London is Unwell – What’s the Prognosis?

Passing through London, the unhealthy effects of the recession is apparent. For those who have visited the English capital over the years, the metamorphosis it’s undergoing at the moment, no thanks to the economic crisis, is rather dramatic, considering its relative resistance to change.

Consider the following:

  • Britain is in its worse-ever recession in modern history.
  • There are close to 2 million unemployed today.
  • Bank interest-rates are at its lowest ever in 300 years, at 1.5%, and expected to hit near-zero soon.
  • House prices have dropped 15% over the last year.
  • The pound (the ‘sterling’ currency) has weakened to almost parity with the Euro.

Richard Branson sold Virgin Megastores in 2007 to new owners Zavvi who are now about to close down (picture taken in Oxford Street,30th Jan)

So if you walk through the streets of London (listen to the original Ralph McTell hit here), one can see how the economic situation has affected London. Gone are the trademark stores like Woolworth’s, Virgin Record Stores, Sharper Image, Barratt’s shoes and Whittard’s tea stores. Closing down sales are widespread and more stores are expected to fold up real soon. This does not mean the streets are empty..on the contrary, hordes of Europeans have descended into London, taking advantage of the weak pound.


Even London's newest shopping mall,Westfields at Shepherd's Bush is feeling the pinch, with most shops offering drastic discounts

The prognosis doesn’t look too good presently, with possible complications imminent. The indomitable British spirit looks unlikely to resuscitate the ill economy..or will it?


4 responses

  1. Some of these observations about London shopping areas are only loosely accurate. More to the point, if we continue to accept this kind of negativity we will never rebuild anything, simply succumb!

  2. As a recent visitor, I couldn’t help noticing the changing face of the typical High Street. Even the number of Starbucks seem lesser than before.

    What the British need to quickly grasp (if its not too late) is that its all too easy to live in credit but when the crunch comes, woe betide everybody!
    Can’t help feeling that there is still a strong sense of denial around.

  3. I do not know what the British government are doing to cushion the impact of recession. Whether there are efforts and whether these are sufficient remains to be seen.

    I am actually more worried about the situation in Malaysia. I have not seen any serious and concerted efforts to confront the issues at hand. Issuing statements denying impact of global recession on a trading nation like Malaysia by politicians serves no one any good.

    Serious concerted efforts are required and until politicians are willing to face the reality and gravity of the issues at hand, our recovery would be much longer than expected.

  4. London was always a matter of taste. When I lived there in the late 80s and early 90s it was a mess: the traffic was horrendous and the air was really bad. Shops, restaurants and businesses were always coming and going, as were the people. I visited in early 2008 and was astonished that the air was so much cleaner, although the influence of congestion charge is debatable.

    What was also astonishing was that the age group of the workers pouring out of the tube stations in the mornings was the same – mostly 20-somethings. I concluded that London had two main attractions to offer those people: the chance to start a career and the opportunity to find a partner. To achieve these necessities they were prepared to pay greatly, and that means not saving, living in small flats, commuting great distances and generally being stressed continuously. When either of the two geat needs was satisfied, off they went elsewhere, where the quality of life was much much better and a decent home could be made and a family raised with less stress.

    My point is that London is not typical of the UK and best kept in perspective. Not everyone would want to be there; I was there for five years, I usually say that I enjoyed it (sometimes I did), but I also spent a lot of time trying to get out. I succeeded in 1992 and have not looked back.

    Britain may be experiencing the recession more than continental Europe (where I am), but the British people are more dynamic and imaginative than the central Europeans and unlikely to resign themselves to economic slump and gloom. Certainly we need a new economy, not just revival of the old one, and the current situation presents a great opportunity to do just that.

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