In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, David Ward gives his view on Hazel Grove
Tristram Hunt opens Labour’s identity crisis with Shakespeare in full voice proclaiming the virtues of ‘This Sceptred Isle’. Yet when I think of a childhood spent around Romiley, Bredbury, Marple and the other towns which make up the Hazel Grove constituency I think more of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, “Sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England.”
Sandwiched between the more traditional Labour communities of Stalybridge and Hyde to the north, and true blue Macclesfield to the South, this is the kind of place Labour needs to win if a majority is to be achievable without Scotland.
As Michael Taylor writes in the book, while this is an area with a large number of ‘professionals’ and often derided as ‘leafy Cheshire’ the truth is more complex. A truth that sees social housing or “blokes in white vans” as much a part of the local makeup as chartered engineers and solicitors. I used to get a lift to school with a barrister’s son from Bredbury who went on to fight with the Royal Marine Commandos in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t try telling him being English doesn’t matter.
Winning here might seem like a tough ask when this has been either Liberal or Conservative territory as long as anyone can remember. But the collapse of the Liberal Democrats offers an opening in area where people want pragmatism with a dose of progress.
One of my earliest political memories was Margaret Thatcher stopping in on our primary school during a visit to Marple Bridge. Some guy tried to hit her over the head with a bunch of flowers in Marple town centre, which perhaps neatly encapsulates the peculiar English rebelliousness Michael describes.
Dig deep enough and Labour should have the intellectual heft to speak to constituencies like this. Whether it’s concerns about congestion and road upgrades, or showing a Labour Mayor can improve Stepping Hill hospital.
Identity can seem a word ill associated with the left but it doesn’t have to be. I recall my friend’s dad enthusing about the virtues of Michael Heseltine at his house in Romiley. He liked him because he was the kind of guy who ‘had his head screwed on’, but he showed he cared about people in the North West and wanted to improve our lot. He identified with him. Maybe that’s the trick we’ve got to pull off.
David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London