London: I Changed My Mind

London and Cranes by against the tide
London and Cranes, a photo by against the tide on Flickr.

London is a city of cranes, and it has really changed my mind about how I think about this great old city.

You see cranes and new buildings all over the place, from a huge new development that’s going up near Victoria Station to many smaller new building sites around the formerly depressed neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Old Street.

After years of falling behind the US there is a sense of vitality that was sorely missing in the 1970’s and early 80’s when I lived here.

One new train system, the London Overground is up and running, and another huge project, connecting east and west London is well on the way.

After years of struggle following the 2008 financial crisis, the British economic growth was recently upgraded by the IMF.

Has the mood of the country changed to match the growing evidence of prosperity and pride in public works? Not exactly. And as anyone from other parts of the country will remind you, the boom is more of a London thing than nationwide.

But there is a sense of possibility.  And the co-alition government established by Conservatives and Liberals in  2010 has held together surprisingly well.  It’s a model for political co-operation, unlike the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.

What’s ironic is that today’s US political scene reminds me of the rigid ideological orthodoxy of the Labor and Conservative Parties in the 70’s: the very time when Britain was being derided as the sick man of Europe.

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