Sounds about right.

London 2017: an urban neo-Victorian dystopia. (Patrick Butler via

London, once known for its diversity, became progressively more socially and economically segregated after the 2011 austerity measures kicked in, triggering six years of social upheaval that changed the the city forever.

By 2015, academics had coined the phrase “urban neo-Victorian dystopia” to describe the dramatic social and spatial changes in the city they had begun to compare, with only a little exaggeration, with the London described by Charles Dickens 160 years earlier.

The housing benefit reforms of 2012 and 2013 had swept tens of thousands of lower income families out of inner London, to the fringes of the capital and beyond to Margate, Hastings, Milton Keynes and Luton.

This triggered an inexorable and progressive separation of rich and poor in the capital and helped unleash a wave of social problems.

It was boom time for some privileged areas, such as the string of well-to-do neighbourhoods stretching along the north bank of the Thames from Westminster and Notting Hill to Hammersmith that estate agents dubbed the “Golden Westway”.

Chelsea, Kensington and Marylebone, once dotted with patches of social housing and deprivation, had become almost almost uniformally gentrified and increasingly sought-after by the wealthier upper middle classes seeking refuge from the day-to-day realities of austerity.

Here, wealthy residents became obsessed with soaring property prices, whether they should exercise their right to privatise the street they lived in, the relative merits of British or Polish private security firms, and the extraordinary difficulty in hiring domestic cooks and cleaners.

By 2017 the last council-owned social housing properties in Westminster were sold under the 2011 right-to-buy scheme. The local authority also annouced the sale of half of its public parks and libraries, Sure Start children’s centres and school buildings, for which there was no longer significant public demand – due to the borough’s changing economic and demographic profile.

Outside the wealthy centre, things were less serene. Riots sporadically broke out and right-wing bloggers increasingly warned about the suburban menace of unemployed young people. Health officials worried about the tuberculosis epidemic caused by overcrowding in Tower Hamlets. In Barking, the BNP launched a campaign against “Westie scroungers” dispersed from central London in the 2012-13 housing benefit exodus.

A branch of Tesco in Hackney started “austerity days” in 2013, with cheap food offers to coincide with the arrival of weekly benefit payments.

The Salvation Army announced in autumn 2015 that it had just handed out its millionth food parcel, to a family living in Walthamstow.

In 2014, a consortium of housing associations declared that they had converted some empty 2012 Olympic village buildings into temporary “warehouse hostels” for young homeless people.

Criminologists recorded increases in burglary and theft. Social workers pointed out that child protection registers were bulging and psychiatrists noted that prescriptions for anti-depressants had risen exponentially.

Public health officals noted that suicide rates, teenage pregnancies and hospital admissions in poorer areas were rising at five times the London-wide average.

Statisticians argued about whether the number of people who had seemingly “disappeared” from electoral rolls and other official datasets had finally reached the crucial million mark

Announcing the end of austerity in 2017, the government attacked what it called the doom-mongers in the media. Britain had survived its greatest crisis since the second world war by pulling together, the prime minister declared from behind a bulletproof screen outside No 10: “We were, as we have always been, in this together.”

Reconsidering that move to Beffffnal Green.

Germany, anyone?


I have The Guardian set up as my homepage so that whenever I log into Safari, I have the most up-to-date news at my fingertips. The latest details on the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, even the Stoke City v. Newcastle match; it’s all there. This leads me to the (probably misguided) view that I am both reasonably well-informed and knowledgeable. It’s a comforting thought: you feel less of a gate-crashing commoner when middle-class people invite you to dinner. Fortunately, I have the successful completion of my formal education, my prowess with the vixens (!) and, you know, my actual existence, to separate me from Adrian Mole.

However, like dear Adrian, I am squatting under the illusion of my own social and cultural clout. I have somewhat wilfully confused the state of being informed, with the reality that I am actually just, well, a bit interested really.

Nonetheless, a healthy level of curiosity is no bad thing (unless, of course, you’re a cat), and so to bridge the gap between real and imagined, I have dug up a very basic, but really quite useful, chart to squirrel away in your arsenal of ‘things that clever people know, and like to talk about’.

My fellow Moleites, I give you Ecownomics: Economic models explained using cows. Oh, yes.


You have two cows, and give one to your neighbour.


You have two cows. The state takes both and gives you some milk.


You have two cows. The state takes both then sells you some milk.


You have two cows. The state takes both then shoots you.


You have two cows. The state takes both, shoots one, milks the other, then throws the milk down the drain.


You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two giraffes. The state requires you to take harmonica lessons.


You have two cows. You sell one, then force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.


You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new President of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.


You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads because you want three cows.


You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.


You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.


You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 17 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.


You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge others for storing them.


You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the real numbers.


You have two cows. You worship them


You have two cows. Both are mad.


Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the crap out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least you are now part of a democracy…


You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.


You have two cows. That one on the left looks very attractive.