A trip across England in 2016 revealed a nation broken by neoliberalism. For it to heal, this above all has to change
In May 2016, a few weeks before the EU referendum, I walked 340 miles from Liverpool to London to see what was happening to my country. I was travelling in the footsteps of a 1981 march against unemployment that my late father had helped to organise. In that year, Tory policies had devastated industry and sent unemployment skyrocketing. In 2016, Tory austerity was putting the final nail in the coffin of those broken communities.
Even so, on my walk I was shocked by the level of poverty, by the sheer number of homeless people in doorways and parks, and by the high streets of boarded-up shops and pubs, full of payday loan outlets and bookies. People in those former industrial towns spoke of their anger and betrayal, of having being forgotten by Westminster politicians, of their communities having been destroyed as the manufacturing that had sustained them either folded or moved to low-wage economies.
In Nuneaton (66% leave), I met a man who reeled off the names of closed-down factories like you might your football team’s greatest all-time XI