I’m not a natural born Londoner, and most certainly not an authentic cockney born within hearing of Bow Bells. But a quarter of a century ago I moved to the city to work and ended up living in Tottenham. This was 1986 The Tory government reigned supreme having defeated the miners strike the year before. The weekend I moved in US planes bombed Libya, nothing much has changed you can see, and with a decent chunk of radical London I went down to Grosvenor Square to protest. We sat in the road, blockaded Oxford Street and ended up being manhandled by the police. I dusted myself down and looked forward to London life.
Tottenham in 1986 was only known for two things. First the Broadwater Farm riots a year earlier which had ended with a British bobby being hacked to death with a machete. This most notorious episode of public disorder had stained the reputation of where I was living. Second, our football club, the delightfully named Tottenham Hotspur FC. This was at the club of the soon to be most famous English footballer of the late 1980s, Paul Gascoigne. Gazzamania was an early version of Becks’ celebrity status. And five years after I moved to Tottenham Spurs lifted the FA Cup thanks to Gazza’s glorious semi-final goal against our rivals Arsenal in the red half of North London. I joined the celebrations outside the Town Hall and bought my Spurs season ticket the next day. I’ve sat in the same seat, West Stand Lower, Block 12 ever since.
Tottenham, like the rest of London is incredibly multicultural. There is a popular cosmopolitanism about the city, the anti-Muslim right and the fascist fringe which are a potent force in other parts of Europe have no traction here. But it is too easy to assume therefore all is well. A social segregation exists founded on old fashioned models of poverty and class. Travel round the city by bus outside the West End tourist trail like I do northwards on my way home to city. My bus journeys are full of the mainly black poor, entirely disconnected from the political process, with little or no share in the wealth and career opportunities London proffers to some, but most certainly not all.