Simon RadfordSeptember 12, 2011 - 12:07pm3 comments
As I watched the rioting in London last month snowball from the suburbs to the center of the city and then beyond the capital, it was easy to be reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum that there is no such thing as society—only families and individuals. When I ran for Parliament in Enfield North in 2005, much of the tenor of that campaign reflected the voters’ implicit attitude toward the Iron Lady’s succinct philosophy. (I lost.)
Enfield, one of the areas of London hardest-hit by rioting, is a study in contrasts. The leafy streets of the western borough reflect an almost forgotten nostalgia for what London’s outer suburbs once were. Babyboomers, now approaching retirement, skip along shopping streets dotted with fishmongers, greengrocers, and other holdouts against superstores like Tesco that have hollowed out much of London’s central shopping hub. Britain is no longer the “nation of shopkeepers” Napoleon once derided. The supermarket behemoth Tesco now controls over 30 percent of grocery spending in the UK, with its tireless competitor Sainsbury’s not far behind.
While the western end of the borough has so far resisted the encroachment of Tesco, the eastern part has been cradled in its ever-willing embrace. Fast-food outlets, pawnshops, and high-rise tenements stand in place of the family bistros, boutiques, and Georgian townhouses to the west. Edmonton and East Enfield are a high-density mix of Turks, white working-class people, and Greek-Cypriots...