Sunday, 21 September 2014

Falling Out With Parris in Clacton

Several weeks ago Matthew Parris, a man who writes like an angel and whose politics I have long admired, really made me angry. I have quoted Mr Parris on this blog many times, including his abhorrence of racism, his despair at the negativity of UKIP and how the Conservative Party must not allow itself to be defined by who we are against.

His rejection of the tattooed, poor, unwell and badly attired voters of Clacton was therefore not only cruel but also flew in the face of almost everything I hoped and thought Mr Parris believed in. Suddenly here was a man whose principled stance against the anger and intolerance of UKIP turned into a man who was happy to parade his own intolerance against people whose lives, clothing, health and house prices didn't meet those of his Soho House friends or the Dockland supper clubs.

It is easy when visiting a town to view it through rose tinted spectacles or equally use intellectual blinkers to enable you to see what you want to see.  Like Mr Parris I had never previously visited Clacton and my six hours pounding the streets yesterday in support of Giles Watling does not give me the knowledge or understanding to write judgementally of an entire community or imply they should be cast into the political wilderness.

I clearly visited a different corner of Clacton than the one visited by Mr Parris. My roads were just like the roads I see every day in Tonbridge, Aylesford, Maidstone or any other corner of Britain. I suspect there are even roads like these in West Derbyshire, too. They are inhabited by decent, proud, hard working people who live by the rules, do the right thing and pay their fair share. They keep their gardens neat and tidy, hide their wheely bins around the side to keep the area looking respectable and I suspect look after their elderly or sick neighbours. They are fundamentally "our" people.

But unlike Mr Parris I am not going to spend a few hours in an unknown town and judge everyone by the few I meet during one fleeting visit. Nor would I ever write off an entire demographic group and all the constituencies where they live, just because they don't quite suit my cosmopolitan world view.

As Mr Parris knows (as he has written about it) political parties in Britain are by necessity a broad church. Our voting system requires us to have coalitions within parties and our winning coalition once included many of those who Mr Parris has derided. We shall struggle to form a majority until we win them back. I suspect much of his majority when he was an MP included the same people he now thinks we should abandon. But then again when it comes to abandoning his electorate in pursuit of self interest, Mr Parris has form.

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