Disunited Kingdom: Crisis Leaves Britain Deeply Fractured, Part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Christoph Scheuermann, June 20, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

The economic crisis has caused the United Kingdom to drift apart, creating ever-widening rifts between rich and poor, native and immigrant, English and Scot. With the anti-Europe UKIP party on the rise, Great Britain stands at a crossroads … //

… The country is suffering from the consequences of the crisis. The gap between rich and poor is growing, the conflicts between left and right are becoming more heated, and a new party has taken shape to the right of the Tories, the anti-Europe UK Independence Party (UKIP). Friends and foes of Europe argue heatedly over whether remaining a member of the European Union or withdrawing from it is more likely to help the country emerge from the crisis. And in 2014, the Scots will hold a referendum over whether they want to establish an independent country, one that would no longer have to share profits from the North Sea oil and gas fields with the English.

An Era of Virility:

From the highest point in London, the kingdom seems limp. Many of the construction cranes towering over the city are idle. Waiting at the elevator of his skyscraper is Sellar, a short, restless man with curly hair, who sold gloves in Petticoat Lane in the 1960s and later built a fashion chain. He got into the real estate business in the 1980s. Like many others, he surfed on the avalanche that then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had unleashed: more power for business owners and bankers, less for union officials and politicians – and real estate for all.

If a city’s virility is measured by the number of cranes, and of buildings shooting up from the ground, then the 20 years leading up to the collapse of London’s financial markets can be seen as a phase driven by testosterone, a time of bulls, when people could make millions without leaving their desks.

Sellar hit upon the idea for the tower in the most euphoric phase of Britain’s construction frenzy: the late 1990s. He met with Italian architect Renzo Piano and described the project to him. Sellar drew his inspiration from Hong Kong and Shanghai. It was a time when men like him derided the Continent for its sluggishness.

Then came the crash, and a consortium from Qatar invested in Sellar’s project. The sheikhs who now own the lion’s share of his tower are desperately looking for tenants. A hotel and three restaurants have already signed leases, but 60,000 square meters (646,000 square feet) are still empty.

The elevator speeds down to ground level at six meters per second. When the doors open, a woman in a light-colored outfit asks Sellar if he would like coffee or tea. He smiles uncomfortably. He is now 74 and a multimillionaire, and he could have retired long ago. But he wanted to build the Continent’s tallest building. “You build tall because it makes more money,” he says. And now Sellar, the former glove salesman, is stirring his coffee in a tower filled with empty offices.

He thought that money would continue to flood into the city. Everyone thought so. London was Europe’s alpha male, an urban promise that the old world could constantly reinvent itself and become cool again.

It’s a three-hour drive northward from London to Stickford, near the east coast. But the real distance is much greater to the village where a woman lives who never believed in the promise of coolness.
(full text).

Part 2: Guardians of the Drawbridge;

Part 3: The Battle of Bannockburn;

Part 4: In a Different Country.

Links:

The Rise of the Fearmongers: Germany’s New Euroskeptic Elite, on Spiegel Online International, by Stefan Willeke, June 19, 2013 (Photo Gallery): Many Germans believe it is time to abandon the euro. They’re part of a growing movement spurred by influential populists from the worlds of business and academia. Their arguments stoke fear but offer no clear alternatives …;

Bernanke Kills Fed Credibility and the Confidence Fairy in One Shot, by Yves Smith, on naked capitalism, June 20, 2013;

The intrinsic limits of modern economic theory, on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by Lars Syll, June 20, 2013;

Lynn Parramore: Meet America’s Most Shameless Defender of the 1 Percent, Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw, on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by Yves Smith, June 19, 2013;

SCHÄUBLE ÜBERGIBT 135 MILLIARDEN EURO OHNE KUVERT: Bundestag beschließt Enteignung der deutschen Steuerzahler, in den Deutschen Wirtschafts Nachrichten, 14. Juni 2013:

Video mit Beatrix von Storch: Stellungnahme zur Einführung einer Europäischen Bankenaufsicht, 2.38 min,
von Beatrix von Storch am 18. Juni 2013 hochgeladen.

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