London is 'suburb of Paris' and has more crime, says deputy mayor

Anne Hidalgo takes aim at London after new figures show tourists flocking to British capital


LONDON is "a suburb of Paris" and a dangerous, crime-ravaged one at that, lacking business savvy, the deputy mayor of Paris has said.

Anne Hidalgo's extraordinary attack may have been provoked by Boris Johnson's recent boast that London was "the greatest city on the planet". Then again, it could have been sparked by an article in City AM that warned France's "failed socialist experiment is turning into a tragedy".

Or perhaps Hidalgo, a socialist, is simply a little fraught after a week in which her president has become a global laughing stock.

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Either way, Hidalgo's comments are unlikely to go unanswered by Johnson, particularly as the mayor of London is still on a high after recent figures revealed that nearly 4.9 million people visited London between July and September last year, a 20 per cent increase.

But London's popularity has gone down like a French credit rating on the other side of the Channel with Hidalgo letting rip to startled reporters at the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris.

"London is in some ways a suburb of Paris," sniffed the 54-year-old.

Warming to her topic she rubbished Johnson's claims that London was the best city in the world. "Boris Johnson boasts about the merits of London in different way to the French, and Parisians," said Hidalgo. "Like it or not, while London may have attracted more visitors around the Olympic Games, Paris remains the number one world tourist destination, even if we only include foreign visitors and not national ones."

The deputy mayor then turned her attention to crime, saying: "Paris is a safer city than London. There is four times less crime in Paris than in London."

In addition, Paris is more commercially-minded, she claimed, with "more shops opened on Sundays than London, as we have succeeded in saving a network of local shops and markets that London simply doesn't have". And as for business, Paris "creates more start-ups than London".

Hidalgo was obviously playing to the gallery in her attack - the Spanish-born deputy mayor is the Socialist party's candidate in March's Paris mayoral elections but is facing stiff competition from centre-right rising star Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the 40-year-old UMP candidate whose campaign is gathering momentum.

What Hidalgo didn't mention was the almost weekly series of strikes that in recent months have disrupted the French capital, nor the increasing violence in Paris that last year saw Le Comité Colbert, an organisation of 75 luxury brands, warn that the city was fast gaining a reputation for crime. And not surprisingly she steered clear of talking about the difficulties of trying to hail a cab in Paris after midnight, something that even locals admit is a nightmare.

Nor did she have much to say about the estimated 400,000 French people living in London, most of them fleeing the Socialist government's swingeing 75 per cent tax rate on high earners.

If London is a suburb of Paris then it's très populaire.

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