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Clacton—Left at sea by the system

Nigel Farage hopes he can ride to victory in Clacton on a wave of anger. People in the Essex town told Thomas Foster they want change after years of broken promises from politicians—but not all think Farage is the answer to their problems
Issue 2809
Clacton

Clacton has been left behind (Main Picture: Alamy)

“What is the main problem Clacton faces? Everything.” That was what Mike, a former independent councillor, told Socialist Worker. Clacton, Essex, is where Nigel Farage declared he was running to be the MP last Tuesday.

Ukip won the seat in a by-election in 2014 and the 2015 general election—now Farage thinks he can win it again. His plan is to prey on some of the poorest people in Britain who have rightly lost faith in the mainstream political parties, to boost his own poisonous, racist agenda.

Nearby Jaywick is considered to be most deprived town in England. Walking around there are more shops shut and boarded up than there are open. Housing developments have been left unfinished. The latest data shows that 57 percent of people in Jaywick are either not earning money or earning so little that they have to claim benefits to support themselves.

Alexander, a retired print worker, said, “Look around and see how many of the shops have closed down. There’s nothing new coming into the area and everything is badly maintained. We never feel like there’s any investment coming our way. It’s a seaside town with barely any open pubs or shops.”

Gesturing at the street, he said, “There’s nothing going on for people here. Who is going to rent the shops that are closed? For what? Why would a new business start up here?”

Abby, who’s unemployed with a longterm illness, added, “The Tories have cut everything. I had a stroke, and an ambulance didn’t even pick me up. The police did.

“That’s what the Tories have done to the NHS. My local library has closed. The Tories aren’t going to reopen it. People can’t afford to eat and must use food banks. I know people who are stealing food because they can’t afford it. It’s disgusting what the Tories have done.”

Theresa works two jobs—for the council and as a carer—and is still struggling. “Prices are going up but not wages,” she explained. “How can they expect people to afford anything?”

Theresa said there is “so much unemployment” in Jaywick. “Rich people, like business owners, find a way to get tax concessions but ordinary people don’t get anything,” she added. “There’s a huge amount of inequality.”

“The rents are ridiculous around here too—it’s wild. I don’t earn much money so most goes on rent, then on water, gas or electricity.” Because of the cost of living crisis, “I have to work two jobs to make ends meet—day shifts for the council and night shifts in social care,” she said.

“One pays rent and the other pays the bills. I’m supposed to retire in two years but I don’t think I can because my whole pension would go on rent. I’ve worked all my life. My rent is £800 and the pension I’m going to get is £900.”

While many are struggling to get by in Clacton, not far away and in the same constituency, the rich buy up second homes in Frinton-on-Sea. Houses on the sleepy seaside town’s most desirable streets sell for over £800,000, and are close to the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club. But things are very different back in Clacton, which is a 20-minute drive away.

George, a student, talked to Socialist Worker in the centre of the town. “Nothing is funded here,” he said. “The council doesn’t do anything. Clacton has been in the same state or decline. The cost of living crisis means I’m not optimistic about the future. We desperately need more investment, especially in low-income areas as not enough money is going there.”

And George slammed the Tories’ warmongering, saying, “We send a lot of money to Ukraine and Israel. Rather than spending money on war, we need to spend money here.”

Stacy works for an organisation that helps to house homeless people. “Wages need to be higher. We currently mainly have minimum wage jobs around here,” she said. Mike added, “The average wage in Clacton is £100 less than the rest of Essex. Look at how busy the main road out of Clacton is in the morning—people commute elsewhere for work.”

Disillusionment with mainstream politics often leads to apathy in Clacton.
 
“I don’t really follow politics or watch the news. I go to work and then I go home,” Stacy said. On his way to the bus stop, Darrel, a chef who lives in Jaywick, told Socialist Worker that he has “switched off from politics” and keeps his head down.
 
“In Jaywick a lot of people are struggling for work,” he said. “I want to get paid more but Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak aren’t saying they will do anything about that.”
 
He added, “The last 14 years of the Tories have been awful. We’ve been in a downward spiral. The cost of everything has risen so much. You go into the shops now, and a bottle of brown sauce is nearly £4 or £5. Who actually controls inflation?
 
