I Hate and Despise London 61

The Daily Telegraph kindly commissioned a major comment piece from me on Kyrgyzstan, which was published today.


It already seems to have fed through into analysis by the BBC’s resident correspondents, which is a good thing.

A few months ago I wrote this:

Personally, if I had the chance to live in any town in the entire world, plus the seventh circle of Hell and an oxygenless planet off Alpha Centauri, London still might be bottom of my list.


On sober reflection, I was understating it. I deeply, deeply despise London. You will imagine the depth of my hatred if I tell you that, given the choice between eradicating London and eradicating Tony Blair, I would only opt for eradicating Tony Blair because it’s easier.

My only fixed appointment today was a simple interview shoot in Shoreditch, taking no more than half an hour. But I set off before noon and returned about six, spending five and a half hours in travelling from Acton to Shoreditch and back. I had walked to West Acton station by noon; spent one hour in going two stops to White City, where the train was terminated due to signals failure at Shepherd’s Bush. Central Line closed: on to the always disgusting, sepulchral Hammersmith and City line. That was only the start of a terrible, terrible return journey, of which the other chief highlight was a 27 minute wait for buses going down Hangar Lane.

Why do we put up with it? Tube systems in Paris, Warsaw, Brussels, St Petersburg, Moscow and Tashkent are infinitely more reliable than ours. My particular hatred is at the weekend, when all of the system that goes anywhere you might want to be shuts down completely, and all the stations continually announce “There is a good service apart from planned engineering work”.

What the **** does that mean? “You can’t go anywhere, connections across the city are shut down, we are out for 60 hours, but it’s OK because this is planned total failure, not spontaneous total failure.”.

Does it make any difference to me if London Underground had planned to be total crap, or if they are doing it accidentally?

This has been going on for a decade. Billions upon billions of pounds have been ploughed in, extravagant foreign managements have been imported en masse. But I still can’t get on the Central Line from West Acton to Liverpool St.

I hate London. There is no city on earth in which a family with an income of £30,000 per year would enjoy a worse standard of life. The private goods are too expensive and the public goods are worse managed than in the poorest third world country. There are much worse systems in third world countries, but billions upon billions less have been pumped into them. For value for money public services, nowhere is worse than London.

61 thoughts on “I Hate and Despise London

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  • somebody

    Hear Hear.

    TfL kindly send a weekly e-mail listing the weekend closures, all in pretty colours.

  • MJ

    Had a bad day Craig?

    I lived in London for 20 years. Moving to the countryside was the best thing I’ve ever done.

  • MS

    Hand on,is it London you despise or simply London’s transport network and public services?

  • vronsky

    I’ve not been back in a long time. On my last visit I was completely overwhelmed by the noise, the crush, and the filth – I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. I thought at the time, maybe I’m just a bit of a hayseed unused to big cities, so it’s interesting to hear from someone with the same reaction.

    Still, I’d erase Tony Blair first. London can be avoided, Blair and his squalid ilk require excision. The scythe would be my instrument of choice – an old one, very blunt and rusty.

  • geomannie

    Regarding travel in London, a one word answer- Brompton!


    I travel to London most weeks and with one of these beauties. You cycle when its convenient (generally) or hop a tube or taxi when not. When not in use they live beside your desk or in the reception of the office you are visiting. Mine’s saved me a fortune in public trasport fares and cumulatively days in saved time.

    Craig, you’ve got to look

  • Rob

    I can understand if you’ve had a bad day and want to vent. But I do get irritated by likening anything in the UK and London to the third world, never mind comparing it unfavourably, never mind “the poorest third world country”. Usually it’s hyperbole by ignorant people who haven’t ever seen a third world country, but not in your case.

    And London has the oldest underground railway in the world; and it shows.


  • glenn

    Tell me about it. Lived there for a couple of years myself, and only remember it a bit fondly because at least it was back home in the UK after a prolonged absence. Was very glad to move out again.

    What gets me is the third world service, at double-plus first world prices. It amazes me why people put up with it. But we get a lousy service precisely because people put up with it. In India, a mob would march to the manager’s office of the (water, power etc.) company with some rope, with every intention of stringing him up if things didn’t improve fast. The French don’t take their woes sitting down either. We just don’t know how to complain properly in this country.

    Transport is terrible in all forms. House prices and rent is sky-high. Service is generally lousy, and people not very friendly. Beats me why anyone lives in London.

  • MJ

    “Usually it’s hyperbole by ignorant people who haven’t ever seen a third world country”

    No, it’s usually an accurate remark by people who know the third world rather well.

  • bat020

    A friend of mine who works on the Tube tells me the regular weekend shutdowns are a knock-on effect of the arcane PPP contracts used on the Tube these days.

    Basically the contractors don’t want to pay the extra wages for staff who are trained to do maintenance while the live rail is still on.

    Instead they shut down the live rail and use staff who haven’t done the relevant safety courses.

    Consequently half the damn network gets shut down every weekend, which never used to happen in the past.

  • somebody

    Meant to say congratulations on getting your piece into the MSM and the Torygraph at that.

  • Leo

    As a Londoner, I’d like to see London improved by investing more money in other cities.

    Endless expansion of London is silly. The aim should be to have a nice, functioning city and not to make it as big and crowded as possible.

    Too many people here and too few other cities where, at least for the industry I work in, you have multiple employment opportunities. I sometimes consider moving out of London but it always seems I’d have to move to a specific place to work for a specific company and then have to move if I changed jobs later.

