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Middle England’s immigration referendum

Middle England’s immigration referendum

first_imgUnlike in a regular contest to be an MP, Tom Tugendhat and his campaigners feel In or Out cannot reliably be predicted by class. Not even all of Tonbridge’s immigrants are for In.Trudging, hot, back to the train station I drop into Quality Continental Foods for some water. Half the sign is in Polish. The shop assistant, Johanna Jakubas, 25, cannot speak English. We speak in Russian. “I can’t vote,” she says. “But if I could I would vote to Leave. There are too many immigrants and too many of them are drunks.”* * *The next day, I am still chasing MPs.I drive into Oxfordshire country lanes. Yew trees wrap over hedgerows, as I head towards Witney. This is David Cameron’s constituency and, here too, practically on the prime minister’s front lawn, they are planting their street stalls.I am in pursuit of two Brexiteer MPs. This is Kent, the garden of England, with its weald and cow fields, the England George Orwell wrote was so soft, so still it was as if nothing had ever happened there.Meadows and thickets give way to new-builds and a station in Union Jack bunting. Tonbridge is in the Jaguar and gin belt of Conservative MPs, a wealthy 38,000 people strong commuter town in the blue ring of Home Counties that surround London.Passing a Polish shop, I walk from the station into town. The man I have come to find is hard to miss.The MP for Tonbridge and Malling since 2015 is standing on a tiny bridge distributing Remain leaflets with a jolly big grin. Something big is happening. Something so big he thinks it could damage not only Tonbridge, but London’s place in the world.Seen from the street stalls of Middle England, Britain is tilting towards Brexit. Brexit in Witney is not only for Conservatives. This is the dream of so many other dreamers, devastated by what they see as a loss of England.Colin Bex, 76, clutches an ancient, auld Anglo-Saxon flag of a yellow dragon. He’s a Brexiteer and longtime campaigner from the Wessex Regionalists. “If we look back over 30 years,” says Bex. “We’ve had in effect a peaceful invasion from all over the world. Now all our structures of government and bureaucracy are infiltrated by people from all over the world.”I look around. Bone and Pursglove have already gone. Solemnly, Brexiteers disperse clutching wads of electric-green Grassroots Out leaflets. Some wander towards St. Mary’s Church, where a cardboard cutout of the Queen is propped up at the entrance to a royal birthday fete, others towards the High Street, where a Queen’s birthday street party is underway, complete with a clown. All trudge out happy, with the look in their eyes of people defending something huge — an idea of England.Ben Judah is a contributing writer at POLITICO. Rachel Judah filmed and edited the videos included in this article. Also On POLITICO UNREALITY CHECK In case of Brexit … By Craig Winneker But what line has got Leave ahead in Tonbridge?“The fundamental line that’s cutting through on the Leave campaign,” he says, “is of course on immigration.”“So it’s quite clear that the Leave campaign’s fundamental line is one for insularity. They talk of course about wanting to play a part in the world, but that’s incompatible with cutting yourself off from your nearest neighbors and cutting yourself off from migration.”Midges rise up from the murk of the river, which curves in front of the slumped Plantagenet walls of Tonbridge Castle behind us.“I think this is most importantly a question of identity,” he says, explaining this is why he disagrees with the Remain campaign’s relentless focus on facts and figures. So what principle is he fighting for with Remain? Tom Tugendhat MP: Politico road trip from POLITICO Europe on Vimeo.“When you look at a castle like that, that was built by foreigners in our land, but we couldn’t now identify those are foreigners but of course the Norman Kings became English Kings,” says Tugendhat, glancing behind at the ruins.  “When you look at the changes that our society has seen over the last 400 or 500 years with the arrival of everyone from Dutch Protestants to Huguenots to, you know, Jews, to Bangladeshis — we’ve seen a remarkable change in our society in the last 50, 100, 300 years, so what I’m arguing is a principle of who we are as a people, and I think we are a fair, a tolerant and an open society.”“I know I shouldn’t say it because I work in France sometimes … but we ought to flood the Channel Tunnel” — Raymond Hurst, 58-year-old gardenerCan the Remain campaign still win?“The Remain campaign will win Middle England more by watching the Leave campaign be overtaken by the migration debate. The reality is that the migration debate doesn’t sound fair or tolerant.”This is the weekend of the Queen’s official 90th birthday celebration, and I leave Tugendhat as he readies to rush off to make a speech at one of many birthday fetes happening in Tonbridge. “This is a radicals coup d’état in the party” — pro-Remain Tory MPFamilies pass us, cycling towards the church.I start talking to Bone, who has served as MP for Wellingborough since 2005. He is wearing a blue pinstripe suit, a purple shirt and a black and electric-green Grassroots Out tie.Peter Bone MP: Politico road trip from POLITICO Europe on Vimeo.In 1995 Bone was called the “Meanest boss in Britain” by the Daily Mirror for paying a 17-year-old trainee 87p an hour. But how do Witney’s Brexiteers see it?I start chatting to the activists. Immigration is their motivator, their organizer — but not their only point. There is a keen, anguished sense, on the wet Witney Church green, that there is something horrific in having rules set by others.Here, a stone’s throw from The Fleece, the prime minister’s favorite pub, an anti-Cameron party of Conservatives is gathering. Witney’s own Brexit campaigners hold no respect for him whatsoever, viewing him somewhere on a spectrum from coward to traitor.“Well I have to say, I voted for him, I thought he was a good bloke, but I think he sold us down the river,” said Lyn Imesam, 66, a copyeditor. “I think he betrayed us and should go.”Two silver-haired men nod, saddened by it all.