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Face-off: should London become a republic?

Posted at 5:45 pm, July 18, 2012 in News

Republic of LondonA recent YouGov poll suggesed many Londoners identify with their city before any national affiliation. This week we’re asking: should London become a republic?

Yes – Arthur Smith, comedian
‘I’m definitely up for the capital being a republic but it should be ruled from south London. I’m not saying that north London can’t be part of it, but the republic’s parliament should be in south London, in Balham in fact, and I’d be in charge as the Mayor and have a colourful costume made up by south London designers. London should be a republic because, firstly, we don’t want a sodding royal family and secondly, London is completely different from the rest of Britain. It’s a big, international place, full of big, international cosmopolitan ideas and frankly everywhere else is the sticks. London is an entity all by itself, and when you ask most Londoners, ‘Where are you from?’ they say they are from London, they don’t say England, which is a revealing admission. ‘I’d operate a benign presidency. I’d wall in the City. Any bankers earning over a hundred grand in bonuses in the past five years will be chained to a post and required to mop up dirt. If I’m in a bad mood there will be the occasional beheading, but only of people like Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn. Clarkson will be executed publicly in Trafalgar Square in front of anyone who has ever known him. ‘As soon as people from other parts of the country come to London they become Londoners anyway, so we wouldn’t operate any type of passport controls: anyone can come. ‘I’m not suggesting we nuke these other smaller places in Britain – they can have their own little existences, but look at The Beatles: as soon as they got successful they came to London.’

No – Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London
‘London should not become a city-state or a republic, however tempting it might be for Londoners to keep all their taxes and spend them locally. The capital, unlike the UK as a whole, has no budget deficit: London’s public spending matches the taxes paid in the city. But we benefit from the talents and skills imported from the rest of the country. One of London’s key advantages is its openness to the rest of the world – it would be strange if we needed passports and customs checks to go to Watford, Slough or Dartford. “Passport to Pimlico” is a great film, but not a decent model for London’s relations with the rest of the UK. ‘What would be good is if the boroughs were able to keep more of the taxes they generate then decide how best to use the resources. Policies determined in Parliament and Whitehall for the rest of the country will rarely be the right ones for a city as big and unique as London. Scotland (which has a smaller population than our capital’s) is being given greater powers over its own taxation, so why not London? The city’s politicians could then decide whether there should be more investment in the tube, a greater effort to reduce poverty, or more libraries, or whatever. At present, council leaders and the Mayor have to justify central government’s resource decisions. ‘More freedom for London would be a very good thing. But the city should continue to be part of the UK and to benefit from the flow of people from Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Leeds and Birmingham who choose to live here. Britain may be an island, but London must never be.’

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