Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Mrs R knows why Shirley disapproves of Prescott

Mr Prescott, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, took his campaign minibus** to a suburb of Southampton called Shirley, where he and candidate Alan Whitehead were quickly surrounded by crowds of eagerly interested Labour voters
(Picture MattDeanSouthampton)

During the invigorating exchange with the electorate, Messrs Prescott and Whitehead were heckled by local resident Margaret Phillips

(Picture Southern Daily Echo)
Margaret wanted to know "who was regulating the MPs" who, she said *, are
in it for themselves”.
Mr Prescott shouted his response via his microphone, just to make sure everybody could hear him. He didn't try to answer he, he wanted more, and suggested she should
“Come up here and have an argument with us”.
She, in best local tradition, responded with
“Are you going to shout over everyone that disagrees with you?”
A large part of Shirley is real working class you see, and the people there have real working class values too - which includes being polite, saying please and thank you, things like that. They know that, given the chance, unruly teenagers will grow into decent adults, become proud and fiercely independent. Given the chance, of course.

You see, the people of Shirley used to work in places like BAT, or Pirelli. They used to work at Vospers, and they did once build and work (and die) on ships like the Titanic and the more recent ocean going liners as well as Britain's Merchant fleet. These days, though, they might be lucky enough to secure a job in Southampton's burgeoning retail park, the factories have closed, the merchant vessels source their cabin staff, deck and below-deck crew from an international market.

Maybe Margaret Phillips also recalls what happens to people who disagree with Mr Prescott and didn't like the idea of getting too close - just in case. And anyway, there might not have been enough room for her alongside Messrs Prescott and Whitehead on the narrow concrete bench.

Shirley is the town/suburb of Southampton that was used by the BBC to rate the progress and impact of the early recession. They must have thought it was a good idea at the time, but quietly dropped the project. Maybe they did that because it ended up being very negative story.

This chart might go some way towards explaining why Mr Prescott didn't get the outpouring of positive support he had expected.
Mrs Rigby knows where Shirley is you see, she's been there lots of times in the past, but not so much over the last two or three years because it's too far.

Mrs R has used the shops in Shirley. The dozens and dozens of smallish to medium size shops line each side of the long, straight, High Street that must stretch for about a mile. They sell almost everything anybody needs. There are supermarkets too, including a Chinese one, and expensive one with its' own car park. Oh, and there's a pawn shop and quite a few charity shops and some pubs - without gardens.

The Woolworth closed, of course, due to the recession, and a shoe shop and so, presumably, has Ethel Austin.

Shirley did have the advantage of a walk-in health centre where it was possible to be seen by a doctor, or have blood tests taken, without having to battle with receptionists and administrators to make an appointment days or weeks into the future (and then sit and wait for hours before being seen). It was a hugely useful thing, but once useful things like this have been started up they're taken for granted, aren't seen as an innovation and aren't seen as something to be grateful for.

When useful places such as walk-in health centres close, and the first reason given is that it's temporary and because of Bird Flu, but the doors never re-open, then people get irritated - and they know they've been had. Many people in Shirley might be poor, they might be working class - but they're certainly far from stupid, something Labour forgets at its' peril.

The last time Mrs R stopped in Shirley, which was perhaps eighteen months ago, she went into a small, budget, supermarket. All staff bar one female checkout operator were Polish, and only one or two other shoppers were speaking English. Mrs R felt like a foreigner, she felt out of place - which is unusual for the area, because it's always been a mix of nationalities, because of the shipping you see.

That time, in that shop, Mrs R asked a member of staff where something was - he said he didn't speak English and walked away.

The English-speaking checkout operator told Mrs R she was looking for another job, because she was too lonely working there. Mrs R hasn't been back since so doesn't know if the situation has changed, although she did drive along the High Street about six months ago - there were, then, several shops with all signage in Polish, a language that's incomprehensible to the locals.

The aforementioned Chinese supermarket has always been multi-lingual, the staff friendly and welcoming. It's a pity the new 'locals' don't think they need to advertise their wares using the local language.

Perhaps all this is something Mr Prescott didn't know, perhaps it's something his researchers didn't tell him. Perhaps this is why, along with the rocketing unemployment in the area, people like Margaret Phillips - who may come from a long line of Labour voters, with their roots firmly planted in the the labour force of the factories, docks, shipping and shipyards - say they have decided to vote UKIP. They can't, not yet at least, bring themselves to think about voting for either Lib Dem or Conservative.


From this article in the Southern Daily Echo. Read it, and read the comments.

Mrs R notes that the minibus is parked in a bus stop - reserved for buses to pick up and drop off passengers, not for minibuses to be parked for a length of time.
She wonders if it got a parking ticket.

Southampton is split into two constituencies - Southampton Itchen and Southampton Test. The names are taken from the two rivers that pass through the city on their way into the Solent.
John Denham (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) is hoping to retain his majority as MP for Southampton Itchen, whilst Alan Whitehead is aiming to be re-elected for Southampton Test.


No comments: