride, self-righteousness or narcissism (the besetting character flaws of the career politician),” Self wrote.
And Self said: “My belief is that if you want to understand local politics in Britain (or any other polity for that matter), follow the money. The effective tax revenue base for the London Mayoralty and the GLA is, once Transport for London revenues are set to one side, pitifully small compared to that of other metropolitan administrations worldwide. The purse-strings relating to London’s governance remain tightly in the hands of Westminster politicians. As things stand, with a few concessions such as the power to overrule planning decisions (which both the current and previous mayors have conspicuously abused), and to grandstand on ‘security issues’ via its oversight of the Metropolitan Police, the mayoral post remains essentially a lopsided combination of glorified transport manager and international marketing executive for ‘London plc’.
“The justness of a Wolmar mayoralty will be that Christian is both the ideal incumbent for the current fiscal dispensation, and the perfect person to push the mayoralty in the direction of greater power commensurate with its democratic mandate. I believe his status as a relative political outsider will prevent the mayoralty from becoming – still more than it already is – just another political football on the Westminster pitch. Unlike other potential Labour candidates for the post, Christian doesn’t have to live-down previous debacles – such as the woeful ‘legacy’ of the Olympic Games – nor is he shackled by expedient alliances.
“We need a London mayor who has a truly socialistic outlook: one which encompasses all Londoners, wherever they may have originated, or where they may live in this great city. We need a London mayor impervious to the blandishments of traditional powerbrokers, and capable of resisting the turbulence occasioned by the international capital flows cascading through the City. In Christian Wolmar I believe Labour – and Londoners in general – have such a candidate.”
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