Drinking at the Ladbroke Arms


The Ladbroke Arms, Notting Hill. Photograph by Ewan Munro.

From London Review of Books:

The Ladbroke Arms is a pub in Notting Hill known for years as the policemen’s pub. The explanation is obvious: over the road is the local police station. Two decades ago, if you went for a drink near closing time you could count on running into heavy-set men who liked to tell their tales of riot and violence – theirs, other people’s. This was the overwhelming reason for not going to the Ladbroke Arms to have a drink. Now, there are few policemen in the pub, and those that do go aren’t the same as those menacing types of another time. Soon there will be even fewer policemen: the Edwardian station is about to be abandoned as a result of further cuts to police budgets, and because fewer people have reason to call in in person on the police. The footprint of the state is in retreat. The station’s detectives have already moved south to new headquarters on Earls Court Road in advance of the uniformed officers, although one or two occasionally return for an evening at their old bar.

The consequences of the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union can make themselves apparent soon enough almost anywhere. The clientele of the Ladbroke Arms is mostly European – Jacob Rees-Mogg would label such people ‘economic migrants’, the term he favours for anyone from the European Union who isn’t British and who lives and works in Britain. In the Brexit lexicon, anything migrant is suspect – illegal immigration is criminal. As for the Britons who live overseas – 200,000 leave every year – they remain ‘British’, for Rees-Mogg, because of their superior wealth and self-sufficiency. ‘It is the Florida effect,’ he said in a House of Commons speech. ‘People want to go to southern European countries, but they take their wealth with them, which would be welcomed even if we were not members of the EU because poor countries always want to attract rich migrants.’ Which isn’t true: thousands of Britons move abroad to work. Most of the people at the Ladbroke Arms would be amused by this distinction; if self-sufficiency and superior wealth define what it is to be British, then they might claim the same status for themselves.

The pub has become as much a restaurant as it is a place to have a drink. It is owned by Greene King, the brewing company, and run by a Polish woman who lives upstairs. It is full most evenings: customers smoking cigarettes stand on the pavement. One of the barmen is from Stettin – ‘Paris of the Baltic’, as he likes to say – and studied politics at university. Now he is considering becoming a policeman. ‘Where?’ I asked. ‘Here,’ he replied. What happens to ambitions such as his after 2019 I don’t know, though without the Europeans and the policemen, would the Ladbroke Arms survive?

“Short Cuts”, Inigo Thomas, London Review of Books