The UK has had a North / South divide forever. This is enforced (I use that word intentionally) of course by having its government at one end of this supposedly united country.
This automatically creates a sense of those being near government (and previously monarchy) of importance. Of superiority. It's little wonder that no-one south of Watford cared about the slums of Liverpool or Glasgow, until they started appearing as images in newspapers in the 1960s, while the shiny new world of Wilson and The Beatles took hold, 75% of the country was probably wondering when it was their turn.
Todays decision by the IPCC to not investigate events at Orgeave in 1984/85 should come as no shock to anyone. Should it? But this isn't what I'm blogging about.
As someone born in 1972 in Dorking, Surrey, I was raised on the Daily Mail, commuter trains and suburbia. We weren't well off. In the sense that we didn't have a huge leafy pad in deepest Surrey, anyway. We had (owned - none of that 'council estate stuff' for us) a flat (my parents called it a maisonette - Bouquet not Bucket). Dad worked for the GLC. You'd think we'd be silent Labour or Liberals, but no, we were blue through and through. I even remember copying a cartoon during the '79 election of "Callaghan down the drain". I grew up with power cuts, strikes, piles of bin bags. So it was no surprise that I should dislike those Labour lefty loonies Livingstone and Scargill, Kinnock and Foot. All they seemed to do, to my childlike eyes, was shout a lot.
'The North' was painted by the news (BBC only - Blue Peter not Magpie, Swap Shop not Tiswas) as a place that was grim, grey and grimy. But, you could get a pint of beer for 14p. As a 10 year old boy the North was scary, where men worked in mines, women seemed to permanently have aprons on and kids always had dirty knees. I was raised with that sense of superiority deeply embedded in me. I was working for HMV Trocadero during the 1992 election, many of my colleagues had been involved in the 1990 poll tax riots, and they were still very fresh in the memory. I however, unashamedly voted Tory. My first vote. Not one for the history books, eh? I still lived at home, Margaret Thatcher had kindly abolished the GLC, meaning my Dad went and got a job at a 'blue-chip' Solicitors firm whose offices were literally facing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, and paid well. We were doing good, so why should I care? I'm lucky I didn't get my face kicked in.....
I left home for South Devon in 1993, starting an unstoppable trend that over the last 20+ years has seen an extraordinary rise in house prices there, meaning the local people can't afford to live there anymore. Sorry about that, Devon. Anyway, I was a barman in a pub. I earned pretty low wages. I was lucky enough to fall in with a family there that rented me the flat above their garage for peanuts. Phew. Dodged the social housing bullet. Not that there was much social housing left by then, and anyway you needed to have "14 children and walk with a limp" to get one of those. Yeah, so the Tory wasn't quite knocked out of me yet.
I spent 8 years in Devon, I dated and lived with a local girl, and I scorned her working class family. They didn't like me much either. However, I did vote Labour in 1997, despite my then boss saying they'd raise taxes, and cause mayhem. In 2001 I moved to Oxfordshire & things under "New" Labour were looking good. I was Ops Manager of a hotel that backed onto Blenheim Palace. I hung with the
nobless nobles and ate well, and had a jolly good time in my new build house in Banbury. I still didn't own a house by the way. Renting is my game. Then I moved to Belfast in 2002.
I fell in love with this broken but re-building city, and country. I drove its streets and started to notice something. I lived in East Belfast, historically a predominantly protestant working-class area, dominated by the Harland and Wolff shipyards. The houses were being pulled down, all the old Victorian terraces were being rebuilt as shiny new houses. This meant communities being fragmented, peoples entire support networks going in the name of progress. The shipyards were no longer great. Only a few 100 people worked in a place that once employed 1000s. Jobs kept being created and destroyed. People talked to me about it. Suddenly I realised what the miners strikes were ACTUALLY about. Lost community. Lost jobs. Lost lives. My sister lives in West Yorkshire, and some people still won't speak to her because she has a London accent. They think she was in league with Thatcher. Little wonder. Brassed Off wasn't just a cute little film about a brass band you know....
So what am I talking about? I think the IPCC decision about Orgeave just proves that for all the regeneration that has happened UK-wide, for all that Manchester and Glasgow are as thriving as any international city, they're still no match for London. Still second best. Historically, most civil unrest happens during Conservative governments. Hopefully, this won't change. We need to get off the sofa, stop staring at Sky TV aimlessly, and get some passion back in our over-fed guts. And throw some stuff.