“When there are economic problems, it’s the poor that suffer. They say there’s a recession but then you look at how much money the rich make. Where is the equality in that? Things are broken and nobody is fixing them. Labour seems to have the same agenda as the Tories. I don’t believe in any of them.”
 
Bree, a retired office manager, said, “So few politicians are working class. They all seem to come from wealthy backgrounds. They always seem to promise things, but nothing seems to come around.”
 
But disillusionment with those in power is leading some to reach the wrong conclusions. This is something the far right can tap into, spreading racist ideas that scapegoat migrants and refugees.
 
Mike argued, “We are overcrowded, there isn’t anything spare with migrants coming over. And the two main parties aren’t offering any solutions to that. A week ago I decided I wasn’t going to vote but now I am. Farage declaring changed that. He represents ordinary people.” He said the government normally doesn’t care about Clacton, “but it will if Farage gets in”.
 
Alexander said, “I have supported Labour in the past, but they aren’t offering anything even close to any real plans. With public services crumbling, and Labour and the Tories being so similar, I can’t see any reason for hope. At least Nigel Farage turned up and greeted people. And he’s the only person who seems to have a plan to tackle migration.”
 
Sandra, a social worker on her way to a supermarket, said, “I can’t tell the difference between what the Tories and Labour are saying. When Farage came here for the rally at least he was saying something different. He says what he think.”

Many see through Farage’s anti-establishment fakery

Not everyone in Clacton, Essex, is convinced by Nigel Farage and his lies. Many see him for what he is—a super-rich stock trader who tries to pretend to be an outsider.

John, a bricklayer, said, “I don’t know what Farage’s policies are for Clacton. He has just come in here to get his feet in parliament. And he’s a racist, look at the stuff he says about migrants. I don’t agree at all.” John rejected what Farage said at his opening campaign rally. “Farage said that all those in Jaywick that are unemployed should be kicked off the dole,” he said. “It is an inhumane idea that would also never work.”

He said he didn’t have any hope in any politicians at all. “The problem is that once politicians get elected, they never listen. They say they will fix problems, but they never do. Politicians if elected should be accountable to the people.” Sue, a shop worker, agreed. “Farage is a waste of time. It’s all for publicity,” she explained. “I don’t think he is going to do anything for us in Clacton if he gets in because none of them do. They are all cut from the same cloth.”

Andrew drove up to speak to Socialist Worker after he heard that a journalist was asking questions around town. He simply stated, “Nigel Farage isn’t welcome here. He is trying to take advantage of the people of Clacton. If Farage is here, then more racists will come, and we don’t want that. He will stoke up racism.”

George thought that “racism is a big issue here in Clacton” as it’s something that he has experienced. He argued that instead “we should be more open to migration”.

“I think migrants who come to Britain support our country and are fleeing a lot of hardships.” Abby argued, “Farage pretends to be for ordinary people, but he’s not. He’s a multi-millionaire. He isn’t even from here.

“He’s the same as the other politicians. And a week ago he said he wasn’t even standing for Reform UK.” Instead, Abby raged against the Tories and wanted change, saying, “I’m going to vote Labour, not because I think it is much better, but because we need to get the Tories out.”

Phil, a charity worker, said, “You vote for a party but then you don’t vote for the prime minister. I voted for Boris Johnson but I didn’t vote for any of the following prime ministers like Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.

“I’ve been a Tory voter all my life, but I’ll be voting Labour this time. I think we need change. We need someone else in.” Phil argued, “The biggest problem is that the Tories don’t tell the truth. There’s been too much sleaze. I’ve become disillusioned with them. I think Labour represents ordinary people right now.”

George argued that our political system “needs to change”. “Most of my friends aren’t that in tune with politics because there isn’t much hope for change from parliament.

“We don’t think things politicians say will come true. We shouldn’t rely on politicians to make decisions.” He said that instead, “We need to try and take things into our own hands.”

Francis, who lives on the outskirts of Clacton-on-Sea, added, “I wish there was a new party all together. I don’t have confidence in any political parties. I want a new party that stands for ordinary people, who will actually fund the NHS and education and bring economic benefit to everyday people.”

The people of Clacton want drastic change to improve their lives. We need to fight to ensure that this isn’t harnessed by the far right and instead point at the real enemies—the bosses and the rich.

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