London Falling: The dying empire state of mind

Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:

IT IS A TRUTH universally accepted that any columnist who travels to a foreign country to write will be, eventually, in search of a cab. If the entire Middle East has been made intelligible to New York Times readers by the inveterate interviewer of taxi drivers Thomas Friedman, then so too with the fate of Near-Brexit Britain. It follows that when I got to London on Election Day (December 12) I immediately got into the taxi line at Heathrow airport. Soon, I figured, an insightful and expert cab driver who I would dub Niles or Julian in my ensuing column, would deliver me the gems that make for good punditry. It was, predictably, a rainy and blustery day in London, and I scurried to the cab to which I had been pointed as fast as I could. The driver, however, was not so inclined; not, in fact, inclined at all. A white man, he sat in his black cab and looked straight ahead. I kept banging at the door until finally the attendant sidled over and said “Take the next one.” I did and as I did, I saw from the corner of my eye a white woman who had stood behind me in line get into the cab that had been unavailable to me. The cab driver so immoveable to my entreaties readily got out and loaded her suitcases for her.

I did get into the next cab, whose driver, thankfully, was an elderly Jamaican-British man. Then it sunk in: I was a brown person in London on a day when there was a reckoning, in some significant part, on the acceptability of brown and black others. My new cab-driver expert affirmed this. “It’s all about the immigrants,” he said as the cab sped past surly London suburbs, rain soaked and wan. “All the jobs here are done by the immigrants but the British don’t want us,” he expounded. “Get rid of the immigrants they say,” he went on as we slipped under a graffiti-sprayed bridge; in the whorls and words I could read an angrily scrawled “Out.” When we got to my budget hotel my cab driver sent me off with “Boris Johnson is going to win.”

Boris Johnson did win and the results were as anti-climactic as election results can be.

More here.