Posted by Jonathan Timbers
I have been increasingly dismayed by some of the contributions to this site and some of the material produced by political parties in our area. Equally, I have been heartened by the opposition this has been met with.
The word 'local' is used to justify views and people without further explanation. A recent Liberal Democrat leaflet used the term 8 or 9 times about their unsuccessful candidate for the West End by-election, who, I understand, actually spent significant parts of her life in New Zealand (nothing wrong in that of course - she was a good candidate. I would sack the leaflet's editor for trying to patronise the electorate).
The term 'local' also seems to be undergoing something of a transformation. It is now used to bolster the arguments of people whose families are not from the area, but who may have been here for some years. Depressingly, this reactionary stance seems to be common currency even with the young.
In a contribution to this site, Paul Brewer, for instance, blames 'some of the new influx of well off professionals' for allegedly intolerant remarks that were made about youth in the town. He justifies his views by saying 'As a teenager whose family has lived in the Calder Valley for many years' indicating that a) he's an off-comer or from an off-comer family and b) there are now degrees of localness, as they were supposed to be rings of angels around God in the middle-ages. Presumably, if my grandparents were buried in Heptonstall, I could just rubbish his views on that basis alone.
Contributors try to dress their parochialism up by labelling newcomers 'yuppies', but the basis for their views are clear. You find this parochialism all over Calderdale and in Burnley and areas like Howarth and it has contributed to the rise of the BNP.
One friend of mine whose family has lived in Todmorden for generations, but who is of Irish heritage, once said that as a result of this hierachy of localness, very few people actually felt as if they totally belonged. Of course, this whole discourse is the basis for types of bullying and may be used to re-inforce stereotypical attitudes about outsiders and ultimately racism.
I appeal to people to stop using their localness, real or pretended, as a justification for their views and to make the arguments on the basis of facts and logic.
One final note, when I moved to this area (some time around the last Ice Age) I lived next door to a woman in her 90's. One day I asked her if she came from Hebden bridge. 'No she replied, 'I'm from Pontefract'. 'When did you move here?' I asked, expecting her to say 5 or 10 years ago. ''1915' was the answer.
It would appear as the number of real locals decline, a new form of ersatz localism is developing. Let's move on to something more positive and progressive. Reason not reaction.