This paper explores the extent to which people sign up to a ‘London identity’, and how changes in London’s population, economy and civic sense may have affected Londoners’ attachment to their city.
Identity is a hot topic. The EU referendum sparked intense debate around what it means to be English and British in the modern world.
Over the last 30 years London’s population has changed rapidly and become much more diverse. At the same time, the capital has become richer relative to the rest of the UK and more divided as inequality within the city has deepened. The London identity is both exemplified as diverse and cosmopolitan by some and the epitome of weak integration by others.
The findings: London identities remain strong
By taking a fresh look at data from national surveys, existing polls and social psychology and cultural studies, we found that the London identity is as strong as it was 40 years. It crosses barriers of politics, class and age, whereas identification with Britain, England or Europe is strongly related to politics and age.
London may be fast becoming a city of migrants, but it is not a city of transients; 70 per cent of Londoners have lived in the capital for at least 10 years and 80 per cent have done so for at least 5 years.
What role for the mayor?
London’s three mayors have celebrated diversity in a way that reflects the city and the views of an electorate more comfortable with difference.
But the Mayor and other London leaders need to tread a difficult path. They must avoid crude appeals to a London identity that defines itself against the rest of the country and excludes some Londoners, whilst also finding the language and policies that sustain a sense of common belonging.