Hustings are alive for the Irish in Britain

Well, hustings are alive and well and living with the Irish in Britain. Last week, I chaired a hustings meeting in the new key marginal of Hammersmith. The entire election could hinge on this constituency.

In Irish Votes Count, the manifesto of the Federation of Irish societies, a key demand is to ensure the Irish in multicultural England retain their separate identity for independent assessment in the census and other social categories. This is an ageing community whom the Celtic tiger passed by and whose social needs are great. With the pressures of the Troubles receding, they’re as keen as ever not to merge into undifferentiated Britishness.

Hammersmith is high in their list of 70 constituencies where an identifiable Irish vote  of over 670,000 can make a difference. The list enumerates the number of Irish votes which is greater than the previous majority. I would guess that the Irish lobby members at the meeting are as naturally pro-Labour as ever and certainly anti Tory.

The council has become a Tory laboratory of greater efficiency which to angry speakers at the hustings means cuts in services like sheltered dwellings for the elderly.

The Conservative candidate is iconically black British and a classic Big Society charity worker. He was ferociously attacked by the former MP and Labour candidate for dubious financial practice. The Lib Dem is ethnically Chinese, a City solicitor and mother of two. Labour’s man was long ago a Troops Out activist, now strongly in favour of the GFA and as keen as you like on a big NI block grant, even though spending per head is greater there than in Hammersmith. Not himself ethnically Irish he is typical of a strain of  moderate left.

As we were talking in the well-appointed Irish Cultural Centre paid for entirely by the former Labour council in 1995, I would say that the Irish vote still tilts towards Labour. Whether it remains as cohesive as it once was  remains to be seen.  The election helps Irish Societies focus on keeping the identity a living reality and prevent it from lapsing into sentimentality memory.

Adds Suzanne Breen reports on the scene

  • Just need to revive them in NI then!

  • Cynic

    Today we have this ‘impartial’ little piece and the snottty “Cameron gets it wrong, despite his 1st class degree” on another thread. Wouldn’t you be happier on Labourlist with your fellow bruvvers and Gordon Groupies?

    Aww Brian, you really do need to come out you know.
    We all know your dark secret – that you are a closet socialist. But don’t worry – it is treatable. Just look back over 14 years of reports on what Labour has done to the UK economy and society and you will miraculously find that you start to feel better.

    Oh, and by the way, what the hell has the ethnicity of any of the candidates got to do with the substance of your piece? So why mention it?

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: As we were talking in the well-appointed Irish Cultural Centre paid for entirely by the former Labour council in 1995,
    That was generous of them. Normally councillors spend other people’s money, not their own.

  • Cynic

    Pe4rhaps that’s why its now a Tory Council

  • Cynic

    PS Brian

    Hammersmith has a total electorate of 115000 so an Irish vote of 670,000 is a bit much even allowing for our traditions of personation. Of course if you mean an Irish vote in the UK of 670,000 that equates to an average of about 1000 / constituency – a marginal amount.

    I also just love the assumption that Irish people who have emigrated to another area vote as Irish people and not on the basis of their own political analysis / instincts. Down croppies…dont bother thinking ….just get in your box and vote the way you are told!

  • Framer

    Of course the Federation of Irish societies (unlike the Kashmiris) got their way over the census by quoting spurious needs to ascertain Irish health inequalities.

    Bu from Brian’s report they don’t seemed to have raised any Irish issues at this meeting.

    Strange. Are they actually integrating?

  • Pauly

    As a resident this is a tricky one. The Tories are very radical and have cut taxes which has made them popular and it has to be said there must have been a lot of fat to trim because the impact on services doesn’t seem to have been that noticeable. The Liberal Democrats are nowhere and the Labour chap used to run the Council which was very supportive of the Irish community.

    He has blown alot of votes by his hostility to the Catholic schools in the borough which most 1st and 2nd generation Irish would like to get their kids into although places are very limited. The Labour candidate went to an ultra swanky private school in the borough so he comes across as a bit of a hypocrite. Most of the Irish in Hammersmith would never dream of voting Tory but alot are not sure what they are going to do instead.