A report at the weekend suggested that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are house-hunting in London, and are looking for a £20million residence in the Marylebone district.
This "news" was breathlessly reported, accompanied by the assertion that London is now "the coolest place on the planet". Not since 1997, when Liam and Patsy wrapped themselves up in a Union Jack on the front of "Vanity Fair" , and Cool Britannia was launched on a tide of champagne at No 10, has London been so universally regarded as a global centre of interest and excitement.
Hollywood stars, oligarchs, the global mega-rich: they are all finding the lure of our capital irresistible. And why not? Other cities just do not compare with London at the moment. Paris feels like a quiet backwater, and even New York lacks the dynamism, the creativity, and the relentless commercial activity that is palpable here. Plus, of course, there are taxation incentives for this particular type of economic migrant.
Those of us who live and work in London have noticed a real shift in recent months. We can almost feel the city overheating. There are some areas of the capital where house prices are virtually rising in front of our eyes, like the leaves on trees changing colour. The streets of the west end are impossibly crowded. The traffic in the capital is worse than it's ever been. The infrastructure is creaking. The shops are teeming, and restaurants are booked up. The organisation representing west end businesses believe that £220million will be spent between now and Christmas in London's three main shopping streets. It feels like we are in a bubble, and we are left to wonder when it will burst. Not for a while yet, if Brad and Angelina (and George Clooney, with his new place in the Home Counties) are anything to go by.
We are meant to pleased that Hollywood stars have chosen London as their new domicile. They lend us glamour, and that most undefinable but marketable of qualities - cool. But aren't they simply another type of rich people landing here, pushing up house prices, and crowding out indigenous residents? Even without Brad, Angelina, their dozens of children, nannies and domestic support, London feels uncomfortably full to capacity.
There's another thing. We are invited to salute the arrival of Hollywood A-listers, because they have loads of moolah and we imagine they're going to cruise round Marylebone trickling it down to the locals. Likewise, we don't hear too many complaints about the influx of rich people from the Middle East and beyond. Oh, you have a velvet Ferrari. You're very welcome.
But contrast this with the attitude we have to a group of less privileged, less moneyed immigrants. Ordinary Eastern European people come here in search of an honest living but are regarded as a threat to our by way of life by the Farage tendency. Yet they are the backbone of the service industries of the capital. The simple fact is that London now needs the Poles, the Bulgarians, the Estonians, and the Albanians as much as we need film stars. Apart from anything else, who's going to be doing the cleaning, the building and the gardening at the Brangelina household?Reuse content