Populism comes to Leicester

Is Facebook to blame?

Artillery Row

I’m a Londoner. I was born here, and short of being physically repatriated by the Department for Levelling up, I will die here. Staffordshire, Shropshire, Crewe, these phantasms of old England, they suffocate me, leaving me gasping for air.

My nose is accustomed to the smells of the Capital. The aroma of freshly baked Keema samosas, mixed so sweetly with the fumes of idling mopeds which waft down to Islington from Finsbury Park. The Burrito van on Southbank outside of the National Theatre. The food stalls on Strutton ground that I’m slowly working up the courage to visit.

London is the antidote to racism

In no other city in the world could you see a Dutch man eating a Tuna Niçoise salad in Pret A Manger, speaking Korean to a client in Tokyo. 

London is the antidote to racism. If I worked for Prevent, I would take those gangly, pallid, mother’s landlord’s basement-dwelling adolescents on a zones 1-2 tour of the Capital. Camden Market for some Bang-Bang chicken and a pint of Hells. Followed by a trip up to Glasgow. A quick walk around the east-end suburbs, with thick soled shoes for the needles, should dampen enthusiasm for living in an ethnically homogenous country.

Cultural cross-pollination, done properly, means you get all the good stuff — the excellent long distance runners and the spicy chicken with slices of banana — without the bad: the Radical Islam (in moderation, please) and making me feel guilty for letting my dogs off the lead in Regents park. 

It works both ways. Some of the best of British is rubbing off on Brick Lane. Mr and Mrs Shawaz coming back from the Mosque, sitting down for a cup of milky tea and having a moan about the weather. And the council. Bin collections on a bank holiday? Fat chance.

But with the good, has come bad. The frightening scenes in Leicester last weekend are the canary in the coal mine. The poison gas of populism, oozing out of the likes of Tommy Robinson and Mr Farage, has begun to seep into the … the, the, err … the hidden recesses of the South Asian community. 

Some force — we’ll assume Putin for the sake of argument — is using Facebook to cause Division. Stoking tension, and unleashing forces. 

Our opulence would make Vitellius blush

I can’t speak Arabic, or the one they speak in India. But I get the general gist of what those protestors are angry about. Proud ex-miners, to a man, who’ve been let down by us lot, their masters, down south. 

Left behind to fester in poverty in their provincial wastelands, the somewheres, whilst people like me — the wealthy, cultured, sexy international elite — lived in unimaginable excess. Flying to Paris for a croissant. On to Kuala Lumpur for a business lunch, Thai fusion. Vienna for the Philharmonic and a chicken schnitzel, then back to Heathrow for a quick snooze. 

Opulence that would make Vitellius blush, whilst the losers of globalisation, indeed, the losers of life, were stuck up north with smiley faces and fish fingers.

They’re angry. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t got ideas. Haven’t got hope. “We want to work in the industries of the future,” they chant. A Green New Deal, tackling climate whilst providing tens of millions of high tech jobs. Freeports, turning Leicester into the Silicon Valley of Data and AI. Immediate humanitarian relief for the Skills famine. 

How will Britain tackle the rise of populism? As with Anglicanism, and the end of slavery, we’ll find a middle route that ensures minimal disruption to vested interests. Pork Barrel spending in constituencies won by the Conservative 2019 intake. Forcing civil servants in their mid-20s to live in dreary post-industrial towns for three years with the promise of a fast-tracked career. Engineered disputes with the courts over refugees, and a few strong words about the trans issue. 

All of the economic illiteracy of the left without any of the social liberalism. 

The very best of both worlds.

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