We Asked an Expert How London Could Gain Independence from the UK
Declaring independence is all the rage in international politics. Recently, Venice voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming an independent city-state, while over in the UK, the Scots are debating whether to consign the Union Jack to the dust bin of history. And ever since the whole Crimea incident, rumors have been flying around that Taiwan will formally attempt to declare independence from China, and that Misrata will attempt to do the same in Libya.
What if the next big independence movement happened closer to, say, Britain’s capital? With a booming population and established trading links with the rest of the world, could London’s people go to it alone?
It’s an idea that’s been mooted a few times, not least by former Mayor Ken Livingstone. When asked what he wanted for London during the 2012 elections, he claimed he wanted a “Republic of London,” and that the city could be improved if other areas of the UK weren’t so busy sucking all the blood out of it. According to Ken, London generates £10–£20 billion (about $15–$30 billion) more in tax for the UK than it receives in public expenditure, making it the cashcow of the UK’s feckless regions.
How feasible would London’s independence claim be? After convincing him this wasn’t a joke, I spoke to Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics who specializes in secession movements.
VICE: Hi, James. What would London have to do to prepare a claim to independence?
James Ker-Lindsay: First of all, if it were to have any hope of success—by which I mean it would receive widespread international support—a formal process would have to be agreed. With Scotland, for example, there’s an agreed process by which it must prepare its independence claim, which will have been negotiated through democratic and legal processes. With London, the same would have to happen.
What are those processes?
It would have to start with a referendum. The wish for independence would have to be expressed. To do this, the central government is usually expected to agree to such a vote; it could take place without permission, but it would have no real effect and would probably just be ignored. In the case of London, this seems a very unlikely prospect. Unlike Scotland or Wales, which have their own historical character, London’s always been an integral part of England. Moreover, considering how interwoven London is with the rest of England, and its wealth, it just seems difficult to see how any government would ever agree to such a vote.
London Is Turning Into a Depressing and Dumb City of Living Stock Images
Every city has its visual cliches. The stereotypes, falsehoods and cheery slices of xenophobia sold to us on cheap postcards and in crap films that reduce the world’s great cities to a handful of worn out cultural cues. If you’ve never been to Paris, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all girls who look like Charlotte Gainsbourg skipping along the Seine in Breton tops, doling out filter-less cigs to homeless accordion players. When in actual fact, it’s more like a bunch of exchange students laughing at dachshunds and dudes who are still bang into Justice plying rich schoolgirls with shit MDMA.
For New York, the cliches are motor-mouthed cabbies and kids fucking around with water hydrants. For Barcelona, it’s psytrance beachbums and animal cruelty on La Rambla. Tokyo? Weird fish, games machines and businessmen throwing themselves in front of bullet trains.
But what about London? Pearly Kings and Queens? Pie and mash? Foxtons Minis tearing down Brixton High Street, on fire? Rita Ora?
So I decided to pull back for a moment, and consult Getty Images’ wide range of London stock photos. What do they see when they look at the UK’s capital?
"London City Hall"
The vast majority of the London stock photos on Getty are scenic wide shots of the city’s skyline, usually taken at sunset and very rarely from anywhere east of Tower Bridge. Of course, this makes perfect sense. If you’re a journalist writing something about London’s chronic housing crisis, or a body in the Thames river, or Millwall’s terrible run under Ian Holloway, you probably want to illustrate your copy with a picture of the Shard and a few anonymous riverside yuppie-farms when the sun’s going down.
From the outset, it’s clear that this is the London that Getty are most interested in selling to their customers, the London with all the big glass buildings and shimmering water, the one that girl from your school has as her Facebook cover photo, the one on the opening titles to The Apprentice. Not the one where there’s three Paddy Powers on a single high street, or the one of food banks, pigeons cannibalizing fried chicken bones and crack squirrels.
But this one, the nice one by the river with the big buildings.
"Couple Having Coffee At Sidewalk Cafe"
The people in Getty’s pictures are predominantly happy young heterosexual couples who drink coffee, take selfies, and love life and London. And that’s fine. It’s not like they’re going to embark upon an investigative social project about co-dependent heroin addicts crying and vomiting in each other’s arms, or abandoned widows lying catatonic in single bedrooms in Catford.
Last time we checked in on British Jihadists, they were posting snaps of themselves messing about in swimming pools, hoarding Cadbury’s chocolates from home, and generally having a good time. Everything has changed.
