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November 04, 2013



Parties. Being able to go to the right parties is essential if you're going to get anywhere as a journalist, or for that matter if you're going to get anywhere on the Left - and if your metier is left-wing journalism, well. And it's parties plural, of course - you can make a good impression once and be that guy I met that time, no, not that one, the other one, maybe you weren't there or you can just be there and be that dick who's always in the corner with a can of Red Stripe, keeps pitching for a writing gig, better give him something to shut him up.

I speak from experience (as that guy you met that time).


I'm not sure your writer is not a great example. Creatives need networks, and the most lucrative network is in London.
London is not just the vibrant, entrepreneurial capital of the UK, it has become the capital of Europe. It's a strong pull.


"The great thing about being a writer is that you can do the job anywhere. The answer to Laurie's problem is simply to move out of London."

..except that's what people do when they have enough money/prestige to be able to afford somewhere out of London that's supposedly even better.

Secondly, there's a lot to be said for doing comment/journalism/blogging from somewhere outside the bubble of the capital - but then anyone from, say, Manchester would recognise that about where they lived (...or not: cue Morrissey's short but effective song 'London': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiWwF6jBP-A)

PS: Phil, the same probably applies on the right except the booze is more expensive.


There's an interaction going on here though - the housing market and the labour market.

Despite inventions such as the mobile phone, internet and latterly Skype, jobs, and high skilled ones in particular have increasingly clustered in to central London - as a previous comment notes, networks are valuable and proximity is becoming increasingly important. This is why there are a proposed nine new skyscrapers by the banks of the Thames.

So while ever increasing housing pushes people out of London, it works against the market forces of the Labour market. Central London either provides high paid jobs now, or the promise of career progression and high paid jobs in the future.

While there is a net outflow of people out of London to the rest of England, many move the to the greater South East, well within commuting distance. So while they are searching for bigger/cheaper accommodation, they still rely on the capital's economic opportunity.

The geography of jobs has a big impact on the geography of people. See bit.ly/1ebNg2X for more.

George Carty

Why are the good jobs becoming more and more concentrated in London? Could it have been the result of corrupt politicians seeking to maximize the value of their London property portfolios?


Just two quick observations:

1) Social capital being friends, acquaintances but also density of businesses (i.e. potential work providers). Is being unemployed in the british countryside better than in a metropolis? (it's a question, not a sarcastic remark)

2) USA mobility is a dicey argument: I've personally met people from the peripheral regions who have lived most of their life in the same town, by choice. Many had married with persons from the same township as well. Same goes for their jobs. *If pushed* the american will travel, knowing that he/she will find America at the other side of the trip...

Left Outside

I can only assume that Chris is gently goading Laurie by suggesting she would be successful writing from a nice semi in Cirencester.

Left Outside

"I went to the shops today and it was lovely. There were some kids hanging around the bus stop but I know their mum so we had a quick chat. There are some dormice in the rookery again!"

It's not go the same gritty appeal and the people reading can't give her a job.


Really don't agree that there is no culture of migration within Britain. Historians reckon that in the early modern period a tenth of the population had lived in London at some point in their lives. Before the 20th century, mortality was so bad in all cities that their populations were sustained by migration.

What your describing is quite recent, probably linked to home ownership.

Patrick S

Yes several posters have made a good points about the importance of networks and densities of employers - not to mention potential romantic partners too for those who are single!

It's called "Agglomeration economics" in academic urban planning circles.

James Oswald

TL:DR: People pay a lot for things they value a lot, therefore microeconomics is wrong.


This is a fact that could be observed in many countries (in Switzerland, you need to move only 40 miles to have 1:3 rent ratios).
It certainly questions people's motivations and preferences, which in turns questions the foundations of microeconomics.
It also questions the functioning of the Eurozone. If people are reluctant to move a 100 miles in the same country, how could they be supposed to cheerfully move to another language, climate and culture? And there's just no point in having a common currency area if factors of production cannot move within that area.
Basic, but much ignored.


The ONS cannot track individual movements (no ID cards or local registration), so they are only able to report net changes within local authorities. The 52k figure is the product of a much larger number of people leaving London, offset by the (slightly smaller) number that have moved there.

As the net of regional migration within the UK, it also excludes international migration, which is obviously significant (in both directions) in London. This figure alone doesn't tell us much about the willingness of Londoners to leave London.

The key ONS datum is that there were 2.8 million internal migrations during the year to Jun-12. Though there will be some double-counting (i.e. people moving twice or more in the year), this is roughly 4% of the total UK population. If London is only losing 0.6% of its residents a year, then it is an oddity nationally.

The 2.8m figure suggests that internal migration is fairly common and perhaps not as different to the US as we think (an analysis of the "Fraction of the Population in 2005 that Moved Residence in the Previous Year" shows 11% for the UK and 13% for the US - http://www3.nd.edu/~awaggone/papers/migration-msw.pdf)

As William notes, internal migration has historically been very common in the UK, something that is celebrated in music and literature (the current Jeremy Deller exhibition in Manchester is incidentally good on this - it will eventually move to London). The myth of English rootedness (an invention of nineteenth century Romantic Toryism) is as ideological as American get-up-and-go.


@ Patrick etc - I take your point about agglomeration, but isn't this a way in which economies are path-dependent? Industries are in London because they always have been, so they stay there.
On this point, in my personal experience such benefits of cities are over-rated; I lived in Lndon for over 20 years in two different businesses, and found v. few networking opportunities.


The key point I don't see addressed is housing policy. Penny wants price controls, which have a history of poor results. Are there other policies in place, such as overly restrictive zoning, artifically restricting housing supply? If so, that's what she should be targeting. If not, I see little prospect for improvement.


Remember also that working from home was supposed to do all sorts of interesting things to the need to commute to work. Oddly enough, managers desire to rule their employees seems to be one reason it hasn't taken off. If it did, a lot more people coule move out of London.

Laban Tall

Surely an ambitious young journalist (or public school careerist, for that matter) needs to be where the important people are - you know, people who matter - incidentally the people who can advance one's career. Not to mention where the right parties are held, where interesting, exciting, and hopefully important people may be met with.

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