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Battle of Beckton: Sheets of corrugated iron on Beckton Alps have been daubed with St George's crosses to cover up Lithuanian flags

Margaret Thatcher loved the maquette of Canary Wharf. She listened enthralled as the architects explained how a light railway would extend through the razed old docks. There was a toy train running round the mock-up. The whole thing was over 10,000 square feet. 

The little railway ended in acres of suburban housing. Little red brick cottages arranged in geometrical closes and perpendiculars. The developers explained to the Prime Minister this was where commuters to the financial towers would live. Just 20 minutes away from work and on the water's edge. All of them property owners. She adored the architects' model dream. 

The Docklands Light Railway still has the feel of a scale model. The stations sound as if they were named after pubs: Royal Albert, Royal Victoria, Galleon's Reach. But the high-rise housing over the easternmost spur of the DLR has seen happier days. Dirty England flags hang from balconies. Panoramic vistas over gargantuan retail parks. The Millennium Dome (now the O2) is filthy, begging to be torn down.  

Beckton is the end of the line, rebuilt for a middle class that never arrived. Now superimpose a poverty map of London over a Tube map. Dark red runs along the line to Beckton. More than 60 per cent of the children here grow up in poverty. But there is worse data. London is statistically parcelled up into 4,772 micro-areas. Beckton is the tenth most deprived. Twenty minutes from the headquarters of HSBC.  

Beckton doesn't look foreign at first. The unkempt trees leering over cracked pavements. The locals-only pubs. Grotty supersavers. Dreary parking lots. It looks like the abandoned set of Brookside. But this Tube stop sounds like a foreign country. Everyone exiting the ticket barriers is talking Polish or Bengali, Lithuanian or Romanian.   

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Nat
November 27th, 2013
11:11 PM
Well done for selecting various anecdotes that do nothing more than reinforce Eastern-European stereotype. I would expect a bit more insight and knowledge from someone who supposed to be a specialist on the region. I could easily be as selective as the author and get similar stories from English or as a matter of fact any nation in the world. Of course writing about those who have been successful, have good jobs, pay taxes and do not open a can of Tyskie on their way home would not be as ‘interesting’ as this article, but probably could do a bit more good, than drawing such a sad and depressing view on Eastern-Europeans. We are not all cleaners or builders, waiters or bouncers. As a matter of fact, even some of the builders and cleaners had more education than one would expect. Not all of them were fired or could not get by in Poland, so they decided to come to the UK, blurred by a vision of gold pavements. Some of us worked hard, study hard and committed ourselves to be a part of this great society. As other polish professionals, I am invisible to the rest of society, because I do not generate stories like this. One could wonder, if it was worth trying to make a difference by working hard for my position as British ‘upper class’ is still dividing Europe according to the Cold War rules. Opinions like this make me wonder, if the prize for taking on board British culture is dealing with such comments about your country and nation every day. One could say that probably not and actually start drinking a can of larger. What is the point of change, if stereotype is what people are looking for?

maz
November 22nd, 2013
12:11 AM
Awesome story. Luckily it doesn't end up like that for everybody. I lived in London, met people like this and I realised I'm ashamed of who they are. They would be the same sad losers back home. We are not all cleaners and builders, trust me.

Bruce Davies
November 16th, 2013
4:11 PM
This is incredibly well written. I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Anonymous
November 16th, 2013
11:11 AM
"The owners are in Russia dipshit. The gooks are the maids." Great ear for Polish immigrant cadence. Not. Lithuanians get building. Americans get media. (note to editor: freelancers need subs.)

Paul
November 16th, 2013
6:11 AM
I left the recession dominated, job starved North East of England in the late 1980's to go and work in London (Mr Tebbits advice which did me no harm). Construction work was my choice of employment because I'd never been able to get much else at that time and it got me of the social security cycle. The money I earned put a roof over my head and my standard of living wasnt too bad. During the early to mid 1990's I began to notice that builders and agencies were starting to employ more and more (cheaper) Eastern Europeans rather than British or Irish building workers. This snowballed to a point where I, like a lot of others became unemployable. Eventually I had to leave London because it was almost impossible for me being a British worker to find any work. It was a shame because I loved living in london, one of the great cities of the world. I now reside in Australia a country where they seem to value their own people far more than the British do and a country where employers pay livable wages to their working classes.

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