Polly Toynbee’s enjoyable rant in the Guardian today, directed first at Boris Johnson, and then with equal venom at Jeremy Corbyn, is a must read. She packs a mean punch does our Polly, as one would expect of the daughter of the great historian Arnold Toynbee, the beneficiary of a public school education (apart from a token spell at the showcase Holland Park Comprehensive), the winner of an Oxford scholarship, and altogether reeking of liberal privilege.

Of course, Labour’s traditional electorate in the north did for them big time by backing Boris Johnson. The great northern seats in Labour’s traditional heartlands – Rother Valley, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Wakefield, Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield, Bassetlaw, Grimsby and Bolsover – fell like ninepins. Yet these bourgeois liberals still do not get it. That traditional working-class labour voters are patriots who want their country back.

And yet, confusingly, I heard yesterday from the resident BBC correspondent in Assam, where protestors are rioting in protest against new laws that would make it easier for illegal migrants (many of them persecuted minorities) from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to claim citizenship, that the indigenous population feels their ‘unique ethnicity and culture’ is under threat from uncontrolled immigration. The sympathies of the correspondent, it seems, are unmistakeably with the Assam people. No talk here of populism or bigotry, or of the benefits of diversity. Funny that.

Imagine a politician here opening their mouths to speak of the ‘unique ethnicity and culture’ of the English. It is unthinkable. Interestingly, the Guardian reporting the same story from Assam chooses to ignore the main cause of the riots and concentrate exclusively on the government’s not extending the right to citizenship to Muslims, which some hold to be in breach of India’s secular constitution – as if the extension of the amnesty to Muslims would assuage the feelings of the indigenous population. Funny that.

However, bourgeois liberal Guardian readers do get the benefit of a more diverse range of views in the admirable comments section of their un-paywalled website. They might just have come across this lucid explanation by jonnyboy62 of why Bolsover elected a Brexiteer Tory:

The Tories don’t give a fuck about Bolsover. One of the reasons the Brexit vote was so strong there is that there has been a huge surge in Eastern European migrants there to work in the distribution centres that are the main employers now after the pits closed and the industry atrophied. Most of those workers are recruited through agencies who recruit directly from abroad and are required to put adds up in the jobs centres but very rarely actually hire staff locally. The influx of workers has led to problems in housing availability as buy to let merchants have come in and converted the housing stock for short term rentals to migrant workers who share sometimes six or seven in a three-bedroom house. So you have a combination of rapid demographic change, shrinking wages and increasing costs which is directly linked to EU membership … I have been really annoyed the past few years when you have someone who is clearly upper middle class asking if “these people realize how the Erasmus system is impacted by Brexit”. No they do not and they would not give a f**k if they did … there are people living in different worlds and it’s only going to get worse after this election.

Does Boris Johnson get it? I don’t think so. The view from the manicured lawn of an Oxfordshire manor house, or the even more manicured quadrangle of an Oxford college, is very different to the view down the high street of a northern town or city suburb. But the wildcard in all this is surely Scotland. The onward march of the SNP appears unstoppable, now up to 45 per cent of the vote – 8 per cent more than two years ago. And with the demographic rise of Sinn Fein, the writing is on the wall in Northern Ireland too. How long will the Union survive? Will the demise of the Union, painful though it will be, not be a blessing in disguise? For if Britain goes, ‘Global Britain’ goes with it.

England may yet rise again.

Author: Alistair Miller

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