Last man standing
Plus: London's changing accents, ULEZ answers and a penny-farthing crash.
Morning — just a roundup for you today while the Spy team cracks on with some bigger projects. We lead with the story of Yacob Woldehiwot and his family, who’ve dramatically lost their seven-year battle to keep their home in west London. Plus: the city’s changing accents, ULEZ answers, and a penny-farthing crash.
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What we’ve spied
🏚️ After seven years of “life under siege”, the last man standing at a west London estate set to be demolished has now been evicted from his family home. Yacob Woldehiwot has been describing to reporters his heavy-handed eviction last month from Carisbrooke Court, an estate in South Acton that’s part of Ealing council’s broader £600m regeneration plans for the area. Woldehiwot and his family had lived at their home for 17 years, but for the past seven he’s been resisting an order to leave to make way for a new development, arguing the current estate should be renovated instead. In the months leading up to the eviction, Woldehiwot says he was subjected to a campaign to dislodge him, with rubbish left to pile up and men showing up to his home. On October 11, bailiffs finally hammered down his door and led him away in handcuffs. Woldehiwot still hasn’t given up and is now planning a legal challenge. In a statement following the eviction, a spokesperson for Ealing council said: “Mr Woldehiwot has intentionally and singlehandedly held up the development of new homes for hundreds of other families”. Worth watching: a BBC documentary that aired earlier this year which followed the family’s lives on the estate prior to the eviction.
💬 A big study this week on how Londoners’ accents are changing, the headline finding being the decline of Cockney. Instead, an accent called Multicultural London English is on the rise. It’s characterised by long vowels made in the centre of the mouth (“go” rhyming more closely with “more” than “mow”) and the “th” in “think” or “thing” being shortened to a hard T (“tink” and “ting”) or F, which it shares with the Cockney accent (“fink” and “fing”). MLE was particularly common among young, Asian British, and Black British participants in the University of Essex study. Most dominant though was the accent known as southern British English, which has been replacing the more clipped King’s English. To hear how it all sounds, we can’t recommend enough this English accent tour de force by Dave Huxtable.
📣 London mayor Sadiq Khan doubled down on his call for a Gaza ceasefire this week, but so far no signs he’s managed to shift Labour’s official position. There was some good intel in the Times though about how Khan had given his leader Sir Keir Starmer a private heads-up that he was going to publicly call for a ceasefire the night before, and how Starmer had tried but failed to dissuade him. On Tuesday Khan also met with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at City Hall for a “frank discussion” — Mirvis told Khan a ceasefire would only lead to more “Hamas terrorist brutality”. Mirvis also thanked the mayor for his “unequivocal commitment to fighting antisemitism across London”.
🚗 We’ve now got the first answers on how London’s recent ULEZ expansion is going. New data from City Hall shows that the share of vehicles compliant with the air pollution rules in outer London has risen from 85% in May 2022 to 95% as of September 2023 — a compliance rate that’s basically on par with central London. TfL also said £120m of the £160m committed to ULEZ’s scrappage scheme has been allocated so far. The data won’t do much to dissuade those who see the expansion as just a “tax grab” though — the £12.50 daily ULEZ fee has raised about £23.6m for City Hall in its first month, and as much as £2.4m from fines. Still no definitive data on the expansion’s impact on air quality in outer London, but a separate analysis published this week by researchers at the University of Bath found that the introduction of ULEZ in central London in 2019 has meant nitrogen dioxide levels falling 18.4%. The figures come as some point out that ULEZ “doomsayers” have quietened down in recent weeks as their “dark prophecies have not come to pass”. That said, a Kent town burned an effigy of Sadiq Khan holding a ULEZ sign for their bonfire night this weekend.
🚝 There’s been much attention on London’s train stations during pro-Palestine sit-ins, but one station in particular made news for different reasons. Plans to plonk an office block on top of Liverpool Street Station have now been criticised by Historic England, which has said the development is “grossly disproportionate” in scale and would “sacrifice much of the character” of the Victorian station. HE joins celebs like Stephen Fry and Tracey Emin who are campaigning against the plans, which are being put together by Stellar, MTR and Network Rail in an effort to fund improvements to the busy station’s ticket hall. But much of their justification is surrounded in “a fog of confidentiality”, argues architecture critic Rowan Moore in the Guardian.
🔍 And finally, we leave you with:
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