The Guardian

The Guardian 11 Sep 2019

Our real Brexit crisis: 'No one cares anymore'

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Away from the drama in London, what's actually going on? In Wigan, Bury, Manchester, Nuneaton and Macclesfield, John Harris and John Domokos find confusion and weariness about Brexit and fury at the so-called coup - as well as homelessness, hunger and the deep roots of the UK's current meltdown in what Anywhere but Westminster began chronicling 10 long years ago


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… show captions ↓
Anywhere but Westminster began 10 years ago
speaking to people on the street about politics and exploring the gap between
politicians, the media and the rest of the country.
Now the ruling party wants to use that same gap to have a people versus parliament election,
it's time for us to get back on the road.
Sorry to interrupt, we work for the Guardian, the newspaper …
We've got somewhere to be, apologies.
No, no bother.
We all have.
I think we've reached the end of this.
I really do.
What's the way out of the mess this country's in?
Oh my days, I can't answer that.
This whole vox pop thing … we don't know what we're asking people.
If we ask them all the old questions, we know what all the old answers are, right?
And they haven't really got anything to say to us about anything
because they don't know either.
He says what it is.
And what is it?
Well, he speaks the truth.
Politicians … you can't trust them, can you?
You know, we're on the coattails of Europe, run by their rules and tariffs
and once that's gone, I think the sky is the limit.
Very good. Right, we've got to go, sir.
Lovely talking to you, thank you.
It doesn't work.
It picks up interference.
I want his voice booming out across this Middle English high street,
do you know what I mean?
Radio: I give notice that Boris Johnson is elected as the leader of the Conservative party.
Our new prime minister.
Boris Johnson on radio: I say to all the doubters, dude, we are going to energise the country!
Boris Johnson on radio: We are going to get Brexit done on October 31st
and take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can do.
He says the thing about Britons …
We've got have more belief in ourselves,
positive thinking.
You've got to seize the day.
I've been here five years and I've had nothing but problem.
Why did you come here?
Because I got transferred,
housing situation … I ain't getting no luck with jobs.
You are out of work at the moment?
I am, yeah, I'm on universal credit.
Are you?
Benefit mashed it up for me.
You know, sanctioned me. From when they've sanctioned you, you know, you're getting into debt.
I'm homeless, even though I don't look it, but, I mean, I am sofa surfing,
I'm a single parent.
And when you last worked what were you doing?
Parcel company.
You see what it is as well, yeah, I say this in the camera as well, yeah,
people like to judge, yeah, people like to judge from the colour of your skin,
from the way you dress,
from your lingo, yeah?
I'm a carer.
That's what I was doing in London.
Right, so you moved up here because you'd have better housing here
and you've ended up with no housing at all and no job.
I'm a trained carer.
And you could be doing the world some good.
For eight years. I've got eight years' experience.
Man, I'm crumbling.
We came here a week before the 2015 election when Britain was at a real fork in the road.
The Tories were not only promising a referendum on the EU but whipping up
the sort of resentments that have led us to where we are.
The place you get a sort of politics of low-level grievance,
it tends to be aimed in particular groups of people,
you can probably guess who they are.
Benefit claimants, immigrants...
These people are not starving, they're never going to starve,
they probably buy cigarettes and then they go to the food bank.
There's no excuse in this country to be hungry, I don't think.
Their benefits are so high, they don't want to go to work.
We've got all these immigrants, you know,
I'm not anti-immigrant, but what they don't want to improve is the infrastructure,
schools, doctors…
Let's face it, Scotland have so much for free and yet, they're all on the back of our taxes.
I'm only laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Something very, very serious is bubbling away under it all.
I really feel the UK starting to pull apart like never before.
Well, it's a wet Monday afternoon.
This is a Tory-held seat
and yet people are gathering in Macclesfield, in Cheshire.
It's a very pragmatic town that lets an awful lot go by
so, the fact that 100 people have come out is pretty something.
We have to show that we are against it.
If you keep focusing on my T-shirt, it means I've got Parkinson's.
If there's ever any problems with the supply of drugs,
bye bye.
God, this is very real for you.
This is very real for both of us.
I'm frightened.
Jacob Rees-Mogg on radio: I must confess Mr Speaker,
I'm surprised by my right honorable friend's astonishment
because I've been making the case for WTO rules for some time.
There's no sense of the gravity of the moment, this is all a game,
this is what happens when you put public schoolboys in charge.
It's just all knockabout
and bon mots and quips and all that.
And there's no sense of, you know, there are people who are really, really worried
whether their Parkinson's medication is going to be available
or there's gonna be food shortages.
This is all being talked about as a sort of 'aristo' knockabout.
It's sickening, that's what it is.
So, in the midst of all this noise about Brexit, parliamentary motions and all that,
we've had a call from Charlie.
He's a fella we met about six months ago.
He was struggling to make ends meet on universal credit
and angry at the mess the government had made of both the benefits system
and Brexit, which he voted for.
Hi, how are you doing?
I am all right, John, thanks. Thanks for coming.
Tell me why you got back in touch with us.
I went for a job and it was advertised as full-time, 40 hours,
