Monday, 18 June 2007

Campaigning in Westminster - the other side of the tracks

On Saturday we were at Church Street market, collecting signatures on a petition to save local shops from a proposed new supermarket, which would be Tesco's tenth within a square mile. Times have changed since I used to shop in Church Street: now it looks rather like Cairo as far as attire goes, many of the women being entirely covered from head to toe. I would estimate that at least half the people could understand English poorly or not at all. Some dealt with the situation by ignoring us completely, as if we were invisible and they deaf. I saw a similar technique used in downtown Marrakech where it is a useful defence against constant pestering. Here, however, it ensured that communication on an issue that actually affects them, because many of their community have market stalls, was made impossible. I stood like a prow of a boat as the stream of shoppers divided and flowed past.
Of those who were prepared to talk, quite a number needed no persuasion and readily signed up - in fact we quickly gathered several sheets of signatures. Of the rest, few displayed understanding of, or curiosity about, the implications for them or the local economy - a microcosm of the enormous difficulty of mass political communication.


Tim said...

I was delighted when Tesco took over the Harts grocer or whatever it was on the corner of the Strand and Waterloo Bridge - being able to buy a banana for 14p instead of 50p is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Jo Hayes said...

I agree with your point on inexpensive bananas but if you try a local market stall (such as the one outside Embankment tube station, which sells excellent quality fruit) you can buy some without the misery of trailing round Tesco first.