Help London's future: forget immigration, love babies instead
London’s population boom is mostly caused by babies. They are emerging from the wombs of the capital in droves - more than 128,000 of them alone. True, greater numbers of newcomers have been arriving from foreign lands - 170,000 in the twelve months to mid-2103. Still more have been turning up from elsewhere in the UK - 196,000 during the same period. But even as those out-of-towners were blowing in, almost as many were shipping out: 79,500 to other nations and 251,600 to somewhere else in this one. That left a net increase of 24,500 to a total population of over eight million. They were dwarfed by the army of newborns.
Older people too have contributed to boosting the number of people Greater London contains to the brink of and beating the record set in 1939. They’ve been living for longer and leaving in smaller numbers than they used to. But it is babies who’ve been most responsible. It seems worth underlining this in view of national politicians’ current, feverish, contest to sound the most “tough” about reducing immigration.
You have to wonder if the pronouncements of , or, in particular, will cut much ice in the metropolis, let alone help it and its burgeoning populace to thrive. A new poll a small majority of Londoners want measures to lessen the influx of fellow European Union citizens from elsewhere but the capital has long been pro-EU and also than people in other regions. Recent show that 54% consider it good for the economy compared with just 28% across the rest of the country. Londoners who are friends with migrants are likely to consider migration as having a on Britain, both economically and culturally.
These attitudes have been reflected in the stances of London’s leading politicians. Boris Johnson, a Conservative as you may have heard, has declared himself exceptional for being basically . He wants Australians and New Zealanders to come and go , bemoans on Indian students and tax-dodging French bankers as refugees from socialist persecution. He describes such people as good for London’s, and therefore Britain’s, competitive success.
Johnson’s Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone to an interviewer in 2007 who suggested to him that there could be such a thing as too much immigration to the capital. “London’s dynamism is fuelled by openness,” Livingstone replied. “Don’t knock it, because the [tax] subsidy that props up the rest of Britain is actually earned off those people’s backs.”
It seems no coincidence that this year’s UKIP surge has barely breached even the outskirts of the UK capital. In May, it won a dozen council seats in three outlying boroughs - Havering, Bromley and Bexley - but long term Outer London demographic trends don’t seem in its favour. The suburbs have become in recent times. These days, it’s not only the inner city that is an ethnic and cultural mosaic.
None of this should come as a surprise. London has long been the UK’s number one immigrant destination. The 2011 census recorded that 33% of Londoners had been born outside the UK. In 2011 itself, 44% of had two foreign-born parents and 20% had one. Masses of older London children and young adults have an immigrant family member just one further step back along their line of descent. Three of my own kids fall into that category.
Of course, lots of foreign-born Londoners have become British and some were British in the first place - himself was born in the USA, though to British parents, which shows that not every foreign-born Londoner is a migrant. But the general picture holds. The capital is profoundly cosmopolitan. As it has thrived it has become become pretty fecund too.
Which brings us back to all those extra Londoners, . London needs more , and if its people are to prosper and help the rest of the country too. London constituencies are to the outcome of next year’s general election. If national leaders want to win them they might do well to talk less about and more about making the most of London’s rising ones instead.
Office For National Statistics figures for national and international migration into and out of London can be found under “local area migration indicators” .