Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Clacton stations

Rarely can Clacton have been subjected to such a media frenzy. The by-election caused by Douglas Carswell defecting to Ukip has seen unprecedented coverage of the Tendring Peninsula. The Daily Telegraph reported that street artist Banksy had been to Clacton and painted a mural of a group of pigeons holding banners telling a green migratory swallow to "Go back to Africa, keep off our worms"and "Migrants not welcome." Tendring and District Council didn't see the political joke though and promptly painted over the mural, saying they had received a complaint that it was "racist and offensive." Strange, as in Essex people usually know the value of money. By deleting the Banksy mural the council had lost the chance of flogging the mural to some metropolitan types for up to £400,000 or cashing in on a tourist boom of Banksy lovers.

Meanwhile Clacton featured again in the Evening Standard in Michael Collins' piece, "Don't sneer at the real England beyond the M25", concluding that Clacton housed "the original Essex Man and those native Londoners exiled from a capital they no longer recognise… It might be unfashionable but for the moment Clacton is in the spotlight and relevant."  And on Radio 4's Today this morning there was a long profile of the "frightened and fed up" in the constituency, taking in the poverty of Jaywick Sands and the affluence of Frinton, where one boutique owner, who had moved to Frinton from Buckhurst Hill, complained of "no-go areas" in Ilford. In today's Guardian John Harris visits Jaywick, writes about a Ukip meeting in Clacton that attracted 900 people and looks at the emotional appeal of Ukip's politics to voters who feel abandoned.

As I wrote in The Joy of Essex the Tendring Peninsula feels a very long way from London and its isolation is summed up the railway level crossing gates that shut Frinton off from the outside world. Poverty and lack of investment are the biggest problems rather than immigration and the EU, though Ukip's appeal is accentuated by the lack of authentic principled Labour politicians. But if Carswell does get elected as a Ukip MP we'll be hearing a lot more about this no-longer forgotten Essex seaside town.

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