Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Safe And Sound On Another Planet

Saving the planet

Last evening Mrs T and I went out to dinner with one of the junior Tylers and his girlfriend. Strolling back to their inner city flat along a deserted footpath at around 10.30pm, I briefly wondered if we were safe. In leafy Surrey maybe, but Tower Hamlets?

I dismissed the thought immediately. You've only got to visit Canary Wharf to realise it's on an entirely different planet from the rest of crime plagued East London. Not only is the riverside walk reassuringly lined with expensive well-maintained flats, but the whole place is bristling with private security guards and CCTV.

Now, it is true that much of the security reflects the very real risk of being targeted by dirty bomb wielding Islamic terrorists, and the place was literally blown up by the IRA in 1996. But apart from that you are as safe as houses.

And you can't help thinking this is a glimpse of the future. The Wharf's glossy offices, shops, and gated condos might easily be in New York, which has always been the future. And high level private security is already something we see in the affluent areas of London such as Primrose Hill.

All of which is perfectly fine and large if you happen to be an investment banker or have some other means of tapping into Croesus' vaults. But what if you don't?

What if you don't have the cash and you live the wrong side of the West India Dock Road? What if you want more local policing but can't get it? What if you want tougher laws but nobody listens to you? What if you want the bad guys banged up so they can never make your life hell again, but the politicos tell you community sentences are better and simply refuse to build enough prisons?

You can quite see why East London's despairing Labour voters might switch to the BNP in 2010. Having another planet right next door must be concentrating minds even more.

PS An advantage of having an investment banker son is that he insists on paying for dinner. A disadvantage is that you only see him once every three years because he's working all the rest of the time. But young Tyler, thank you for dinner. Your mother and I look forward to seeing you again in 2011.

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