The Country Formerly Known As London



Aditya Chakrabortty imagines a future Britain in which London has become independent.

The year is 2030. What began as a whimsical notion, floated in the long aftermath of the banking crisis, has gathered steam as London powered ahead and the rest of Britain remained in perma-austerity. The campaign to break London and the southeast away from the rest of Britain has triumphed - like Singapore, London is now an independent city-state.

This new country has a population the size of Switzerland, and a banking industry just as dominant. Its population is among the most multicultural in the world. But the new country also has world-class problems - the highest inequality of any rich economy with simmering social tensions to match, and house prices so high that London's cleaners and baristas and firemen commute in from Hastings or further afield.

This programme is a despatch from the future, sketching out the contours of independent London in 2030 - an affluent country with more liberal attitudes, and far more diverse, transient population than Britain, but with a lopsided economy all too dependent on financial services and an increasingly hollowed-out society. The programme also serves as a parable about what could happen if Britain continues along an economic divide between London and the rest. What might the rest of the UK look like in 2030, if London continues to suck in the spending? 'When you pass Stevenage, it's like someone turned the lights out', we're told.

Presenter: Aditya Chakrabortty

Producer: Eve Streeter

A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.