Real life

From ponies to Jeremy Corbyn: Balham’s startingly posh militant left

If anyone wants to know why Labour is about to elect Corbyn, they should come and sit in my back garden

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

If anyone wants to know why the Labour party is about to elect Jeremy Corbyn as its leader then they should come and sit in my back garden in Balham.

I have just heard, while lying on a sun lounger, the most absurd and yet horribly revealing conversation between two neighbours talking to each other over the fence.

I think it is worth me giving a full transcript of the dialogue for posterity, so that history might understand why the main opposition party of the United Kingdom elected as its leader a man who signed a Commons motion looking forward to the day when an asteroid hits the earth and wipes out mankind.

It all started with the conversation catching my ear because one of the women was talking about her love of horse-riding. Both women, I must tell you, were middle class, highly educated and very well-to-do.

One of them was opining to the other that she used to be a keen rider, but had not been able to keep it up since moving to the city where she and her husband worked. She now had children and thought it would be wonderful if one day her family could move out of London to live somewhere nice in the countryside with a paddock where they might keep a pony for the kids.

Just an everyday, middle-of-the-road conversation, taking place between two middle-aged, middle-class aspirational mothers, sitting in the gardens of their fairly expensive properties in a south London suburb.

‘I used to be raaaahly into horse-riding. I even did some eventing,’ said the one woman to the other, in a posh voice. ‘Wow! How amaaazing!’ said the other. ‘Yes, but you know how life is? Things took over. I haven’t ridden for ages. But I would like to think one day we might be able to move to the country so the kids can have a pony. Mind you, horses are so expensive.’ And there followed a brief interlude about horse costs, during which I zoned out, because I am always so worried about my own equine overheads that I can never bear to listen to someone else banging on about them.

I lay back in the sun, mind drifting, eyes shut, half hearing such phrases as ‘cost of hay and bedding …hard feed …vet bills and shoeing….’

And then my brain was jolted violently to attention by the horsey woman suddenly saying the strangest and most alarming sentence I have ever overheard. And the sentence was: ‘Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn wonderful?’

‘What the WHAT?!’ I thought, sitting bolt upright. One minute two ladies were talking about ponies for the kids and the next, Jeremy Corbyn was wonderful.

When I closed my eyes in the sun it was to the faint twitter of Middle Britons banging on about their aspirations for little Tallulah and the next thing I knew, I was rudely awakened by the sound of the militant left.

Ponies to Jeremy Corbyn? How is this possible? I tuned back in and it became clear that the women had moved from a discussion of horse costs, via the cost of living, to the state of Britain today. And thence to the issue of how politics was rotten to the core, but no matter because, thank heavens, Jeremy Corbyn would soon be leading the Labour party, of which, by the way, the pair of them were keen members.

Now, I think I told you that during the general election campaign I was made painfully aware of how many of my wealthy, professional south London neighbours were Labour luvvies because a huge number of them put up Vote Labour posters in their front windows.

The ex-builder boyfriend would walk past them screaming blue murder about the hypocrisy of it all. ‘That’s right! Vote for Miliband, you rich morons! I’m voting Conservative because I can’t afford to ruin the economy and not get any roofing work.’

I had an inkling, therefore, that there were many genuine, signed-up Labour members in my street. I had no idea that these were of the renationalising, veganising, asteroid-loving loony left sort. Perhaps the terrifying point is, they might not be.

These might be perfectly ordinary Labour members preparing to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Or maybe the less terrifying possibility is that all Labour members are renationalising, veganising asteroid-lovers, hurtling towards their own extinction.

Whatever the case, woman two replied: ‘Oh yes! He is wonderful.’ Then woman one said: ‘I just checked I’m still registered to make absolutely sure I can vote for him.’ Woman two: ‘Yes, he’s just what we need. He’s a breath of fresh air.’

