When catching the number 61 into Colchester town yesterday I sat near the back partly as I would be on there for a good 25 minutes, but also to listen to music on my own after a morning lecture. The bus soon filled up and a few stops before head street (the top of the high street and my destination), an elderly lady came onto the bus. I was slightly disappointed to see that none of my fellow students who were sat at the front section, offered their seats for this woman, but she still walked up. As walking up the stairs the bus started pulling away and I thought there was a chance this woman could trip of fall. So I held out a hand which was taken and as I had an isle seat next to me she sat down. I didn’t really think anything of it but after the offer of a polo in some sort of reward, I felt quite good that I could help in some way.
After gratefully turning down the polo (had just brought some chewing-gum), she asked if I was working in colchester or from out of town. This is understandable as I have the curse of looking a tad older than I am, but I told her I was in fact a student at the university and was travelling into town with the exciting shopping list of a light bulb, a protein shaker and some toothpaste. Her answer to this was ‘ wow, an English student at the uni’. I didn’t take much notice as she followed up by asking what I studied. I told her that I studied politics, which instead of being met by the clichéd ‘are you going to sort it out for us’, she bluntly said ‘good luck with that’, with heaps of sarcasm. I didn’t quite understand what she meant but I didn’t need to ask in the end. She followed this by saying something like ‘I’ll tell you what we need in this country, a business man who can finally control our economy and stop this lot (gestured to seated students at the front) from coming in.’ She finished by saying ‘ we need a British Trump, don’t you agree?’.
In the little time I had left until my stop I made it clear I didn’t agree and suggested that even if the students at the front of the bus were non-British nationals, they had every right to study here. As she stood up to let me pass I thanked her for the polo and she said ‘goodbye love, good luck with it all’ with no trace of sarcasm this time.
Growing up in the shires of England, in a small, sleepy town and working in local pubs and cafés, I have had many similar conversations with other elderly women. This elderly woman was nice and obviously voicing what she thought about modern politics. I didn’t have time to talk to her about her Trump comment, but if I had we would agree. Not regarding Trump, but I also think a strong economy is key and I’m sure, given the opportunity, we would have broadly agreed on what the state should spend money on. The only real thing that separated our political beliefs is the solution or conclusion that we reach.
It is hard to compute how two people can agree on many principles of social and political reform but ideologically disagree on who to support to implement such change. This woman has experienced a lot of social and political change, particularly in the last decade, so who was I to tell her she was wrong. I instead suggest that the left needs to put forward a strong, united opposition to the right wing populism spreading internationally. I will post a blog on how I think this should happen later this week.
Thanks for reading.