Patrick West

An independent Kent isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds

An independent Kent isn't as ridiculous as it sounds
The white cliffs of Dover (Getty images)
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The news that a Brexit border will be introduced for lorry drivers entering Kent has aroused hilarity and derision among some Remainers. These critics see in Kent the personification of all that is parochial and plebeian. Horrible old Kent, with its proles who epitomise Little England at its most execrable and risible. The truth is that we people of Kent won't be too flustered by this new development. Many of us will actually welcome the Sussex/Kent divide. 

For too long our county, the oldest in England, has been the playboy playground of rich Londoners and Sussex/Surrey county types who have descended on our wonderful chaff fields and cliffs, wading their cash around, buying up houses that they rarely occupy, or maybe live in for two or three weekends every summer.

Sure, I may be one the many ex-Londoners who has settled here, but at least I have done so properly and permanently for years now. Nowhere are second-home owners more conspicuous than in east Kent.

And there is the other case of people breaching Kent's borders, via the English Channel. Those who come from France and settle here place a burden on schools and hospitals. No-one here in Folkestone or Margate has a grievance with foreigners. It's just not being able to understand your neighbours that really grates. There is literally something alienating about not understanding what people around you are saying.

I'm being facetious, of course. Kent folk are the most generous and English people around, like Yorkshire types; more English than English. But those smug, remote people who think it's amusing to guffaw at the prospect of Kent independence inadvertently expose their own metropolitan ignorance. People outside London do care about their country and have an inherent patriotism, and they do care about where they live. This is because we are the somewhere people from somewhere, not the anybody people from anywhere.

Yes, we in Kent may want to erect walls. But don't all householders want to erect walls and lock doors? Proper caring neighbourhoods always want to put up walls. It's because they care about all that they hold dear. Show me someone who doesn't lock their door at night or someone who bewails the walls of their house and I'll show you a hypocrite.

We have always welcomed incomers who want to immigrate here, from Lithuanians to Poles, and we have seen the sons and daughters of these immigrants learn English and teach their children English and integrate with those who live here. That's because many of us came from London areas where we lived among eastern Europeans, and where eastern Europeans learned to live with others from ethnic minorities. If you want to see an exemplar of an English-Polish multicultural society, come to Dover.

Many of us Kent folk tolerate the derision from the metropole for the same reason that we don't like them: there is a manifest feeling that for years they have looked down upon us. This is why we vote Ukip. This is why we voted Brexit. This is why so many Labour heartlands voted Tory. We were fed up of being condescended. And this is why a lot of naturally Labour heartlands in Kent will continue to vote against the metropolitan elite: we hate being laughed at, for being mocked as silly Kent people. We are at the beginning and end of England.

And we care about Brexit; we care about the effect a no-deal Brexit will have. We care about it because we have felt the brunt of immigration for decades now, in a way that those in London and beyond have not. From Herne Bay to Folkestone, from Margate to Dover, we have seen our societies changing. We are at the front line.

This is why Kent independence isn't such a ridiculous idea as it sounds. It's only as absurd as what's been going on in the past decades with the British working-class, lower-middle class and even the middle class. We've had enough of you. And if our answers seem silly, it's because your questions have been silly. So Viva Kent Independencia if you must. It's not merely a joke. On anyone's behalf.

Patrick West is a columnist for Spiked and author of Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times (Societas, 2017)