Last Friday, Ben Judah wrote a scathing indictment of London as a town now thriving on “Russian oligarchs and Qatari princes,” and that Britain’s youth are now “oligarchs’ valets.”
The idea of “dirty” Russian money being pumped through London is hardly new. And the Shard has previously been called out for being an ode to the wealthy.
But Judah’s piece has rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way.
Allister Heath at City AM slammed the piece for its inaccuracies. He pointed out that the Shard is quite unlike how Judah described it:
“The flats haven’t been sold yet. There are no rich owners and no prostitutes. There are no derivatives traders — the only financial firm that has moved in is Duff and Phelps, which provides various corporate advisory, valuation and restructuring services.” In fact he drills through a bunch of factual errors that’s definitely worth a read.
Sean Thomas at The Guardian called the article “rhapsodically stupid.” His main issue with the piece rests on Judah’s claim that “Britain is ready to betray the United States to protect the City of London’s hold on dirty Russian money.”
Here’s one from the Financial Times titled ‘In Defence of London’.
But there are those that argue that the crux of Judah’s argument isn’t wrong.
An editorial at Spear’s points out that there are “building-brick-facts” and “decorative facts” and its the latter that Judah got wrong. “Judah’s actual argument is, contrarily, dead on the money (so to speak),” they write. From Spear’s:
“This argument is, well, unarguable: one of Britain’s chief industries is financial services. They bring £80 billion to London each year. Spear’s has been reporting on London’s new service class since we started – and there’s nothing wrong with that: we’re good at it and it brings wealth to Britain.
…What’s happening is that people who dislike the truth of Judah’s argument are picking away at the decorative details, not the real argument. If Allister Heath, Sean Thomas or anyone else wants to challenge that, I’m sure we’d all be happy to hear it. But they can’t, because Judah is right: banks, not tanks.”
Make of this kerfuffle what you will.