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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

You are being conned

Don’t be fooled by these dishonest attacks on the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’

Nigel Farage would have burst a blood vessel, had he only had the chance to listen in. What could be more metropolitan liberal elite than last week’s Guardian Christmas telethon, as readers called in to journalists to make a donation for child refugees? Just imagine it, all those Islington luvvies and bleeding hearts, ringing in from one part of London N1 to another, the Bollinger chilling nicely in the fridge, as they salved their well-paid consciences and congratulated themselves on being leftier than thou. How utterly Guardianista.

Except it was nothing like that. The calls came from all over the country, with perhaps an over-representation from the north of England. In my two and a half hours on the phones, I heard from Barrow-in-Furness, Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Swansea and a string of small towns and villages from Devon to Cumbria. Colleagues reported the same pattern. True, I took a call from my own small part of north London – but it was the only one. However else you’d want to describe this group of people, metropolitan they weren’t.
Nor were they the elite. Pensioners called to give the fiver or tenner they worked out they could spare, or, as Polly Toynbee has recounted, their entire winter fuel allowance. Gary Younge took a call from an unemployed Asian man, living with his parents in northern England, who gave £1.33: he chose that precise sum because he had £1.34 in his account. Meanwhile, and by coincidence, Stuart Heritage spoke again to Sam, the same teenager whose call he took last year. Sam isn’t old enough to have a credit card, but each year he has raised money at his school for the Guardian appeal.
Not many of these people fit the Guardianista stereotype. I wonder what Farage and his friends would make of the lifelong reader who described the recent funeral of a 94-year-old friend: a retired major and veteran of the second world war whose devotion to the Guardian was so great that a copy of the paper was placed on top of his coffin.
And yet, because of their sympathy for refugees and their presumed support for British membership of the EU – with 91% in favour, Guardian readers were the country’s most solidly pro-remain demographic, more reliably anti-Brexit than Green party voters, the young, university graduates and Scots – these people would be casually, and falsely, dismissed by the likes of Farage as the metropolitan liberal elite.

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