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April 25, 2015 3:58 AM   Subscribe

In Grimsby, the former fishing capital of England, sandpipers scurry across the tarmac of derelict streets. The sandpiper isn’t a creature of asphalt and paving. It’s a small white-breasted bird usually to be found foraging on British foreshores in groups of twenty or so, scuttling up and down sandy beaches as the foaming forward edge of the sea roars in and hisses back. I’d come to Grimsby to see why, after seventy years of voting Labour, the town was flirting with the United Kingdom Independence Party. After a while I began wondering what had happened to make Grimsby a wild and lonely enough place for the sandpiper to feel at home. It turns out the reason is the same. Someone, or something, abdicated power in Grimsby, leaving swathes of it to rot. But who, or what? And what will the succession be?
James Meek in the LRB provides an indepth look at the problems of one northern town, featuring the decline of the fisheries, the hopes resting on new offshore wind energy parks revitalising the town, the difference between Victorian local capitalism and contemporary pension fund driven global capitalism, the leftwing grassroots Ukip campaigners trying to end the dominance of Labour and their parachuted in candidate with a campaign manager engaged to the local candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, heardheaded Greens, the withdrawal of the State and the hollowing out of local control of everyday necessities needed for any town to flourish.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
"...the leftwing grassroots Ukip campaigners..."

I haven't read this yet, but my skim to clarify that bit you wrote seems to indicate that you are referring to the discussion of leftist euroskeptics who find themselves drawn to UKIP, despite the fact that UKIP is right-wing?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:47 AM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have personal experience of Grimsby, and I found this article to be very good. Much of the Humber area of Grimsby, Hull, Scunthorpe, and Goole, is in the same position. It is interesting to see just how much industry there can be in one place yet without any real prosperity.
posted by Thing at 4:49 AM on April 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


More or less. Local ex-Labourites who don't care about immigration so much as nobody sane is coming to Grimsby anyway, but who are somewhat miffed at both Labour and the Tories.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:50 AM on April 25, 2015


So, life in a northern town, is hard?

In all serious, modern democracy is confusing. And maybe doesn't work.
I'm sure that going all Vengence on Varos doesn't work either, but it seems the political cycle sucks. And life sucks.
And a person voted in for 2015 may have completely differently priorities in 2016.
posted by Mezentian at 5:32 AM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


...with the value of the catch engraved down to the last pound: £311,666. As the skipper, Hardie got five per cent, minus five per cent of the cost of the trip – a haul, for three weeks’ work
Assuming a rough cost of £1000/tonne in 1975 that makes for a haul of around 15 tonnes per day.

The overfishing problems have nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with improved radar and huge ships which can trawl 250 tonnes of fish per day
posted by Lanark at 5:46 AM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aren't Ukip, like, fascists? Richard Seymour just had an article talking about where Ukip actually seems to be drawing most of its votes, and it does not appear to be directly from Labor.

I could be wrong but I have gotten the impression from following this a bit that there are a lot of people outside Ukip (and outside Labor) who want to rebrand it as the party of the forgotten white working class, and that there's been quite an effort in the BBC (a couple of television series, for example) and elsewhere to create this narrative of a purely white, racially conservative working class who are being betrayed by left multiculturalism - they're not racists, just betrayed. And this is part of the general push against "scroungers" and "chavs" and so on, who are either portrayed as white lumpen or racialized as foreigners or roma or whatever.
posted by Frowner at 5:56 AM on April 25, 2015


There are a lot of old-Labour supporters now supporting UKIP, which isn't all that surprising if you can remember how anti-EU pre-Kinnock Labour used to be. As the article touches on, a lot of those people see the anti-immigrant right-wing components of UKIP as some sort of localised aberration that will be sorted out over time. UKIP is more complex and chaotic than the media paints it.

Economic drivers are mostly cyclical or, to be more accurate, pulses with durations that can stretch from decades to centuries. When the tide recedes, you're left with communities that have evolved to fit the peak, but rarely with something else to go to locally or the ability to move elsewhere. Politics controlling capitalism is a really bad tool to fix this, but it's the only game in town; politics driven by capitalism is no tool at all. Which is why it's failing so much of the country.

It's fascinating to compare English and Scottish politics at the moment. The SNP is absolutely rampant north of the Border; the polls are unbelievable to the point of fantasy, yet they're solid and have been for many months. Take away the independence factor - this isn't an election about Scottish independence, the SNP isn't banging that drum nearly as loudly as the Westminster unionists - and the SNP is a good old-fashioned left-of-centre look-after-the-people-but-dont-frighten-the-horses party. It has absolutely no equivalent in the south, yet there's not some magic boundary where people stop believing in such ideas. And there are experiments such as the Common Weal in non-partisan political reform, which haven't found anything like that level of cohesion and drive elsewhere.

It feels to me that the whole mess of English politics is waiting for the right seed-crystal to drop in to pull an English SNP out of solution, and that the north of England - which absolutely has its own politics and culture capable of independent expression - could be the first place this happens. Amd. ironically, that could be the thing that saves the Union...

