In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, Jonathan Todd gives his perspective on Copeland.
“Under leaden skies and beneath the ground a culture of solidarity, independence, community self-reliance and ambition was forged,” writes Jamie Reed of his constituency, Copeland, where I grew up.
Whitehaven, the town where I was born, Reed notes, “was north west England’s most important centre of early Methodism as John Wesley used the town as the starting point for his travels to Ireland and the Isle of Man.” While Whitehaven is a rugby league town, I was more football than rugby league as a child, watching matches both at Holker Street, home of Barrow AFC, a non-league club since the 1970s, and Brunton Park, Carlisle United’s ground, a lower league club for much of its history.
Nowhere does Labour more need to listen and change, according to Reed, than, “in our rugby league towns and lower league football cities, in the places most people have heard of, but never been to.” In places, in other words, like Whitehaven, Barrow and Carlisle.
“Daily life looks and feels very different in our de-industrialised towns, struggling rural villages and smaller cities and these communities are now engulfed in a quiet crisis – not just in the north of England, but in every part of our country.”
We picketed a County Council meeting when I was at primary school to keep the school open. While tiny, the school remains. Two pubs, two banks, and two petrol stations have departed the village or thereabouts in the intervening period. “These jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back,” as Springsteen sings in My Hometown.
In the sense that the primary school was threatened 30 years ago, we might react to Reed’s ‘quiet crisis’ by asking, if localities are perennially threatened, is it a new crisis so much as an ongoing, inevitable way of life in an ever more urban country?