Brighton beach. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Squeezed Middle: It's time to move on from London

“The idea is that we won’t have to move again. Not for a long time.”

We’re standing on top of Kite Hill, with London spread out before us like a grubby blanket. A layer of fine smog hangs over the skyline, punctured here and there by the new City skyscrapers, a defiant cluster of one-fingered salutes. I narrow my eyes against the spring sunlight and say goodbye to it all, bit by bit.

Goodbye to Holloway Road, ungentrified and ungentrifiable; to the popcorn-smelling, sticky-carpeted Odeon where I went on my first-ever date. Goodbye to the Highbury Fields playground and the football pitches where my sister and I used to roller-skate on a Saturday morning. Goodbye to the Homerton hospital, where I first looked into my babies’ eyes, and to Buckingham Palace, which I have not visited once in 34 years. Bella phoned this morning to tell us that she would accept our offer on her house in Brighton.

“Jesus!” said Curly, staring at me in disbelief. “Are we actually going to do it?”

“I think we really are.”

For some reason I laugh each time I think about it: Curly and I, the owners of a grown-up house. I try to imagine us strolling nonchalantly from room to capacious room; sitting at a proper kitchen table; pottering about in the garden on a Sunday. But I can’t do it, any more than I can picture a miniature poodle performing Swan Lake.

Larry is also having some trouble getting his head around the idea. “But what if we get to Brighton and make new friends and then we have to move again?” he asked, with a worried frown, when I told him the news. Like most children, Larry is deeply conservative. Even the most minor deviation from his daily routine – a cheese sandwich cut in the wrong way, or served on the wrong plate – can throw him into a spin. Fortunately he has no idea what an upheaval lies before him.

“The idea is that we won’t have to move again. Not for a long time.”

“But how do you know?”

I don’t know, of course. It may well all be a disaster. We have no friends in Brighton, no childcare and no jobs. To say we are taking a punt on this is to put it mildly. Nevertheless, I feel quietly sure that it is the right thing to do. Looking back on the past few years I can see that London and I have been going through a protracted divorce, characterised by all the usual stages of relationship breakdown: denial, rage, grief and finally acceptance. We are no longer right for each other. It’s time to move on.

“It’ll still be here, you know,” says Curly. He takes my hand and I take Larry’s. Moe stirs in his buggy, swept awake by the chilly breeze. It’s nearly teatime. We walk, hand in hand, back to the station, where a train is waiting to take us home.

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 03 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, NEW COLD WAR

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496