“I think he’s at heart a Brexiteer, for leaving, but he thought that Remain would win this and he likes to be on the winning side,” says Barclay Lawrence, 68, a retired schoolteacher. In or Out cannot reliably be predicted by class. Not even all of Tonbridge’s immigrants are for In.I stroll towards the Norman castle. On a bench under the wall, I meet Betty Woodgate. The 83-year-old grandmother tells me she felt lonely at home so went for a walk along the river, but this heat has tired her out. She is leaning Out.“To start with I was very much for In,” she says, “but I’m having my doubts now over certain issues.”England has changed so very fast, she says. Betty was a Kent farmer’s secretary. Back when she started it was students who picked hops but now it is Poles. “I would hate this country not to be British,” she says. “Not to have our monarchy, not to have our traditions … being the age I am, especially this weekend you look at it, how we love the Queen, and our monarchy.”Only one thing could sway her back to Remain.“It’s my age group,” she said. The generation that remembers the war and “that’s more worried than anything. I’d like to know what my grandchildren think … They’re in their 20s and I feel it’s the young people now who are going to be affected by anything anybody does.” Families and ice creams are out. Remain campaigners feel up against it. Pacing up and down Tonbridge high street in a muggy heat, from the sweet shop packed with jars to the Pizza Express, I fast learn why. I ask 100 people how they intend to vote: 42 are for Leave, 26 for Remain, 10 don’t know, 15 won’t vote and 7 tell me they are immigrants without the right to vote.A man walks past a campaign poster by the “Leave.EU” campaign group in central London | Leon Neal/AFP via Getty imagesTonbridge’s swing to Leave feels recent, soft, confused. Instead of winning (or destroying) each other’s big number claims the Leave and Remain camps here seem to have accidentally discredited all claims and grand assertions. “I don’t trust anyone now,” says Colin Briggs, 52, an IT manager. “All politicians have been lying, scaremongering. It’s so confusing.”I stroll on. Sitting on the next bench I meet Tony Pankhurst, 51, who introduces himself as an actor. His latest role had been as “granddad” in a National Express coach advert.“I’ve not really decided, and I’m very confused,” he says. “But I don’t like immigration. Too many people coming taking our jobs, too many people coming taking our housing.”Hazy light turns the River Medway brown, then green. The town is here, because the castle is here, and that is here because this bend of the river was the furthest point a Norman longship could be sailed inland from the sea.Tony says he feels worried about England, as children play by the old moat. A child screams after kicking a flimsy red ball into the water. “I think we’re losing our identity,” he says. “I remember back to the years of Enoch Powell. At the time he was saying if we’re not careful we will no longer be our own country and we will be people within a country … English in a foreign country … at the time people shot him down and went what a racist he was and how terrible he was for saying it, but over a period of time he was absolutely right in what he said.”“In the old case it was ‘the economy, stupid,’ but in this case it’s basically, ‘it’s immigration, stupid.’ This is the issue. The real issue” — Peter Bone, pro-Brexit MPIn 1968 the Conservative MP Enoch Powell gave perhaps the second-most famous speech in 20th century British politics after Churchill’s entreaty to “fight them on the beaches.” Powell’s is still known as “the rivers of blood,” his warning of the dangers of, in particular, non-white immigration. He was passionately anti-EU.On the bridge over the Medway, I met Joe Roberts, a 23-year-old medical student eating a sandwich. “I’m Remain, definitely,” he says. “Because the world’s very connected today and you have to stay connected.” He sighs when I tell him what most of Tonbridge says about “the foreigners.”“Well,” he says, putting aside his sandwich. “I think people are moving around a lot more these days and I think it’s only natural for more foreign people to be here … I’m happy on the whole with immigration, as it’s really good I can go over to Europe and go interrailing.”On the other side of the river, I find a gardener and a sales assistant having a pint.center_img The MP says he is going to win. He also looks and sounds like he is going to win. He says that everything in British and American politics right now, from Donald Trump to Jeremy Corbyn, points to the big, huge, shock — and an imminent Brexit.“Let’s be honest about it,” says Bone. ”There is one reason over the other [reasons], and that’s immigration. A third of a million people are coming into the United Kingdom every year. That is not sustainable. The only way we can control it is by coming out of the EU.”Bone smiles.“In the old case it was ‘the economy, stupid,’ but in this case it’s … basically … ‘it’s immigration, stupid.’ This is the issue. The real issue.”It is perfectly clear to him this is not just Middle England’s EU referendum, this is Middle England’s immigration referendum.I ask: What is the worst-case scenario with such uncontrolled immigration continuing? Just before leaving, the MP says:“They are not voting a racist ticket,” he says. “They are trying to reach an answer of what it means to be from these Islands in a world that is changing very, very fast.”