For a thousand years, Hammersmith, as its name suggests, was a proud and independent village, a ham, outside of Londinium, with its own identity, its lords and ladies, its peasants and traditions.
As the great behemoth of Victorian London gobbled up its surrounds, Hammersmith too was drawn in, and now it is a mere inner-urban hub, a confluence of the district and Piccadilly tube lines, of the flyover, of the bus depot, and the thousand streets, home to a hundred nationalities, the poor, weary and huddled streaming into this patch of the great urban nowhere, their hopes, fears and dreams packed in sportsbags, together with a few clothes, and tear-stained letters from places such as Bgolscwocz and Vlmmt.
OK, that’s quite enough of that.
Truly, Hammersmith is a warren, layer upon layer, old Georgian houses, Victorian terraces, council blocks cut through old neighbourhoods, streets of fuming fried chicken shops, and dusty corner shops, peaceful churches in greenish deep-walled yards, one of which, St Paul’s, was hosting a “hustings”, a meet the candidates evening, good old British democracy at its best on, as the poster said, a Thursday evening.
Thursday? The email had said Tuesday. When I went in, an evangelical service was taking place, three people in skivvies up near the ancient altar, behind a keyboard and guitar, more people in skivvies liturgical dancing in the nave, the rood-loft etc. The people at the door approached me with that loving omniphagic smile, which, should you catch it at a low moment, has you selling books at airports four years later, married to a Korean girl.
“Um is this the hustings?”
“The oh never mind.”
The skivvied ones were rotating slowly now, hands in the air, like rotisserie Christians.
I took the national affairs desk to a pub across the road. I looked at the goddam email again. It said Tuesday. Thinks: if only I’d done that cert course in journalism from Taylor’s I would have know to BLOODY PHONE AHEAD.
OK, well Hammersmith was a thriving hub of yadiyadiyadi, so the punters would give us a cross-section of the great British public, and so forth. Right?
“Fwere me I’d stop immigration …”
“Bloody immigration mate that’s the …”
“It’s not that I’m prejudiced but …”
This last guy was black. He was fucking black. His folks must have come straight from Tobago. He sounded like Peter Tosh, baked.
So it’s the same as it is all over. In the hills of Shropshire, in the dark blue Tory shires, in the anonymous expanses of Sarf Lunnnun, everything would be fine if it weren’t for these immigrants.
Has any polity in history ever been more grievously split between its dominant mood, whatever one thinks of it, and its political/admin/media elite? As I’ve said earlier, there’s no point in even trying to analyse the cogency of this position. Although one interesting thing a UK reality show could do would be to run a program called “Nativist World”, set up a whole suburb with no immigrants and prices resulting from that labour shortage in the pubs, and shops, and then see what people think about their world
This fact, this split, should give pause to those who argue, as has your correspondent, that the proportional system that may well come in in the wake of a hung result in this election (and David Cameron is now explicitly discussing the possibility of acceding to this, making the prospect of a LibDem-Con coalition more likely), will favour the left-leaning majority of the British electorate. But it will also strengthen the further right, even the amateurish UKIP, in the way that proportional systems have allowed the far right to develop in Europe.
Either way, the Tory party is in deep shit, having hitherto looked unassailable. It now seems likely that by far the most interesting part of this election will be the days and weeks after, as some sort of maneouvring is done to stitch up a deal.
One would assume at this point, that if such a deal does involve Labour, it would also involve Gordon Brown stepping aside, as the sight of the Lib-Dems re-affirming him in power would be simply too much for the country to bear. I suspect that people would literally be out on the streets.
As this scenario develops, the Tory press has gone ape shit, utterly bonkers. The Sun‘s wheeze has been to call the third party, the Lib-Dums, geddit, geddit, ah you must be an elitist and to suggest that Clegg loves Nazis, because he once referred to Britain’s past transgressions in an admittedly fairly addled way.
This was capped by the now-notorious dummy spit at the Independent offices in Kensington last week, where James Murdoch and News’ Rebekah Brooks stormed in to complain about editor Simon Kelner’s ad campaign “Rupert Murdoch doesn’t decide this election. You do.”
Hilarious stuff. These people don’t have a clue. Murdoch senior looks like a tray of offal in a pub raffle, all wobble and shine. The gormless Tory boys are dancing around like Christian happy-clappies pretending to be trees for Jesus.
But OK, we got out there, we spoke to folks, we even went to some of these terrible St George’s Day celebrations, we heard what the great British public thought: those damnimmigrants.