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The Flat White Economy by Douglas McWilliams
access to a mobile phone, banking crisis, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bonus culture, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cleantech, cloud computing, computer age, correlation coefficient, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, George Gilder, hiring and firing, income inequality, informal economy, knowledge economy, loadsamoney, low skilled workers, mass immigration, Metcalfe’s law, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, Pareto efficiency, Peter Thiel, Productivity paradox, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, smart cities, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, working-age population, zero-sum game
Stories abounded of supporters of London football clubs waving their wage packets at visiting Liverpool supporters, chanting “Bet you’re on the dole!”. Shops, bars, restaurants and other service providers in London benefitted financially but suffered morally from the mega-bonus culture that infiltrated London in those days. People think of the heyday of the “loadsamoney” culture being the 1980s. But the financial merry-go-round in the city didn’t actually come to a shuddering halt until the great financial crisis of 2007/08. Bonuses continued to rise and London’s economy, driven by financial services, grew much faster than the rest of the UK. Culturally, the noise of “spend, spend, spend” grew quieter – the wealth had started to age and a degree of discretion had emerged – but London’s disproportionate wealth continued to accumulate.
The bicycle has replaced the Porsche, skinny jeans have replaced suits and, of course, flat white coffee has replaced champagne. Champagne sales are down a quarter since their peak in 2007. Now there are 3.2 million cups of coffee sold in London every day, an increase of more than 50% since 2007. Twenty years ago the tone for London living was set by the ‘Loadsamoney’ style of the rich bankers of the 1980s and 1990s. But it was extravagant, elitist and generally failed the test of good taste. Those working in financial services earned much more than they knew how to spend and had a very boyish nouveau riche view of how to spend their money. Although they set a tone, driven by their massive spending power, the lifestyle itself was expensive and not easily copied.
The Boxpark on Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, for example, is according to the Daily Mail the world’s first ‘pop-up mall’, featuring fashionable stores and bars with a design picking up on the unique atmosphere of urban lifestyle, fashion, art and design in this now trendy area. And it is much easier to copy the trends set by the Flat Whiters than the ‘Loadsamoney’ types from financial services in the 1980s and 1990s – their spending patterns are affordable. The only difficulty is in keeping up with the trends. Flat Whiters know that they can’t price their styles out of the market so to keep ahead their styles have to keep changing. Coffee Shops And of course the most characteristic service businesses in the Flat White Economy are the coffee shops.
No Such Thing as Society by Andy McSmith
anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Geldof, British Empire, Brixton riot, call centre, cuban missile crisis, Etonian, F. W. de Klerk, Farzad Bazoft, feminist movement, fixed income, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, friendly fire, full employment, glass ceiling, God and Mammon, greed is good, illegal immigration, index card, John Bercow, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, Live Aid, loadsamoney, long peace, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, mortgage debt, mutually assured destruction, negative equity, Neil Kinnock, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, old-boy network, popular capitalism, Right to Buy, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sloane Ranger, South Sea Bubble, spread of share-ownership, strikebreaker, The Chicago School, union organizing, upwardly mobile, urban decay, Winter of Discontent, young professional
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-84901-009-2 Printed and bound in the EU 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 To Nick who was twelve weeks and five days old when the 1980s ended CONTENTS Acknowledgements Introduction: The Decade of Greed and Live Aid Chapter 1: A Lady Not for Turning Chapter 2: Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves Chapter 3: Protest and Survive Chapter 4: Diana and the New Romantics Chapter 5: Inglan is a Bitch Chapter 6: Islands in the Fog Chapter 7: Darling, We’re the Young Ones Chapter 8: We Work the Black Seam Chapter 9: Feed the World Chapter 10: Loadsamoney Chapter 11: Fleet Street is Unwell Chapter 12: The Bomb and the Ballot Chapter 13: Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? Chapter 14: Like a Ghost Town Chapter 15: Heralds of Free Enterprise Chapter 16: The Hand of God Chapter 17: Stand Down, Margaret Epilogue ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are numerous people I should thank for help and information, including Sue Dearie, Nigel Farage, Andy Grice, Adrian Hamilton, Lucy Hodges, Richards Ingrams, James Manning, Amol Rajan, Simon Redfern, John Rentoul, Steve Richards, Belinda Salt, Kim Sengupta, Ben Summerskill, Peter Tatchell, Francis Wheen, the compilers of the excellent Margaret Thatcher Foundation website, my agent Andrew Gordon and publisher Andreas Campomar.
In the USA, the 1980s is known as the ‘decade of greed’ because of the way light regulation and tax changes allowed money to pour into the bank accounts of those who were already wealthy, creating a culture in which the corrupt investor Ivan Boesky told an audience in California that ‘you can be greedy and still feel good about yourself’.7 There was a similar phenomenon in 1980s Britain, though the phrase used to sum it up was not coined by an investor but by a satirical stand-up comic, Harry Enfield. It was the ‘loadsamoney’ culture. Salaries were rising, and the higher tax rates had fallen and fallen for those who were paid enough to be affected; the generous cuts came at the start of the decade, but the biggest of all was in 1988, when the top rate went down from 60p to 40p, which put up the disposable income of the well-off by up to one-fifth overnight.
Its trade union legislation, the tax reforms, the selling-off of nationalized industries and the attacks on local government spending all provoked ferocious opposition, but the opposition never really had public opinion behind it until Mrs Thatcher overreached herself in 1989 by introducing the poll tax. In the circumstances, it might be expected that right-wing opinion would also carry the day on other issues, such as sexual morality or race relations. Perhaps surprisingly, this did not happen. People who were basking in the experience of having ‘loadsamoney’ may have been selfish, but they were not trying to force everyone else to be like them. Race and sexuality were the greatest social issues of the 1980s, and on both counts society was more liberal at the end of the decade than at the start. In the final years of Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment an increasing number of white Britons saw him as a prisoner of conscience, despite the prime minister’s unchanging belief that he was the head of a terrorist organization.
The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography by Stephen Fry
Alistair Cooke, back-to-the-land, Desert Island Discs, Etonian, Isaac Newton, Live Aid, loadsamoney, pre–internet, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Sloane Ranger, South China Sea, The Wisdom of Crowds, University of East Anglia, Winter of Discontent
, became the catchphrase of the show until Harry and Paul, tiring of the very successful Stavros, devised a new character for Harry to play. They came up with a loud-mouthed Sarf London plasterer who fanned his wad of dosh at the audience and shouted ‘Loadsamoney!’ with gleeful, exultant braggadocio. He seemed to symbolize the second act of the Thatcher play, an era of materialism, greed and contempt for those left behind. As with Johnny Speight and Warren Mitchell’s Alf Garnett, much of the audience seemed either to be deaf to or chose to disregard Paul and Harry’s satirical intent, raising Loadsamoney to almost folk-heroic status. Ben, Harry, Hugh and I fell into the habit of winding down, after the recordings, in a Covent Garden club called the Zanzibar, usually bringing with us the guest comedians or musicians of the week.