My job and my wanderlust take me all over the place, which can be both good and bad. I get to see some truly inspiring or stunning places, but then there’s the flip side of the coin and today was it..
After spending the morning taking portraits of the new (and old) staff members of ACoRP in Huddersfield I had to head to London. I was too late to catch the last of Grand Central’s morning services to the capital and the weather was too grey and grim for decent photography so I came up with the idea of heading over to Wakefield to have a look at the revamped Kirkgate station, then have a mooch around town. I once crowned Kirkgate as the UKs worst station but the place has come on in leaps and bounds since then. Millions has been spent refurbishing it, bringing it back to life as a business centre as well as a station. It also boasts a café, which seems to be thriving. It was certainly busy when I popped in for a coffee. Whilst I was there I bumped into Andy Savage from the Railway Heritage Trust. He and his colleagues were visiting to weigh up the stations suitability as a home for a L&Y Rly war memorial that’s been stored at the East Lancs railway ever since Horwich works closed in the 1980s.
Having had my mood lifted by the company and the coffee I made the mistake of wandering into the town. Now you have to remember that Wakefield voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to leave the EU, yet, when you stroll through the place it’s pretty obvious that without the Poles and other immigrants the town centre would be devoid of a huge number of shops (and jobs). I bought 4 lovely samosas for £2 at a kebab shop run by Turkish Cypriots. Walking on up to the cathedral I passed numerous other shops which were either foreign owned or staffed by foreign nationals. So, where were the Brits? Well, I was accosted by a few who were begging, and the Wetherspoons appeared to be full of them – as did one or two of the other pubs I passed. Here’s the problem. Many of the Brits I saw were obviously economically inactive – and a fair few looked like they’d be incapable of holding down any job for very long. The contrast was stark – and uncomfortable. I wonder how many of Brits begging or spending their time getting pissed were the ones who voted to Leave the EU so they could kick out the foreigners? Will they be setting up businesses in the empty shops if the Poles and others have to leave? Perhaps some of the British pensioners who may be forced to leave Spain or Portugal settle could take on a kebab shop or two? This is the madness of Brexit. The politics of resentment (stoked by millionaires like Arron Banks) has fuelled a looming economic disaster that will impoverish the towns like Wakefield that voted for it – and it’s not going to be a pretty sight…
Wakefield is a classic example of the fact that you can spend millions of pounds on new buildings and tarting up the town centre, but then what do you do about the people? I struggle to understand what Wakefield thought they would gain by voting leave (other then the ones who genuinely wanted to kick out foreigners, obviously). Brexit hasn’t let them ‘take back control’. It hasn’t left them any better off – exactly the opposite. It won’t reopen the coal mines or the other traditional industries the area used to rely on for jobs, like glass and textiles. It won’t magically turn the economically inactive into Captains of industry. So what will it give them? I wonder if, when the Government ever come clean on what Brexit really does mean – and looks like, will the citizens of Wakefield still think it was a good idea?