Keep London Working

I liked that Pret A Manger promotion for the Diamond Jubilee: “Keep it clean for the Queen”. Simple call to action. Positive CSR from a popular brand.

People say that the Jubilee was a rehearsal for the Olympics. But was it? Hardly. Just four days with almost everyone on holiday. The Olympics plus the Paralympics are going to last for over six weeks, admittedly with a gap in the middle. Apart from weekends, and annual holidays, everyone will be at work.

LOCOG has consistently assured us that London can manage – offices and businesses, the educational world, LRT, the rail network, the roads, the health and emergency services, utilities, retail, restaurants, cafes, the entertainment industry, communications of all sorts. But can they? Will they? Will London be able to cope with the direct inflow of people for the Olympics and Paralympics, over and above the millions of tourists that come here every summer? Oh yes – and there’s us – the people who live and work here.

I’ve started to listen to my tweet-mate Vince Cabbie. I was critical of him in the coalition, but now he’s thinking of quitting politics to become what I call a full time taxidermist (taxi driver who’s continually getting stuffed). He talks a lot of sense. He says the road system is in the worst state ever – in terms of road works, obstructions, diversions, and all manner of restrictions.

Today – two days after the Jubilee – the Mayfair / St James’s area was mayhem. It probably was everywhere else as well, but there was no chance to find out unless you went there on the Tube. Just imagine all that plus the dedicated “Games Lanes” and the 4000 BMWs to fill them, not to mention the parking restrictions. Remember the embarrassing lack of loos we saw last weekend, with the massively increased demand (if that’s the word) the Games will bring. Think about the effect of  additional security, necessary as it obviously is.

How will people get to work, or school or college? Get home? Travel about town? Be on time to pick up the kids? What about restaurants, theatres, and all the venues that have to keep to time? How will husbands and wives, partners and friends, families and mates reach each other?

My slogan – for now right through September – is even simpler and more far-reaching than Pret’s. It is “Keep London Working”. I appeal on behalf of us all, our visitors, and our long-suffering city, for all branches of Government, Boris’s praesidium, the Met, the Armed and Security Forces, Fire and Ambulance authorities, the borough administrations and LOCOG to work together and take a long hard look:
• How bad could it get?
• What is the worst case scenario in each element of infrastructure?
• Are there any interventions and schemes that might make things better?
• Are there any decisions already taken that could profitably be reversed?

I’m not criticising the decision to bid for the Games, nor the huge effort that has gone into making it all possible. But I do worry that chaos and crises could do a lot more than knock the gilt of the gingerbread. There are so many clever people in London. So many of them could make a contribution to keeping the show on the road. I believe the authorities would do well to invite some of them to help – including those in our marketing and communications community for whom problem solving is one of the core skills.

For me it is equally as important for those who live and work in London to be able to carry on as normally as possible, as it is for us to look after and protect our visitors.

This is not as realatively remote as the Eurozone crisis, Afghanistan or Syria. This is here. This is now. Keeping London working is paramount. It won’t happen just because we want it to, as Vince would probably say.