* * *Changed it has.Tonbridge used to commute into a cockney London — a city that looked like Tonbridge. Now it commutes 43 minutes into a London it hardly recognizes.In 1975 London was 85 percent white British; by 2011 the share had fallen to 45 percent. In 1945 there were fewer than 10,000 non-white people in Britain. By 2011 just shy of 13 percent of the population was non-white and by 2050 ethnic minorities are projected to reach 30 percent of the population. “You can argue as much as you like if it’s £377 million, £350 million, £300 million — you can argue about the figures … But think about the indirect costs as well … the £350 million, the £377 million, £300 million just relates to the annual sum … but we also pay a billion a year into President Juncker’s slush fund …we pay a billion a year into the EU Central Bank …we have additional costs lumped on top of our civil service as a result of trying to implement EU diktats … So really that annual sum is a bit of a sideshow because the indirect costs attached to our membership are astronomical.”The gathered cheer, astonished, worried about these vast sums. Pursglove’s argument references the Out campaign’s claim that Britain contributes £350 million per week towards the European Union. The number is inaccurate. The actual number is £276 million. But he is right: Numbers do not matter here.What are his views on immigration?“I want to leave the single market,” he says to me. “As this is the only way to control immigration.”I ask: How do you react to those who say this is xenophobic? “Outrageous! What we want is a points-based system that does not discriminate between anyone wherever he comes from — so we can have more Commonwealth nurses, Indian doctors and people Australians, and not be forced to take people who are contributing less to our economy.”Pursglove looks to Bone, who makes several tender jokes about his 27 years of age. Pursglove grins somewhere between irritation and affection. Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove are a double act. A somewhat unusual double act. Bone is 63 and Pursglove 27. Together they are touring the country to make the case for what their Grassroots Out campaign call “Independence.”I look at my watch. I have to hurry. Bone and Pursglove are only here for an hour before they drive on, deeper into Middle England.The car turns, zips through streets of slate roofs and pinkish stone, where Argos and Robert Dyas utilities stores nestle beneath crooked timbers.A pub sign hangs near a row of traditional houses in Witney, a town in the constituency of British PM David Cameron |Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesThe green opens up in front of me, ringed by rustling trees, stretching to the church, a modest, but proud, steeple rising in front of monkey-puzzle trees. Drizzle is falling.A ring of some 30, mostly grey and bald heads, ring Bone and Pursglove, nodding in devoted determination. The wet will not stop them.Pursglove, the MP for Corby since 2015, is speaking to the crowd. He raises his voice. * * *Tom Tugendhat, 42, is the kind of Englishman who, a century ago, would have administered a swathe of the earth. The Conservative MP is a former army officer, a fluent Arabic speaker and ranked lieutenant colonel in Britain’s Intelligence Corps. He saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan.The MP is convinced Brexit would wreck London’s role as the world’s financial capital, cripple Tonbridge’s economy and diminish Britain’s influence in Europe. “It will damage our alliances,” he says. “And I can tell you, going to war without allies is not something you want to do.”Tugendhat, the nephew of former British EU Commissioner Christopher Tugendhat, thinks Brexit would also send sterling tumbling. But his message for the people of Tonbridge is adamantly not a facts-and-figures case like the prime minister’s. “For me the fundamental argument is one of principle,” says Tudenghat. “Leave are promising contradictory things.”People are tending towards Out because it sells Brexit as two different things at once. “There are people in the Leave camp arguing a very racist, anti-immigrant platform,” says Tugendhat. “And those arguing a very internationalist, open platform.”Brexiteers are now promising voters both open borders and drawbridge borders — “that’s totally, completely in contradiction!” “There is a recipe for having down the road civil disobedience and unrest … it’s very … ‘un-British’ … But if you think a third of a million coming in every year uncontrolled largely from people who are largely … um … not particularly contributing … to the economy, I think there’s a problem there.”And David Cameron, what about him?“If we win,” he says. “I think he would want to go.” He pauses. “Nobody knows what will happen in the Conservative Party.”My phone vibrates, by chance it’s a Number 10 source. I relay Bone’s prediction if the referendum delivers Brexit. “We’ll all be out of here in minutes.” Afterwards, I remember what a Remain Tory MP told me some days before. “This is a radicals coup d’état in the party.”Tom Pursglove MP – Politico Road trip from POLITICO Europe on Vimeo. “You go to Maidstone, nobody speaks English,” says Raymond Hurst, 58, the gardener. “Go anywhere now. I’m from Huddersfield in Yorkshire, it’s just Poles, Polish shops are opening up, if we stay in the Union, we’re letting more and more … there are 6,000 murderers on the street … they don’t know where they are!”“It’s not England anymore,” says Daniel Cresey, the 43-year-old sales assistant. “All the cockneys from London, they moved out of London. There’s no whites … It’s not like I’m prejudiced … but there are no whites left in London.”The gardener is indignant about farmers. “He’s [saying] … who’s going to pick his crops. Who picked them before?”The sales assistant jumps in: “In World War Two all our granddads fought to keep Hitler out. And now we’re letting them in.”“I shouldn’t say,” says the gardener. “And I know I shouldn’t say it because I work in France sometimes … but we ought to flood the Channel Tunnel. Do you remember when they opened the Channel Tunnel not even a rat could get down, without being detected. All of a sudden now there’s migrants coming down.”The vagueness, the enormity of the referendum, feels entirely different in Tonbridge from the elections the local politicians are used to. TONBRIDGE, U.K. — This is Middle England, the England of garden centers and patio doors, the commuter’s England that all politicians dream of winning.Nobody knows where Middle England begins, I muse as the train pulls into Tonbridge, but they always know when they encounter it.last_img read more

