Interview with Anna Minton, author of ‘Big Capital: Who Is London For?’

We recently sat down with Anna Minton and chatted about her new book, Big Capital: Who Is London For? (Penguin, 2017). Anna is one of the directors of the LBC, and has been involved with the editorial board for a while too. In this interview, we spoke to Anna about the housing crisis facing London and the rest of the UK, as well as about her recommended reads who those who want to know more.

Left Book Club (LBC): Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your career so far?

Anna Minton: I started out as a journalist and covered some very important stories, such as Northern Ireland during the peace process. But I found working on newspapers frustrating, partly as a result of partisan editorial lines and partly because of the pressure on time and resources which meant there wasn’t the time for proper investigations.

After a brief spell on the staff of the Financial Times, I turned to writing longer reports for think tanks and policy organisations which culminated in my first book, Ground Control, which is about the privatisation of cities. But although I now work at the University of East London, I do still write for the Guardian and I consider my writing to be journalistic to a large degree.

LBC: So your new book, Big Capital, wasn’t released too long ago. What’s the book about?

Anna: It’s about the housing crisis in London and more widely, which has knock on effects for the rest of the UK and is taking place in a global context. It’s particularly extreme in London but the impact of global capital and foreign investment is having a similar effect on cities from New York to Vancouver and Sydney to Manchester.

In London the crisis is taking place across every level of society, from those on relatively high salaries who pay 70 per cent of their incomes on rent to people living on housing estates threatened with demolition, which are being replaced with luxury apartments with hardly any affordable housing.

LBC: In light of the recent tragedy of the fire decimating Grenfell Tower in West London this summer, what do you think we can take away from this about the state of affordable housing in the capital today?

Anna: Grenfell exposed a total failure of democratic accountability and showed the extent to which local communities are ignored. The residents of the tower had complained for years about safety and the Grenfell Action Group had even warned that it would take a catastrophe for them to be listened to. The same failure to listen to local communities and take their wishes into account is seen with the drive to demolish housing estates all across London, against the wishes of the majority of residents.

LBC: For those who want to know more about the housing crisis, do you have any book recommendations?

Anna: Surprisingly little has been written specifically on the housing crisis in the UK, however there are a few books on the topic.