Crewe & Nantwich
Monday, May 12, 2008
As my maternal grandmother was from Nantwich and my grandfather from Crewe, the upcoming by-election is in familiar territory. The media is setting the Conservatives up for a fall by talking up their chances. Unless the world has changed more than I think, they are not great.
The two towns are very different. I still remember my grandmother's distaste at the constituencies being merged in 1983. She (a piece worker in a textile factory and as proletarian as any class warrior could wish) thought Crewe rather "common." Granddad, a worker in the (then) Rolls-Royce (now Bentley) factory at Crewe could not be bothered to demur from that view, at least openly. I distinctly remember that my grandmother was sufficiently fooled by Gwyneth Dunwoody's personal spin to think her "common" too.
In its short life as a separate parliamentary constituency, Nantwich was always Conservative. It has changed a lot since, but if it were once more a constituency in its own right, I could conceive of the Tories winning. Taken as a whole, however, the current constituency is very much English "rust belt" with a depressive (and depressing) tendency to the Left. Unless the substantial population of Polish immigrants in Crewe chooses to register and vote (as economic migrants they will be energetic with an instinctive distaste for native welfare addicts; as socially-conservative Catholics, they have cause to dislike Labour and as post-communists they will find Dunwoody the Younger's rhetoric disturbing) I can't conceive of the result that some polls are predicting.
My grandmother would never admit for whom she voted, though her distaste for Dunwoody the Elder may have been a clue. My grandfather (a proud participant in the News of the World Individual Darts Championship, who carried his quarter-finalist's medal with him until he died) belonged to whichever of the Liberal, Conservative or Labour Clubs had the strongest darts team at the time. I therefore have no idea for which outcome they would be rooting if still with us. I am sure they would have enjoyed the attention the by-election is bringing to the two towns where (Granddad's wartime service in what is now Israel apart) they spent their whole lives.