Heaven Blessed: Watch Ramin Karimloo, Alfie Boe & More Sing ‘Bring Him Home’ in Support of Healthcare Workers

Heaven Blessed: Watch Ramin Karimloo, Alfie Boe & More Sing ‘Bring Him Home’ in Support of Healthcare Workers

first_img View Comments Broadway alums and former Jean Valjeans Ramin Karimloo, Alfie Boe and John Owen-Jones, as well as a host of West End Les Misérables veterans, sang “Bring Him Home” on the UK chat show This Morning on March 30. The troupe, led by the U.K. boy band of former Jean Valjeans The Barricade Boys—seriously, can we get an Altar Boyz revival going with these guys?—sang the tearjerker in support of healthcare workers who are risking their lives to stop the spread of coronavirus. Watch the performance below—and remember that there was a time when the world was a song, and the song was exciting (oops, wrong Les Miz character). Video Player is loading.Play VideoPlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 3:50Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -3:50 Playback Rate1xChaptersChaptersDescriptionsdescriptions off, selectedCaptionscaptions settings, opens captions settings dialogcaptions off, selectedAudio Tracken (Main), selectedFullscreenThis is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window.Close Modal DialogThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button. Star Files Ramin Karimloo Ramin Karimloo, who starred as Jean Valjean in the 2014 Broadway revival of “Les Misérables”last_img read more

Academy U18 duo suffer defeats in international series openers

Academy U18 duo suffer defeats in international series openers

first_imgBates was a second-half substitute as England were defeated 41-21 by France, while Lloyd started at full-back as a late try condemned Wales to 43-40 defeat to host South Africa in a high-scoring thriller.Trailing 31-0 at the break, England scored three second half tries through George Martin, Josh Gillespie and Raphael Quirke to reduce the deficit.Wales U18 were cruelly denied the perfect start to the U18 International Series by South Africa Schools after it looked like they had snatched victory at the death.Scarlets flanker Jac Morgan looked as if he had capped off the perfect end to an enthralling encounter when he caught South Africa napping to crash over with two minutes to go. But SA Schools replacement Jurich Claasens found a hole in the Wales defence to seal a 43-40 triumph at Boland Landbou.England and Wales face off in Stellenberg on Tuesday (August 14th, 1.15pm BST, live on S4C).last_img read more

