“It is recognised that a variety of approaches will be required to address the different target audiences that London ’s partners are trying to address....London can be seen in the same way as a company promoting a portfolio of products across a range of markets – using specific techniques to attract different market segments. What London ’s marketing strategy needs to do, therefore, is deliver a range of targeted messages that reinforce one another and build a positive and coherent image, promoting London as a place, promoting London to people and promoting London as a place for people to do business. London also hosts a wide variety of other cultural events – including London Film Week, London Fashion Week and London Design Week – that can be used to raise the profile of London ’s cultural industries.”
The idea that cities are a business is part of a growing neoliberal urban philosophy, which is being adopted by many cities in the EU. It is a trend which has largely escaped the attention of the media.
One of the core ideas is that cities be inhabited by successful people. At first that meant attracting upper-income households, and international businessmen. But limited inward migration of this kind is not enough to transform the city: in itself, it does not remove urban problems. So some cities are turning to a more aggressive approach: deport the poor.
Rotterdam was the first European city to propose a legal ban on low-income households. People earning minimum wage (or up to 20% more) would not be allowed to move into the city. Here the motive was simple racism: most of those affected were immigrants. The proposal was shelved after criticism.
However, it was not an incident. Now Amsterdam has proposed similar strategies. A report from the Chamber of Commerce, and a leaked internal memo from the city council, propose removal of low-income population to new towns, and their replacement by upper-income households. The council memo is the closest in style to the London strategy: it wants to reserve Amsterdam for the ‘creative class’.
This term - which you will hear often in the next few years - was invented by Richard Florida: see this article for what he himself understands by it
This fits in well with Tony Blair’s ideas about society, about private enterprise as the sole form of ‘innovation’, about entrepreneurs as the driving force of society. All that got pushed to the background, when Blair went crusading in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. But the New Labour vision of society is still alive, among the GLA planners and the New Labour think-tanks.
At the root of their strategy is a fundamental contempt for the poor - they have been written off as useless ballast, in the new dynamic society. So it’s logical to suggest, as Amsterdam is now doing, that they be moved out of the global cities.
The ESF isn’t a gathering of opponents to this view of society: it is a gathering of the creative class itself. As Richard Florida points out, they may look alternative, their lifestyle may be alternative. But they are the winners, the dynamic social entrepreneurs - and the ‘uncreative’ poor are the losers. So it’s easy to see how the GLA can fit this into a strategy of promotion of the ‘dynamic global creative city’. The Amsterdam proposal shows where that strategy is taking London: an exclusive city for the rich, the talented and the powerful, a city which mercilessly dumps its ‘failed people’ elsewhere.