The following was written by T J D | @elephantlass
We are divided by class, not geography
I live in the prosperous South East so naturally, like everyone else here, I vote Tory and despise the sick, the unemployed and all northerners. And the Scots, Irish, and Welsh, all of whom form a great amorphous, whinging, freeloading, common mass in my fevered imagination. I worship money, Her Majesty, the aristocracy, fox hunting and Fortnum & Mason, read the Daily Mail and think women belong in the kitchen, should stop complaining, dress modestly, wear sensible shoes and be grateful for the equal rights that have been so generously bestowed upon them. And although I quite understand why migrants would want to come here, I firmly believe we have no room for their sort as the country is full; and anyway, I fear that at least one of my houses will somehow lose its wonderfully inflated value if they do…
Some kind of nothingness
Yeah, right. I do live in the prosperous South East and have done so all my life. I am the daughter of Irish Immigrants and was born in the East End of London way before it was a fashionable place to live (always *slightly* ahead of the curve, you see). We moved to Hampshire when I was a teenager and, for the majority of the time since then, I have lived in one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Maria Miller was re-elected as our glorious representative here in May, albeit with a reduced majority, despite ‘overclaiming’ £45,000 in expenses and wrongly designating her house in London as her second home (don’t you just hate it when you accidentally do that!). She successfully argued that she should only have to repay £8,500 of this; oddly, this argument that doesn’t seem to work quite so well for housing benefit claimants facing eviction due to the spare bedroom tax. She was preceded by David Mitchell, a patrician, pompous and patronising old school Tory, and father of the really rather ridiculous Andrew Mitchell of ‘plebgate’ fame. Our MP in London was Norman Tebbit, who was succeeded by Ian Duncan Smith, of whom the less said the better.
So apart from after the recent Labour Party leadership contest, I have never experienced the extraordinary thrill that goes with voting for a winning candidate. Maybe that’s why I am so fired up by the result of that election; there is a special type of dopamine released in these circumstances, I think, and having experienced its effects, I am keen for another hit. (My name is elephantlass and I am a dopamine addict.)
Anyway, despite the popular view of the South East as a region uniformly populated by wealthy hedge fund managers, stockbrokers and entrepreneurs, there are real areas of poverty and deprivation here. Lambeth is one of the most deprived boroughs in Europe, despite only being a stone’s throw from leafy Clapham, while Bethnal Green has a child poverty rating of 49%, compared to 35% in Middlesbrough. Disability and illness are no respecters of geography and you are as likely to have multiple sclerosis in Maidstone as in Manchester, while schizophrenia affects people in Southampton every bit as much as in Sunderland. Zero hours, minimum wage working conditions are the norm here, in the same way as they are nationally, when jobs are available. But housing costs are far higher here so it could be argued that the ‘in-work poor’ are far worse off here than elsewhere. Affluent areas still have shop workers, waiting staff, dinner ladies and cleaners, and these low income workers must surely struggle more to cover their living costs than those who live in places where housing costs are slightly lower.
It’s not war
This is not to say that one person’s financial struggle is more authentic or deserving than another. Although poverty can be relative, it is still grindingly miserable, draining and depressing, wherever you live and whatever caused it. I just feel those marooned in pools of poverty amidst areas of affluence get a raw deal, both in a financial sense and in the way that they are somehow blamed for electing the current shambles of a government. Yeah, say the rest of these islands, raging and pointing south, it’s their fault that we’re stuck with that ham faced C3PO as Prime Minister. Those stupid southerners are to blame for Boris, his banter and his buffoonish persona, and wholly responsible for ghostfaced Gideon and his evils works too.
Not All Southerners. Only 24% of the vote nationally went to the Tories, and at least some of those who voted Tory live north of Watford. Gideon is MP for Tatton in Cheshire, and last time I looked that wasn’t in the south. Rossendale and Darwen, High Peak and Congleton also returned Tory MPs, despite not being in the home counties so the seeming dichotomy of a northern Tory can’t be as rare as you might have been led to believe.
She is suffering
So, having established that not all southerners benefit from Tory policies and not all northerners vote Labour, where does that leave us? Looking at lazy stereotypes, I think. All stereotypes ultimately are lazy, of course. We are not divided by geography in this country but by class, and concentrating on postcodes distracts from this vital piece of information. I’m not disputing that there are some geographical components to the unfairness we face – the fact that rural Tory councils receive more financial help from the government than inner city Labour councils is one obvious example – but this government thrives on and does everything it can to foster a ‘divide and conquer’ narrative. We are doing their job for them if we start blaming one another for the mess they are creating. All Tory voters have to take equal blame for heaping this rank pile of ordure on our heads, not just those in the south, and all vulnerable people are suffering, not just those in the north. And to get rid of the Tories, their stench of corruption, their love of greed, their ideological plot to roll back the state and their stinking lie of austerity, we have to inspire and enthuse all potential voters, irrespective of postcode, irrespective of past voting history and irrespective of background.
You love us
What unites us is much stronger than what divides us. We need to hold onto this thought so that we can unite and work together in the months and years to come, when debate, engagement and action will be vital in countering the prevailing apathy and despair. I would like to ask those of you lucky enough (in political terms) to live in a Labour stronghold to think kindly of your southern comrades and recognise that your struggle is our struggle too, that we are fighting the same battles as you and hoping for the same outcome. Fairness, equality and a bigger slice of the cake for those who helped to bake it, regardless of where they live, whether it’s a Bakewell tart, a Fat Rascal or a Welsh cake. More cake for all! Now that’s a slogan I can really get behind…
By T J D | @elephantlass
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