Pacemen promise bruising South Africa-Australia Test series

Pacemen promise bruising South Africa-Australia Test series

first_imgBy Mark GleesonDURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – The pace attacks of South Africa and Australia are preparing to slug it out for supremacy in what is likely to be a bruising four-Test series over the next five weeks.The countries will pin their hopes of victory on their quicks with seamer-friendly wickets on order for the Tests in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg, and the contests set to be dominated by fiery exchanges of fast bowling.The series between the world’s second and third-ranked teams starts tomorrow with the first Test at Kingsmead in Durban and both countries brimming with confidence after success in their last respective series.South Africa’s bowlers struck fear into India in their opening two Tests in January before the tourists settled in and won a consolation game in the three-match series.This was achieved without injury-plagued veteran Dale Steyn but Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada proved a potent trio, supplemented by the arrival on the Test scene of 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi.He took nine wickets in the last two Tests against India at an average of 17.22 and reached speeds of 150 km/h.Australia produced record-breaking bowling performances as they thumped England 4-0 in the five-Test Ashes series from November to January. Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc took 20 or more wickets each, as did spinner Nathan Lyon.“I think there’s always a couple of series a year the whole cricketing world turns to and it feels like this series is going to be one,” said Cummins after Australia won a three-day warm-up against South Africa-A at the weekend.“I feel like we play a similar brand of cricket;, both try and be quite aggressive and brave and take the game on. Both teams have some fast bowlers that want to intimidate the batsmen.”Batting reputations will be tested with Australia captain Steve Smith the primary target for the home bowlers and the hosts looking to exploit some indifferent form of late, displayed by talisman AB de Villiers for the South Africans.An injury to his right index finger has kept de Villiers out for the last fortnight, along with captain Faf du Plessis who has a finger injury of his own to add to recent back ailments.But both are in the South Africa squad for the first two Tests and will be the mainstay of the home batting lineup.last_img read more

Willian completes his move to Chelsea

Willian completes his move to Chelsea

first_imgYTo4OntzOjk6IndpZGdldF9pZCI7czoyMDoid3lzaWphLW5sLTEzNTI0NjE4NjkiO3M6NToibGlzdHMiO2E6MTp7aTowO3M6MToiMyI7fXM6MTA6Imxpc3RzX25hbWUiO2E6MTp7aTozO3M6MjI6Ildlc3QgTG9uZG9uIFNwb3J0IGxpc3QiO31zOjEyOiJhdXRvcmVnaXN0ZXIiO3M6MTc6Im5vdF9hdXRvX3JlZ2lzdGVyIjtzOjEyOiJsYWJlbHN3aXRoaW4iO3M6MTM6ImxhYmVsc193aXRoaW4iO3M6Njoic3VibWl0IjtzOjMzOiJTdWJzY3JpYmUgdG8gb3VyIGRhaWx5IG5ld3NsZXR0ZXIiO3M6Nzoic3VjY2VzcyI7czoyODM6IlRoYW5rIHlvdSEgUGxlYXNlIGNoZWNrIHlvdXIgaW5ib3ggaW4gb3JkZXIgdG8gY29uZmlybSB5b3VyIHN1YnNjcmlwdGlvbi4gSWYgeW91IGRvbid0IHNlZSBhbiBlLW1haWwgZnJvbSB1cywgY2hlY2sgeW91ciBzcGFtIGZvbGRlci4gSWYgeW91IHN0aWxsIGhhdmVuJ3QgcmVjZWl2ZWQgYSBjb25maXJtYXRpb24gbWVzc2FnZSwgcGxlYXNlIGUtbWFpbCBmZWVkYmFja0B3ZXN0bG9uZG9uc3BvcnQuY29tIGFuZCB0ZWxsIHVzIHlvdSB3aXNoIHRvIHN1YnNjcmliZSB0byBvdXIgbmV3c2xldHRlci4iO3M6MTI6ImN1c3RvbWZpZWxkcyI7YToxOntzOjU6ImVtYWlsIjthOjE6e3M6NToibGFiZWwiO3M6NToiRW1haWwiO319fQ== Chelsea have formally completed the signing of Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala after the Brazil star was granted a work permit.The 25-year-old attacking midfielder was a target for Tottenham and underwent a medical ahead of an expected move to White Hart Lane.But he always favoured a switch to Chelsea, who were interested in signing him before he moved from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.AdChoices广告Willian, who has agreed a five-year contract, becomes the Blues’ third major summer signing following the captures of Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel. See also:Willian agrees new Chelsea contractcenter_img Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more