But nobody knows what's going to happen after the election, except that it's going to be the most disruptive since 1979.
posted by Devonian at 6:12 AM on April 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


- and the SNP is a good old-fashioned left-of-centre look-after-the-people-but-dont-frighten-the-horses party. ......... It feels to me that the whole mess of English politics is waiting for the right seed-crystal to drop in to pull an English SNP out of solution, ...

please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please
posted by lalochezia at 6:16 AM on April 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aren't Ukip, like, fascists? Richard Seymour just had an article talking about where Ukip actually seems to be drawing most of its votes, and it does not appear to be directly from Labor

Ukip, fascists? It depends what you mean or understand as fascists.

Reading the link, the authors' primary argument is that "disaffected core voters left Labour in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 and went to other parties—or simply stopped voting." Ukip has since attracted some/many of those disaffected former Labour voters, particularly from the Conservatives.
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:18 AM on April 25, 2015


This is presumably the reference for fake Grimsby as discussed previously?
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:51 AM on April 25, 2015


MartinWisse, thanks for the post. That James Meek piece is a mighty fine work of journalism.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:19 AM on April 25, 2015


the SNP is a good old-fashioned left-of-centre look-after-the-people-but-dont-frighten-the-horses party

Well, Nicola Sturgeon says "progressive" and "Trident" a lot, but the upshot of the SNP's years in power has been a 1% real term fall in NHS spending, rather than the 4 to 5% increase the NHS in England and Wales has seen (under the "pro-austerity" Tories) since 2009. It's now harder for a poor person to go to university in Scotland than an equally-poor person in England, whereas the opposite used to be the case. This is despite Scotland being guaranteed 18% higher public spending per capita than England, and the freedom to choose where that money is spent.

Both Sturgeon and John Swinney have been unable in recent interviews to name a single redistributive policy they have enacted in government, have failed to use any of the tax-altering powers at their disposal, and have prevented councils from raising local taxes. Their manifesto now envisages a lower level of spending by the end of the next parliament than Labour's plans.

This is a lamentable record for a party that claims to be progressive and to somehow be to the left of Labour. There has never been a party with such disparity between rhetoric and reality.

the whole mess of English politics is waiting for the right seed-crystal to drop in to pull an English SNP out of solution

An upsurge in populism and tribal nationalism tied to fantasy-land economic plans, contempt for evidence, and a massive decline in political civility, honesty and solidarity? Please please please NO. Those of us on the left should be terrified of the sort of politics the SNP's rise presages.
posted by sobarel at 7:24 AM on April 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ukip, fascists? It depends what you mean or understand as fascists.
I was having that conversation with myself last week as it happens. I described UKIP as fascists on Twitter because instinctively they seem to embody many of the characteristics of what I've been conditioned to consider "fascist". But I realised I wasn't actually sure I understood what the term meant, it's largely a term I'm familiar with from popular culture, and I was drawing on things like their chilling attitude to the media and dissent from their opinions. I consulted Wikipedia (yeah, I know) and it said: "Fascism... is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism... combining more typically right-wing positions with elements of left-wing politics, in opposition to liberalism, Marxism, and traditional conservatism.". And I thought, so, yeah, I was right, they are fascists. Ot, at least, quasi fascist?
posted by chill at 8:30 AM on April 25, 2015


they are fascists. Ot, at least, quasi fascist?

How about... Poujadist
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:19 AM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


As linked from a UK general election thread.
posted by Wordshore at 9:23 AM on April 25, 2015


But what does Anonymous from Grimsby say on the matter?
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:33 AM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great article, thanks. The comments on masculinity and identity I thought were particularly interesting.
posted by alasdair at 1:21 PM on April 25, 2015


What a refreshingly well written article, with some very good quotes.
Their world has been destroyed, largely by Thatcherism, but also by us.
We went along with this free market economics, we believed we had a new paradigm and would have exponential growth, and we were wrong.

So once again politicians fail their electorate both Nationally and locally.
"The great abdication in Grimsby has been of power itself, local power, that essential trinity of access to resources; inspired, ruthless marshalling of effort; and care for what local people think." What happened to the maxim that all politics is local?
And this sums up the intelligence of UKIP and it's followers who probably all nod sagely
What happens when the renewables run out?
posted by adamvasco at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2015


I'm sure the first UKIP Prime Minister will make a solid partner with President Rand Paul.

What happens when the renewables run out?
If you're running out of "renewable power", aka "Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy and ocean power", you are SO doing it wrong...
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2015


It's now harder for a poor person to go to university in Scotland than an equally-poor person in England, whereas the opposite used to be the case.

I'm curious: what are the specific barriers for poor people to access university in Scotland? I always assumed that it was easier there, without tuition fees, but I guess I was wrong.
posted by jb at 4:45 PM on April 25, 2015


jb you might find this useful - Long slow road to university access for poorer students

The ratio of admissions to selective universities of rich to poor also varies by country. In Northern Ireland a well-off 18-year-old is seven times more likely to get access to a selective university than a less well-off youth.
This ratio is 4.5 in Scotland and 5 in Wales. In England, the entry ratio has fallen from 9.2 in 2006 to 6.2 in 2014. Overall the ratio has been falling across the UK. But some say not it has not been falling fast enough.


That article has a lot of useful detail on the complexity of the subject and difficulty of making comparisons across the UK nations.
posted by Flitcraft at 7:24 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


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