diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wednesday 7 October 2009
confidential memo
Dear Boris,

As requested, here are a few ideas for cutting costs in the capital. I agree, let's not slash services any more than we have to, let's seek alternative means of raising funds. Sell off a bit of the family silver, something valuable yet non-essential, something that nobody'll complain about. But as Mayor you don't actually own much, just a creaking transport network and some local development plans, so we'll have to exploit those. Let's flog some names.

Selling off 300 tube stations to the highest corporate bidder would raise a tidy sum for London's coffers. The idea's been around for ages, I know, but its time is now. IBMbankment and Elephant.co.uk & Castle are sure fire winners, financially at least, and we have lots more well known brand names lined up too. Make the change in December and, in a stroke of Johnson genius, you could completely rebrand the tube map under cover of "restoring the Thames". Surely nobody'll complain about Heinz Park Corner or Burger King's Cross St Pancras, not when the alternative is public service cuts. Just blame Ken for spending too much and leaving you with a budgetary black hole, like you normally do.

Let's go one stage further. Let's sell off the line names too. They're all high profile assets whose intrinsic value has clearly been underexploited. Let's rebrand those too. I've already got Mohamed interested in renaming the Piccadilly line after his department store. Selfridges want to buy both the lines that go through Bond Street, but I think we have to give the Jubilee to O2 because they pioneered the noble art of brand kidnap in London. Rupert's really keen to rename the Circle as the SkyDish line, asap, and how about Smirnoff for the Bakerloo? I know the latter goes against all your anti-alcohol public disorder legislation, but the sponsorship fee will fund your Congestion Charge black hole for several years. We had Lehmans lined up for the DLR, but obviously the economic climate in Docklands is proving more difficult these days. And we're having a lot more trouble flogging off the new East London line because I'm afraid nobody wants to be associated with Dalston, full stop. You might have a few more ideas yourself.

And let's not stop there. Why do we still insist on giving buses numbers? IKEA are really keen to rename the entire London bus network after their individual products. Why take a 237 to the shops when you could hop on a JANSJÖ, and I know commuters would love riding a BILLY to the office. One thing, though. The Swedes are insistent that this stupid "Routemaster" name must go. Your new rear platform bus has got to be called a FÄRGRIK HÖGST, apparently, because they've got a lot of crockery in the warehouse needs shifting. Shouldn't be a problem Boris dear, you can sell anything to the proles.

So far so good, but my next plan should actually allow you to slash London's council tax at a stroke. There are 33 London boroughs, many of which have a silly invented name that no resident is genuinely attached to. So they can all go. We've got superbrands queueing up to buy these and stamp their ideals and mission statements on a quarter of a million local consumers. Waitrose would like Barnet, obviously, while Porsche will pay millions for Richmond. Who wants to live in Hammersmith & Fulham when you could live in Ben & Jerry's, and you can imagine what a good match Lewisham would be for Lidl. There are still three champagne brands in the running for Westminster, while the Telegraph want to combine Bromley, Bexley and Croydon into one broadsheet-reading super-borough. Damned Olympic restrictions are forcing us to use official 2012 sponsors in East London, but I think "the London Borough of Coca Cola" has a nice ring to it, don't you?

One final moneyspinner to sell off, and that's the name of the capital itself. We should leave this until later, to give the public an opportunity to adapt to the other changes, but rebranding "London" would bring in an absolute fortune. It'd take a very special global sponsor to quintessentially refocus our city's international identity, but we've brainstormed a few obvious candidates. Virgin's a distinct possibility, obviously, or maybe Golden Arches, or possibly Windows7. Personally I'm a fan of Disney-on-Thames (assuming, that is, that we haven't sold off the Thames to Nescafé by then). Or we just find a very rich local entrepreneur and offer to name the city after them. I was thinking Sugar, or Abramovich, or even Cameron. Or, well, you've got an inherited fortune and bottomless pockets yourself, haven't you? Throw a wad of money into the pot and we'll let you run the city of "Boris". Works for me.

Best regards.

Piers Harris-Hargreaves
Managing Director, BlueSkyKiteFliersThinkTank

P.S. There's no fee for this advice, but if you could rename Chancery Lane station after my wife's consultancy practice, that'd be ticketty-boo.

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