    Oh, and whoever wants the Olympics here can take them and shove them up their arse. I preferred it when my local tube line actually ran at the weekends* and I’m not looking forward to the influx of sports-obsessed tourists (and terrorists!) the Olympics will bring.

    (* People seem to justify the Olympics by saying we get tube expansion and development of certain areas as a result. They seem to ignore the fact, if they’re a good idea, we could do those things without the games and do them in a way that maximizes value to the public instead of that sees public benefit purely as a side-effect and hosting a big masturbatory sporting event as the driving reason.)

    Ahh, that feels better. 🙂 It’s good to rant.

  • thabet

    Craig, your hatred is misplaced.

    Years of chronic underfunding means the system is always under pressure.

  • Abe Rene

    I assume that circumstances don’t allow you to move.

    If the PPP (that’s Public Private Partnership, right?) contracts are responsible, there’s a reason to write to your MPs and denounce this New Labour betrayal of socialist principles, Oh Londoners!

  • Johan van Rooyen

    Dude, it’s only a city! Get a bike. As every London cyclist knows you can time your journey to within a minute or two once you know the route.

  • Monty

    I can beat geomannie’s suggestion. Get a Brompton with an electric motor! I have just bought myself one from http://www.electricwheel.co.uk/

    Oh, and I am honestly looking forward to moving back to London after living in Athens. Truly, a third world capital (and I should know, I spent 35 years living in 8 of them).

  • Alfred

    “I hate London. There is no city on earth in which a family with an income of £30,000 per year would enjoy a worse standard of life. The private goods are too expensive and the public goods are worse managed than in the poorest third world country.”

    All that’s needed to fix Londonistan is more immigrants, obviously.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    I spent my childhood in London, in Church Street off the Edgeware Road, happy memories having fun on the bomb-sites around Paddington.

    The streets are paved with gold if you know where to look. All the very best ad/PR/photo agencies are in London.

    Look after the baby Craig and cast Nadira out for photo-shoots – she is beautiful and photogenic, the ad people will love her, a prestigious cut above the rest.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    London. Hmn. Mixed feelings. I love to visit, for all the obvious reasons. I love the buzz. But I resent the closed and impregnable cliques, esp. in the arts, including the ‘hip multicultural’ ones, and especially the ones who think they’re ‘really liberal’. The way power is clasped so tightly to their chests.

    Hobby-horse. Bo-ring.

  • StefZ

    Johnson famously said

    “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

    that would be after you’ve forked out the £4 cash fare for a Zone 1 single

    Not only is London’s transport infrastructure up there with the worst of any major city in the developed world, it’s also one of the most (the most?) expensive

    In my lifetime, London has become a place where only the relatively poor or the stinking rich can bring up families

    I used to love the place with every fibre of my being. Now I hate ever coming back. If I didn’t have family there I never would

  • Simon

    Many congratulations on an excellent article.

    As for the Tube, I’ll get GIP on it. I know people on the inside…

  • Clark

    I’ve been saying for about a decade that the London Tube needs completely filling in and digging out from scratch.

    I did a little reckoning once. On a short journey I had paid about five pounds. The trains were utterly packed, though it wasn’t rush hour. I stood on a central London platform, watching trains go past every two minutes. I estimated about 700 people per train. So about 100,000 pounds of fares was passing that spot every hour. That’s just one direction, on one line, and we’re told this makes a loss?

  • tony flaig

    Blimey, either you need therapy or a reality check, as someone who lives in East Kent and has for much of the last year, commuted into North London, worked 10 hours and more you sound a complete wimp.

    Life’s tough, but anyhow do please emigrate to the planet zog, where hopefully there wont be an internet connection.

  • StefZ

    People who brag about commuting miles to and from home to work 10 hours a day are arguably not best placed to suggest other people should go into therapy

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Time after time I read comments that condemn any attention paid to bankrupt nations such as those in Central Asia, or, label ethnic violence as ‘Muslim terrorism’ by ignorantly quoting that the Qur’an teaches that killing people is OK, in this case using the tag that 64% Kyrgyz are Muslims.

    One ‘commentator’ wrote that Craig Murray is, ‘swanning around the world telling others how to run their lives’ when in fact this is one man opening our eyes to corruption, encouragement and reinforcement of dictators in a region where such unethical conduct can only lead to increased Islamic radicalism.’

    In fact Craig Murray puts his lens on and unmasks the fact that the United States courted the corrupt and autocratic former ruler, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and allowed members of his family to pocket the profits of supplying the US Manas Air Base.

    In the exposure we learn that Russia has been trying to force the closure of the Manas base and supported the ouster of Mr. Bakiyev after he reneged on a promise to do so. All this begs the question why the US has absolutely no interest in the democratic situation in Kygryzstan, in fact turning a ‘blind eye’ to suffering while focusing only on the security of its own remote supply base.

    I would suggest Craig point his learned and diplomatic finger at the US administration on how to democratically cut deals about startegic transit routes and military bases in a polically compassionate and liberal way to wit a neighbouring state close to Afghanistan where British serviceman are dying in numbers.

    Britain may be accussed of appeasement by US Senators but America fails to realise that our best Ambassador always weighs the costs of counter-productive ties to dictators (Saddam Hussein) and work towards unqualified support for free elections as the ultimate gaol.

  • John Seal

    Love London; always have, always will. The Tube is effing brilliant compared to what we have in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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