Sunday, July 15, 2007

Send for Commissario Brunetti!

The little things are the most bewildering. Size we cope with: you go up against a fully-grown tiger only when carrying serious heat. But then there is the mystery that is Rutland: how can one small area contain so much that is, well, nice.

So what's with Ross Clark's piece in the Spectator: "London matches the glory of Venice in its prime"? This seems to be an extended conceit, finding parallels between La Serenissima, the Queen of the Adriatic, and the Smoke, the Old Tart of the Thames.

The point of departure is itself quite convoluted:
... that London could hack it as a city-state has been entertained at both ends of the political spectrum. For economic liberals independence is a way of freeing London from the burden of its £20 billion annual subsidy to the rest of the country. The Mayor himself, Ken Livingstone, seems to like the idea of a London city-state, too. Returning from a visit to the Far East he declared last year: ‘Having been to Singapore and seen how successful it was, I think anything short of a fully independent city-state is a lost opportunity.’
Much of the subsequent "reasoning" comes down to real estate:
£15 million London houses are being rebuilt as £30 million palazzos...

Should the economy turn, on the other hand, it will become a lot clearer just how many Londoners have become reliant on Gordon Brown’s tax credits and on subsidised housing. In fact, Gordon Brown’s failure to address house-price inflation may turn out to be his eventual undoing.
Malcolm admits those two quotations are separated by four lengthy paragraphs, but they sit uncomfortably in the same article.

Then there's the obligatory European thing, without which modern Toryism might stand a ghost of a chance:
Sadly, Britain’s opt-outs from some EU legislation such as the Working Time Directive and now the European Charter of Fundamental Rights have been neither as extensive nor as long-lasting [as the A.D. 992 compact between the Doge and the Holy Roman Emperor], but the principle remains: if you want to succeed in trade, it pays to join your local trading bloc — but to keep it at arm’s length.
And the usual whinging about welfare:
By the end of Venice’s life as a city-state in 1797 one in six was living on welfare benefits. Sound familiar? They are the same pressures as on London today: a grudging attitude towards economic migrants, ever more rules but increasingly unreliable enforcement of them — sometimes weak, sometimes vindictive. Less immediately obvious, at least while the economy is booming, is the growing dependence upon welfare.
That seems to grate if it is rubbed up against David Cameron's touchy-feely community stuff, or Ian Smith's beer-money subsidy to the married condition.

Curiously, if the roars of St Mark's lion are the coming vogue, they haven't yet been heard up the Archway Road. Outer London Boroughs are clamouring, not for less Government subsidy, but for more. The great cultural divide is still — just — north of Watford: we are not yet pulling the wagons into a circle round the North Circular.

On the other hand, Trafalgar Square flooding each acqua alta, Paolin setting up a gelaterie,
the vaporetto to Heathrow, a nationalised railway with prices one can afford ...

The people's Ken might appreciate the election-for-life, but could he cope with the Doge's hat? Sphere: Related Content

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