and it was an agency.
I did two weeks then I just kept getting texts often …
'Hi Charlie, just to let you know no work tomorrow morning.'
You're thinking you're clocking on, at what, 8 o'clock the following morning?
And at half past midnight you get a message saying:
'Hi mate, don't go work in morning please.'
And that means you're not getting paid, right?
Yeah.
And then there's quite a few of these below that, right?
'Orders have dropped, I'm having to cancel a few people tonight.'
Keep going …
'Is there work today?' That's you.
'No, there isn't today, mate.'
Next one, 'Hi mate …'
'Hi. Please don't go work tomorrow. I'll ring you sometime during the day.'
But I didn't get a phone call.
But how can you even budget through the week?
I can't budget during the week.
I've got potatoes and carrots
instead of buying bottles of milk,
you can make up to about 10 or 11 pints with that.
I'm not a baker, but I've got this mincemeat
and I keep going, I'll split that packet into four.
Now, I know it's not a meal but when you're hungry …
All I'm doing now, and I don't want to be a martyr,
I'm just eating to stay alive.
I didn't go out of the house for three weeks.
No appointments on my phone so I stayed in the house.
Because if you're moving about, it burns what you've eaten in the morning, it burns it off.
Christ.
And how much do you owe your landlord?
£2,475.
And he is threatening you with eviction by when?
Well, I've got the eviction order.
'You are required to leave the below address after the 4th of October 2019.'
How do you feel about a system that instructs you to take a job,
you take the job and you end up in an even worse position than you were in to start with?
I'm not a suicidal person but I can I can understand why people …
I mean, I've not got mental health issues yet.
I do worry, I do worry where it's all going.
How do you feel about the state of the country and politics?
I think somebody's going to get killed.
You think things are sort of spinning out of control?
They are spinning.
Everybody needs to have half an hour reflecting what they said.
But you want Brexit to happen?
I wanted to leave.
The leave that I wanted has been twisted.
If there was a ballot paper in front of you now with leave or remain, which one would you pick?
I would just pick remain.
Would you?
Just for all this to stop.
When you voted to leave what was your hope for the country?
I wanted us to be fairer, we can make our own laws and thingy,
there should be a caring, like you two came up today,
I know you're going round but you took an interest in me and that's made my …
I don't know, it's made my day.
It always brings down to me the misery of the autumn being here.
The conference venue.
The millions that are in food banks, the millions that are homeless in our streets …
all the degradation he's caused, the racism he's caused.
All these difficulties that people have experienced,
a lot of it has been blamed on immigrants.
I've been called the C-word and told to go back to my effing country.
I've sort of spent the best years of my life working for the NHS in this country.
I was actually asked to stay after I finished my PhD.
Just before Brexit, I felt for the first time ever, and I had been here for almost 20 years,
that I didn't want to speak, I didn't want people to pick up
that I had an accent.
Are you going to be able to stay? Do you know that, if there's a no-deal Brexit?
I don't know whether I want to stay, that's the main thing.
Wow!
Of course, are you surprised?
No, I'm not surprised.
I've lost all my sense of security and sense of belonging.
I love this country so much and I felt so welcomed and so appreciated and I don't anymore.
At all.
Some people would have you believe that conservatism under Cameron and Osborne
was very different from the 2019 version but the seeds of where the Tories and
Britain have ended up were planted when they were in charge.
Britain is on the right track.
Capping welfare,
we've cut immigration by a third.
We are the party of hard-working people and to anyone who questions that,
take your argument to Bury or Morecambe.
We were talking about today that everyone was getting money off the government, benefits and stuff.
We've spent too much money on the benefits system as a country.
Yes, we do spend a lot.
Why should people from other countries come to our country
and be able to claim our benefits?
If someone else has got to work for you, you can fuck off and make it yourself.
I remember that.
Did we?
We hit the town and we talk to people and we try and thereby divine what's going on.
I'm, you know, a bright woman, I can, you know,
I'm OK with this sort of stuff and I am just confused, I think, at this point.
What's the question?
You don't even know what the question is.
Come on, man, it's not a big deal.
Excuse me!
No, I'd rather not.
I wonder what you think of the state of the country at the minute.
I almost get the sense that people know that people like me,
talking to people like them about what people think, is sort of,
it's been done, you know?
Oh, I get it you want one of them things where I tell you what I think about Brexit.
No one really cares anymore.
About what?
Anything.
At all!
Tell me more about what kind of society you would like to live in.
People look after each other, it's not all about what I want,
it's about what's good for everyone.
Brilliant. Hang in there.
It probably is that bad, but hang in there anyway.
Do you have a sense of the future of the country in the next five or 10 years, looking ahead?
I just wonder how you feel.
Nobody can say what it will be like in five years' time.
What else are we going to lose?
It's almost like we're living in the aftermath already though, isn't it?
Do you know what I mean?
Like it's happened already.
Like all of these dysfunctional, crappy bits of English society
that were just, you know, festering tensions that were left and made worse
by austerity and all that, and they sort of exploded in 2016.
And I think everything else is aftermath now.
Isn't it?

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