Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Blogpost-EU Referendum-When Thurrock feared the white working classes moving in…

Blogpost-By Mick Hall

WHEN I first moved to South Ockendon village, shortly after the GLC Belhus estate was built in the 1950s, many villagers were convinced they would be robbed while in their beds by what they described as "the criminals" who had moved down from London to live on the newly built estate.

Yet within a single generation those who lived on the estate came to be regarded as locals.

Give or take the odd hiccup this is what happened with subsequent inflows of newcomers to the borough, whether from different parts of the UK and Ireland or from further afield. We have seen our fair share down the years, but Thurrock people have always been resilient, and given time the new-comers have ended up being assimilated into our local communities.

How could it be otherwise when few families who live in the borough today can trace their forbears back more than a handful of generations.

So what’s changed today, why have so many people become fearful of immigrants when in the past in all probability many of their own families would have been incomers themselves.

Change is always problematic for some as it upsets the status quo, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing as anyone who has spent any time in hospital will know, without EU doctors, nurses and healthcare workers at Basildon hospital where would we be?

Once a quiet backwater, Thurrock is now in all but name part of Greater London, and it’s inevitable it will attract people of all creeds and nationalities. We need to deal with it and treat these folk decently and expect the same from them, not act as if we’re frightened bunny rabbits caught helpless in the harsh glare of globalisations. It might help if we cease believing every rumour which circulates, when a minutes thought would tell us most are untrue.

The Brexit campaign claim that by voting no the British people are regaining their sovereignty, this is infantile, you cannot regain something you never fully possessed. When it comes to a lack of democratic accountability it’s the UK which lags behind our EU neighbours. One of our parliamentary chambers is unelected and full of flummery, party place men and women, clerics, and hereditary aristocrats. True the other chamber is elected, but it uses the most antiquated and unfair electoral system in the EU.

Our head of state is also unelected, although like many Thurrock people she and her consort’s families were incomers to the UK having originally come from northern and south eastern Europe.

Is there a democratic deficit at the heart of the EU, yes, is there a democratic deficit at the heart of the UK, yes, but I no more want to leave the UK than I do the EU. We need both, and we must fight to democratise them for the benefit of all.

To paraphrase John Major, the NHS and the Welfare State would be as safe with Johnson, Gove and Duncan Smith as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.

Mick Hall


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