By Lambert Strether of Corrente,
We held the 2016 Naked Capitalism London meetup at the Jerusalem Tavern as in 2010, which seems retrospectively to have been a very good choice. We stood outside, but the pub’s interior is said to be “facsimile Eighteenth Century,” rather like the plumbing in my hotel, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between facsimile and the genuine article. I got lost walking there from the Tube, whether through dyslexia or because London’s handy public street maps don’t always put North at the top, so I was a little late, but people were able to recognize me from my announced purple shirt, as there were only two other people in the pub wearing the same color. I had a terrific time, stayed ’til 10:30PM, and when I left, people were still talking. Amazingly, even then, the sky was still light. London is indeed a northern city, so let’s just hope the Atlantic Conveyor doesn’t flip.
An interesting lot, London Naked Capitalism readers! What follows is an unordered list of nuggets I gleaned from various conversations. (I did have to say “Please speak English more slowly. I’m an American” several times, so I’d be grateful if you, readers, correct any errors of fact, interpretation, or omission). Therefore summarized and suitably anonymized, and with a addendum of conversations with other Londoners:
The UK is more complicated than you think, and not only because of its history. (Several people told me this in almost so many words.)
The Queen banks at Coutts, which is now a brand owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (!).
The Queen is a “high roller,” but in the UK that only means she’s rich, not that she’s a gambler. (Phew!)
George Osborne, who publishes the London Evening Standard, hates Theresa May so much he can’t think straight, which makes him a useful idiot for the Standard’s Russian oligarch owners (who are not Putin’s friends. At all).
Rule: The subject of real estate is a strange attractor for conversation in London, and all conversations rapidly converge upon it. “Frothy,” I said, but that seemed not to be understood, at least immediately.
This rule applies to conversations about Grenfell Tower.
In the UK, owning property but not the land is called
freehold leasehold. [Dammit. I told you the UK was confusing! –lambert] (“Possession of the property will be subject to the payment of an annual ground rent.”) Owning property and the land is called freehold. Three Dukes own a ginormous percentage of the land in the UK (but not the houses or the flats), so all that ground rent goes to them. One is the Duke of Westminster.
Many Venezuelan expats have become street vendors in the Dominican Republic. There has been a Venezuelan diaspora in Latin America over the last five years.
There are 300,000 Colombians in the UK. They got into the EU via Spain, and then emigrated to the UK. Many are organized by a union that seems to be much like the Wobblies; that is, they are organized not because they are cleaners or laborers or taxi drivers or university instructors but because they are workers (albeit Colombian). Tactics bypass the usual practices of collective bargaining, and involve direct action, like marching through the workplace beating drums. (I forget the name of the union, unfortunately.)
Estimates of how much business the London financial sector will lose from Brexit range from 10% to 30%.
The finance sector may find it hard to leave London because of established social connections, like kids in school.
The finance sector may find it hard to leave London because the necessary facilities, for example blast-proof data centers, have yet to be constructed elsewhere.
Two Bernie Sanders organizers came to the UK and trained Momentum chapters in organizing techniques, hundreds at a time.
Momentum GOTV software allowed dynamic allocation of volunteers to marginal districts, and away from safe one, on election day.
There were so many Momentum volunteers that the campaign had a hard time knowing what to do with them.
Corbyn’s speech at the Libertines concert was seen as an important straw in the wind at the time.
About 40% (guessing) of the the youngest class at Central Saint Martins has sworn off digital communications entirely. This is important because Central Saint Martins is a driver in the world of fashion, hence abandoning “social” (and “digital”) may become “cool.” So go long Moleskine, HallMark, Montblanc, Uni-ball…
So thank you to all London Naked Capitalism readers for a fun and informative meetup. Several of you offered me drinks, and although I couldn’t accept all the offers, I did appreciate them. I also want to thank the attendees who made up for my social ineptitude by ensuring the meetup mixed and flowed. I did try to talk, or at least listen, to all of you, and if I missed anyone out, my apologies.
P.S. You should always comment. Like the Dinsdale Brothers, your moderators are
vicious but fair.
 The following day I read a story in the FT that people were starting to place their property on the market privately, through intermediaries, since otherwise buyers might not meet their price, which they would then have to reduce. That’s frothy, too.
 Making Jim Messina look like the expensive grifter he is.
 So Corbyn turns out to be a brilliant organizer, as well as a brilliant campaigner. Who knew? (“Brilliant” seems to be the UK equivalent of “awesome” or “amazing,” but still.)
 The reason: Police tactics in the 2011 riots, which really were a big deal. The police stood back, letting the rioters do their work, but recording everything on CCTV, which is ubiquitous in the UK. Then they came after not only whoever they could identify on the tapes, but their families as well.
Other random conversations, some on Grenfell Tower:
1) One London cab driver, who voted for the Liberal Democrats, complained a lot about the heat, and said “London is very angry,” not just about Grenfell Tower, but about the Borough Market knife attack.
2) I had a long conversation with a cashier at WH Smith’s in Paddington, who was an immigrant apparently from the Indian subcontintent. I moaned about “contactless payment,” and her view — her degree was in IT management — was that it was broken as designed, and nothing would ever be fixed because the system was put in place “incrementally.” Both she and the cab driver above estimated May’s tenure in months and not days or weeks.
3) The London cab driver who took me to Grenfell Tower said it was “horrible,” but nothing else (even though I’d given him that destination when I got in, explaining that the nearest stations on the Tube were closed). I didn’t press.
4) One person (young, male, black, dapper, cellphone glued to ear) walking near Grenfell Tower said “The only party here is UKIP,” (this was before the rally), and “Nobody who lives here thinks it was an accident.” (A poorly composed photograph I did not use included what in the US would have been a gentrifying, old-fashioned lamp post.) When asked “Was it an accident?” another person (older, male, black, dreadlocked, hooded eyes), standing well back of the rally under the Westway paused, and said “I don’t know.” When asked “Was it an accident?” a third person (young, black, female, designer training to be a lawyer) said (paraphrasing) “We’d need evidence, wouldn’t we?”
5) I also had a lovely lunch with Clive and Richard Smith, who were kind enough to come into town. I need to think about it before summarizing, if I ever do (though they may chime in, of course!).