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Dear Mr Corbyn,
To see you are Labour MP for beloved Islington makes this even more poignant for me.
I’m sure you’re busy, and most probably won’t read this, but I really need to say these things to you, so if you got this far, please hear me out.
My love of London began in 1984, when from Edinburgh where I was staying for a couple of months there with an Italian foreign language school we went for a two-day visit. I was 13, and Carnaby Street still meant something.
During those two days I skipped the planned itineraries and with a friend went and explored London. We found ourselves near the St James Park, and entered a pub where we saw the most beautiful men, and only men, The Almighty God had put on this planet (we were teenagers, easily impressed).
It turned out, it was a gay bar. Men held each other by the hand and went downstairs together. After a minute of extreme disappointment because those men were not available to us, my friend and I were exalted. Men could be gay in the open like this? What a place of magic this was!
We then went to Piccadilly Circus, and entered a jewellery store, where a very elegant uniformed girl with punk pink hair and nose rings greeted us and treated us like ladies. We were head over hills in love with London.
I returned to London many times after that, mostly skipping on my transfer flights from Milan, where I lived, to Washington, where I would visit my father. Sometimes I would take the train.
On one occasion, instead of those three days we’d planned for my transfer from Washington to Milan, I ended up staying for various months. I found work for the hostel I was staying at, in Notting Hill, getting Italians off the station and convincing them to stay with us. I got involved with a crazed Dutchman and with two (the sweetest) alcoholic Irishmen, had a tattoo done by a fat squatter who offered me tea very politely in the dirtiest cups, and made friends with two Pakistanis who introduced me to a guy they later warned me away from, but it was too late and I moved in with him, in his council flat at the 20something floor, a dump, worse than the squat.
It turns out he had just been released from prison for the suspected attempted murder of his ex wife. He was 20! I must have been about 16. He stopped talking to me the minute I moved in so after a few days I stole his jar of pennies as I had not a penny left on me and bought a ticket to Heathrow, to use that open transfer ticket back to Italy.
You’d think that experience would put me off London. It really didn’t.
I had grown up in New Zealand, Venezuela, Peru, The Philippines and now I was in Italy I was attending the Sir James Henderson school in Milan, an English school: I was exposed there to the crème de la crème of English rich people, also non-English rich people, also an East Ender who’d come to seek lost loves and I made friends with. Good and bad, I loved them all, they were familiar to me.
After that, I began attending a posh Italian university, and despite my grades being very good, I slammed the door in their face with their pretentiousness and narrow-mindedness and shot back to London, actually selecting the University of North London (ex Poly, now defunct) for their Humanities programme.
I loved it. It was noisy, falling apart (I attended the Kentish Town site, now a Pizza Express), but it had a great pub in the basement where many Philosophy classes were held for those lucky bastards, there was a strong gay community, a lot of crazy and delightful Irishmen (some not so crazy, one of them was a genius who told me about the Internet before the world knew about it). Then the Kentish Town site closed down despite our protest occupation (SO much fun! but alas! it didn’t work) and we had to relocate to the Holloway Road site, near Islington (this is where the circle closes), and I was miserable there, I hated the building, people were unfriendly, lots of architecture and engineering students I couldn’t relate to, my lovely Humanities people all scattered, the student accommodation was abysmal and depressing and I ended up having my first suicide attempt. A California-surfer type from Essex rescued me, though it was too late for my hair, which I had completely shaved off.
My first partner was a Liverpudlian who came to Uni with me, and we ended up separating bitterly, though we had two amazing boys who are now both at University in this country and are entitled to a dual citizenship. My eldest was born in The Whittington Hospital, in North London.
My experience of England has never been rosy, as you can see. And yet, there was something that always drew me back to this country, which drew me back now, when, for the latest time, I left Berlusconian Italy in disgust and made a home for us here, back in 2006. My daughter with my Italian husband was born in Leeds. In Yorkshire we loved the people, and we saw the ugliness of some people. I adored the countryside, and my husband had to struggle to cope with the darkness, the damp, the grey and the rain. But we made dear friends, and we loved it.
