diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As crackpot ideas go, this is a cracker.
Tower Hamlets is to bid for city status as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
That's right. My local area is tired of being a borough and wants to be a city. The City of Tower Hamlets. As ideas above one's station go, this is true civic megalomania.

The government dispenses new city charters every now and then, usually relating to royal anniversaries. No cathedral is required, just a nod from the Queen. Over the last fifty years, Southampton, Swansea, Derby, Sunderland, Armagh, St David's, Brighton & Hove, Inverness, Wolverhampton, Preston, Newport, Stirling, Lisburn and Newry have all been successful in earning city status. Now Tower Hamlets wants to get in on the act for the Diamond Jubilee.
The council is throwing its hat in the ring with full backing from Canary Wharf Group and local businesses and community groups. It sees itself as a strong contender up against the likes of Middlesborough, Blackpool and Reading.
If you were wondering how Tower Hamlets might somehow be worthy of city status, there's your answer. It's the bankers, Britain's financial powerhouse, driving this bid forward. If the Square Mile can be the City of London, the argument goes, then Canary Wharf can be part of the City of Tower Hamlets. What chance does Middlesbrough have? Our Docklands generate far more money. What chance does Blackpool have? Its Tower wasn't built by William the Conqueror. And what hope does Reading have, full stop?
Mayor Lutfur Rahman, who gave the go-ahead for the bid, believes city status will bring a raft of benefits and put Tower Hamlets firmly on the map as a unique, vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit.
Who's the man with the insane plan? Why, it's our recently elected Mayor, trying to stamp his name on the borough in perpetuity (and maybe earn the title Lord Mayor into the bargain). This is the man who believes that the 2012 Olympics will bring a raft of benefits to the area, essentially by selling more curry in Brick Lane for a fortnight. By that twisted logic, yes Lutfur, city status will surely make the rest of the world sit up and take notice of Tower Hamlets. In your dreams.
City status will enhance and unify the many diverse aspects of the borough including its arts and creative industries, cultural centres, historic visitor attractions and economic hubs. The accolade will also pay homage to its rich and fascinating East End heritage.
Tower Hamlets may be a borough with centuries of history, but the modern East End is nothing but eight square miles of inner London sprawl. Yes we have trendy Shoreditch, but we also have the Aberfeldy Estate. Yes we have Canary Wharf, but we also have Whitechapel Market. Yes we have The Tower of London, like wow, but that's about as far as international iconic goes. Tower Hamlets has no nucleus, no shared experience... hell we don't even have a proper Marks and Spencer.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman said it was an ideal opportunity for the borough to demonstrate both pride in its heritage, values and community, and its aspiration to play a major role in the future of the country.
To be honest, the Mayor of any British administrative district could have said that. This isn't a campaign based on hope, it's a dirt-cheap way of trying to make residents feel a bit better about themselves. It's political posturing, nothing more, nothing less. Thank goodness all applications have to be submitted within a fortnight, otherwise the drum-banging in the weekly council freesheet might have become unbearable.
“I feel being a city would be a fantastic boost to the borough and really show what we have to offer. We are unique in that we have a thriving business and shopping district in Canary Wharf, an innovative arts scene, a first-rate university on our doorstep in Queen Mary, and a vibrant community spirit, which has embraced different groups of people throughout our history,” he said.
Unique, huh? There are dozens of towns across Britain with good shops, buzzing galleries, a top university and lovely residents. The only thing that makes Tower Hamlets special is that our retail centre specialises in international banking deals, otherwise we might as well be Leicester.
“The Royal Wedding celebrations which I attended were testament to the genuine community spirit that exists in the borough and there is a real appetite to build on this pride and let everyone know what an amazing place Tower Hamlets is. I hope residents will support our bid to become a city.”
Well this resident doesn't. This resident reckons pride is often a misplaced emotion. This resident thinks the Tower Hamlets bid is a delusional sideshow. This resident loves living here, but knows that there are umpteen other British towns with a far better claim to city status.

The Royal Borough of Tower Hamlets I could cope with, because our Tower has a right royal pedigree stretching back almost a millennium. But the City of Tower Hamlets just sounds bloody stupid. We're Hamlets, Lutfur, not a City.

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