»Eliten ignorerer og undervurderer ‘white flight’ i London«
That the city is no longer majority ‘white British’ is a remarkable development. A couple of weeks ago it was announced that London no longer contained a majority from the UK’s main ethnic group, known in the demographers’ jargon as the “White British”. London is arguably the first great western capital city to pass this landmark, though that depends on where you draw the boundaries around Washington and on excluding Brussels as a special case because it is an “embassy capital”. [..]
Two days later I met a senior official from Mr Johnson’s Greater London Authority who, asked about the data, said: “What’s the fuss?” This studied indifference of London’s political and media elite appears to be in sharp contrast to the feelings of many of the white British people who live in less salubrious parts of the city. For it is important to understand that the proportion of white British Londoners fell so dramatically – from 60 per cent in 2001 to 44.9 per cent in 2011 – not only because of high levels of immigration but also thanks to a mass exodus of white Britons. Over the decade between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, the number of white British Londoners fell by more than 600,000 (17 per cent). That is about three times the fall over the previous census period, 1991 to 2001.
“Most of the leading academic geographers did not expect London to become a majority minority city for another 20 or 30 years – they underestimated the extent to which white British people have opted to leave an increasingly diverse London,” says Eric Kaufmann, an academic at Birkbeck College who is leading a project on “white flight” at Demos, the think-tank I lead.
Does white flight always have to be the other side of the coin of large-scale immigration? It is a remarkably understudied phenomenon. This is perhaps because it is based on a notion of group identities and affinities that most liberal academics do not feel or understand and tend to stigmatise as “racist,” at least when expressed by white people. But one of the interesting things about white flight is that it has continued, and in the case of London apparently increased, at a time when racist attitudes have been in sharp decline. Some of the blame for this must lie with a modern political mind – of both left and rightwingers – that has failed to understand some quite normal human feelings about rapid change and the unfamiliar.
So noisily have London’s political leaders been celebrating the diversity of their multiracial city that they have forgotten to see what is happening under their noses. If you walk around the city centre you see racially mixed pavements, shops, buses, tubes and even workplaces. But there is also a great deal of what the Americans call “sundown segregation”: if you followed people home you would find yourself in some of the most ethnically segregated places in Britain. In large parts of the city, white British people who can move are doing so: already less than one-third of the population is white British in Tower Hamlets, Harrow, Ealing, Brent and Newham. [..] London’s ‘white flight’ deserves attention, Financial Times log in.