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Why London Should Stop Trying to Be New York and Start Trying to Be Paris

The U.K. capital doesn't need a transatlantic role model. It has a far more relevant one closer to home.
relates to Why London Should Stop Trying to Be New York and Start Trying to Be Paris
Mark Byrnes/CityLab, Flickr/Lena Vasilijeva/Dustin Gaffke/Dirk Night

Watch out New York, London is coming for you. This was a key message of the Long Term Economic Plan for London launched by the U.K. Chancellor and London Mayor Boris Johnson last week. Among a host of new plans for the city, Johnson vowed that he would see London's economy overtake that of its great rival across the Atlantic. He won't do so in office, of course—he's stepping down next year—but it's certainly true that London's powers-that-be have been taking cues from their U.S. sister city recently. Whether it's building higher and flashier, rebranding neighborhoods, or aping food trends, New York is a clear influence and, among a small elite at least, a benchmark against which progress can be judged.

Is this a good thing perhaps, an example of friendly sparring between two great cities? Probably not. For a start, the crush is a little one-sided. As a New York exile acquaintance aptly put it: "People in New York don't give a rats about London." To them, it's a faraway city that's expensive to travel to, where politics is conducted and solutions are forged under very different conditions. The thing is, regular Londoners actually feel much the same way about New York. It's just that the elite of London are so intertwined with the finance industry that, in their narrowed vision, The City and Wall Street are just two ends of the same short alley. New York, meanwhile, is an inadequate role model for London. Not because it's not a great city (it surely is) but because when it comes to bright ideas for London to overcome its problems, it offers close to nothing.