"Behead first, ask questions later"
The Rise and Rise of the UK’s Student Drug Dealers
If the greatest architects, theorists, and social planners who’ve ever lived were revived to design the perfect marketplace for drug dealers, they’d come up with a dorm. A nest stuffed with trainee adults, bankrolled by mom and dad, waiting like baby birds with their beaks wide open for their next life-changing experience. Dealers might not be allowed to actually vomit the drugs into the mouths of students, but dorms—which are often called “halls” in the UK—nontheless remain a drug merchant’s wet dream. Which is why they’ve been living in them for decades.
Nearly three quarters of Britain’s 2.5 million university students have taken illegal drugs. So it follows that somebody has to be there feeding the country’s future politicians, business leaders, and unemployed actors their weed, MDMA, cocaine, and ketamine (that last substance is up to ten times more likely to be used by students than non-students).
In fact, the student drug market is so sought after that dealers have been known to enroll in colleges specifically to take out student loans and sell drugs on campus. Then, of course, there are all the student dealers—those who begin their higher education with good intentions, but realize that working at a bar isn’t much fun and start selling drugs as a source of quick cash. If you live in halls and don’t know who this guy or girl is yet, take it as a sign that you should get some more friends.
Douchebags don’t live on the internet like you do. Their lives aren’t subject to the same constant, screaming moralism. While you’re at home worrying about the politics of female armpit hair on Saturday night, the modern British douchebag will be at the club.
— In Defense of Britain’s ‘Sad’ Young Doucehbags
Leicester, UK, Is a Paradise
In addition to being the home of both the Elephant Man AND Daniel “Fattest Man of All Time” Lambert, Leicester also used to be home to a guy who works here named Jamie. He took these photos. He’d also love it if you visited.
Don’t Be Ashamed of Anal Sex
People are still having sex. Paid sex. Drugs sex. Gay sex. And they love it. It’s happening every day, week, and month, possibly on the other side of that wall right next to you. Which is pretty exciting. You may have heard that British gays went drearily mainstream this past week after winning the right to marry each other by massaging powerful Conservatives into thinking queer rights are part of the Tory ideology. Apparently, Peter Tatchell had to work on David Cameron for quite some time before he finally came through. “I had to pump Tory members of Parliament—with facts and opinion-poll results showing majority support for same-sex civil marriage,” he told me.
Wonderful progress, of course, yet despite the jacket of respectability society will now lend to monogamous gay couples, many people are clearly still ashamed about their desire for hot, gay sex—a shame that penetrates visceral depths well beyond the reach of even the largest dildos. As horny as it may be to imagine hot guys guiltily jacking off to pics of other hot guys, I want to know: Why the shame? What’s so wrong with one man putting his lips around another man’s penis? I don’t want to generalize or anything—trust me, I hang out with sluts of every sexual persuasion—BUT I KNOW PEOPLE WHO LIVE FOR THAT SHIT. Because sex is fun. And gay sex is super fun. If you’re gay. Sometimes, even if you’re not. In fact, your mom is probably doing some hot, gay sex now. It’s all cool.
Can MDMA Make You Racist?
You don’t have a lot of time for rational thought after dropping a pill. Three Mitsis in and you’re almost entirely preoccupied with finding out what people’s scarves feel like, or trying to focus on literally anything through your rapidly flickering eyes. So you’d have thought that amid all the euphoria and heart palpitations there surely wouldn’t be space to get hung up on the ethnicity of the people around you.
It turns out, however, that the brain’s biochemistry during a blissed-out club night may not be too dissimilar from its status at a KKK rally. This is thanks to a hormone called oxytocin, which has been described by many as "the love hormone" or the "cuddle drug." The hormone has been linked to developing trust between mother and child during breast feeding, and between partners after intercourse. Its release is also triggered by MDMA, and that loved-up feeling you get after swallowing a pill has been attributed to the effects the hormone has on the brain.
However, research by professor Carsten de Dreu at the University of Amsterdam showed in 2011 that oxytocin had a slightly more sinister side. His experiments revealed that what many thought of as the “moral molecule” actually contributed to what scientists euphemistically refer to as “ethnocentrism,” or what the layman would call racism.
Participants in de Dreu’s study were presented with a dilemma in which they had to deny one person access to a lifeboat in order to save five others. In the double-blind experiment, Dutch men were given either oxytocin via a nasal spray or a placebo. The results showed that those taking oxytocin were more likely to spare men with Dutch names while sacrificing those with Muslim- or German-sounding names. For those who were given the placebo, however, the name of the potential victim didn’t matter.