We moved to Cambridge, and there, I started to perceive the growing discontent. Despite being a very Liberal voting town, and a strong Labour presence too to our great pleasure, and despite people telling us “The Tories could never win in Cambridge“, the Tories won, thanks to all those who believed in the Liberals and saw their party backing the Tories instead of Labour. And I saw the discontent growing, the racism, the hold UKIP was starting to have, not just on the harsh and ignorant racists they openly appealed to, but on the common people, the working people, though secretly and hush hush.
People were growing from a majority of wonderful internationalised fair British people I loved to a majority of scared people, keeping to themselves, fearing the foreigner, despising even us, who used to be treated as friends: the Portuguese, the Greeks, the Spanish, the Italians. They called us PIGS, but never to our face. English and foreign friends I spoke to didn’t believe me when I told them what was happening.
Then the Referendum came, because Cameron was a coward and took a stupid gamble for the promise of being in power, and it all rolled down hill from there.
I don’t think you can appreciate what a shock it was to me. There I was, ready to finally put some money aside to apply for Citizenship, so I could be proud to call myself British, so I could vote my Labour Party not just in local elections but at National Level, and then this.
When I started to read about you I regained hope. I thought here is a man who is solid, who has strong beliefs, a strong voice. Yes I knew you were a Euroskpetic, but surely you would see that any government is imperfect, and it NEEDS criticism, but that doesn’t mean you choose to do without one altogether!
Surely you’d see how the workers you wish to defend have a better chance being able to work all over Europe, than being stuck here in this country? Surely you’d see and SAY how all of us foreigners, here in this country working, paying taxes for you, ready to help your disabled, your poor, are an asset, not a drain on the economy?
I thought you would have the courage to stand up to this madness that has taken over much of Europe and America, and say how diversity is good, multiculturalism is good, we have more young, more strong people to help those who are helpless.
The NHS is struggling to hire nurses, and are recruiting from Europe, but why would a European nurse want to come here now, where they are looked at as benefit suckers, and not made to feel at home? Who will look after those very elderly who voted to leave Europe, crippling all the chances for your younger generation?
I was so disappointed. At one point it sounded like you, yourself, had said that us European workers were “undercutting” British workers. You then tried to rectify but the damage was done, or rather, the objective reached: your party wanted to appeal to those very voters who believed that, and you enabled them to think that you were on their side. We “undercut” the British workers.
Diversity and multiculturalism, tolerance and integration are achieved by having foreigners work in MORE places, not less. It is achieved celebrating our diversity, not using it as an insult. You want to eat a varied diet, not just potatoes, don’t you? So many English, Scottish and Irish people would agree with you!
You let me down, and you let all of us, and there are many, who came here NOT because they wanted to cheat your system, or take advantage of you, or undercut your British workers, down. We came here because you represented how the world should try to be more like.
All your talks are about the British people now (but somehow not those still reeling from this decision, still hoping it can be reversed), and all those like us, who were merely happy British residents, and who would one day have been proud to become British citizens, even though they didn’t need to thanks to European treaties, have been conveniently swept aside, and forgotten.
All those children, and young people, who could have worked and lived with no problems anywhere in Europe they chose, all have been swept aside, and forgotten, and called remoaners. All for the sake of remaining in power, all for the sake of appealing to the populists, the isolationists, the fearful.
I am now in a position where I have to put all my plans aside. The love for this beautiful house we are renting in Derbyshire, a strong LEAVE voting region. My daughter’s whole life, as she never lived anywhere else but in England. I have to plan to move away from my boys who are at University and are likely to start working. I have to think about leaving the friends who grieve the passing of the European dream, and some that don’t, and I just don’t understand how they don’t. I have to think of leaving this stupid weather I love so much, and all the stupid imperfections that used to make England nevertheless appealing to me. I have to think of moving back to a country that never really felt like home, despite its warmth, beauty and so much better food.
I had such high hopes of you. I know some of my friends paid to register to vote for you, also expecting more, also hoping you’d put up a fight. Instead it seems they got yet another leader who no longer has the courage to stand up and say “This is madness, stop it already”.
Anyway, I know this is pointless, especially coming from me, not even registered to vote Labour, not even a British citizen.
I just needed to tell you, as the epitome of pretty much everything I used to love about this country, that I am very saddened by the course of these events, and until Article 50 is called or whatever, I still have a lingering bit of hope.