At this point, I couldn’t help spluttering. Breath of fresh air? Presumably, the asteroid that hits the earth will be a breath of fresh air too.

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Show comments
  • davidshort10

    It must be horrible, though, to be able to listen to neighbours when you’re in the garden.

    • Simon Jenkins

      Better than in your house

  • You seem to have forgotten to explain a) why the Labour Party is about to elect Jeremy Corbyn or b) why that’s a bad thing (as you obviously think it is).

    • WFB56

      Nothing to explain, its self-evident to anyone who keeps abreast of current affairs.

  • Darl

    This was a funny, but of course devisive and asinine post. The ladies of leisure should know better? The ex-builder boyfriend should be profiled on account of his job? Absolutely stupid! It’s media like this that converted me from a wavering voter of tory tendencies to full on Corbyn…

    • wince

      You’ve got ‘full on Corbyn?’ All I can say is, get medical help!

  • ADW

    It’s the usual cognitive dissonance – rich ladies assume their lifestyle will be completely unaffected by, and has no relation to, anything to do with Westminster, so they can enjoy the likes of Corbyn much like they enjoy the bad guy on East Enders or whatever.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Green Left ideology has a certain hegemony in the female upper class: you only have to listen to them. The male dissenters are the quiet ones.

  • WFB56

    An excellent article that tells you more about the risks of Corbyn than all of the pollsters. It also tells you a lot about the intellectual deficiencies of many people, like Melissa’s chattering class neighbours, and their disconnect from the realities of what makes their smug existence so comfortable; and it isn’t the wit and wisdom of Jeremy Corbyn.

    • Nick Royles

      Melissa seems to like to chatter as well. Left or right the rich are the same.

      • Sarka

        There are many differences between the rich and the poor, and the various gradations in between, but I have never found in my whole life that different degrees of chattering correlate with them. Some rich people are taciturn, even as regards politics, while some poor never stop talking, including about politics…
        The now rather old, but still popular phrase, “chattering classes” was never supposed to be a synonym for “the rich”, but to describe the middle-class intelligentsia, many of whom are not, actually, seriously rich at all.

        • Nick Royles

          I do know what the appellation was originally intended for. One was implying that if one is a columnist and does not partake in an inane amount of chatter oneself then surely one would run out of something to write about. The rich are the same as it usually requires living in a bubble somewhat.

        • Gilbert White

          Probably one of the main true indicators of rich and poor in the modern paradigm is that the truly poor buy their Korean flat screen from the British Heart. Foundation rather than upmarket Scandinavian modernist with parliamentary expenses. I am convinced the tatooing industry costs the same to the taxpayer as the food bank industry.

  • pobinr

    Is there any evidence that Mr Corbyn’s going to solve this contradiction with Labour?

    I spoke to a cabbie the other day. He told me used to be able to make £17 an hour as a lorry driver. Then came along the Poles living 10 to a house drove the wages down to £8 an hour so now he’s had to switch to driving a cab to make a living wage.

    So him & his pals are all now UKIP.

    Vote Labour if you want Britain to continue along the route of becoming a mere province of a borderless Europe run from Brussels flooded with migrants from poor countries.

    They’ll keep coming here until we’re as poor as them. Meantime min wage employers here continue to plunder the work force & youth from those poor countries, thus making those countries poorer

    The antithesis of socialism but the left are too stupid to see it !

    The social housing queue in Southampton is now 8 years long due to millions of migrants come here.

    Every other name on the maternity unit costs is East European.

    Locals can’t get their kids into their nearest school as their full of East European migrants

    Frankly it’s bizzarre how the left think this is all fine & that the EU is wonderful !

    Yet I thought the left were supposed to be pro the working class!

    Labour – Anti referendum, pro EU and thus pro immigration.

    Result = Mass immigration of cheap labour driving down wages, taking jobs, taking homes, making more traffic congestion, overloading schools & hospitals

    Just to make slumlords & low wage payers here richer.

    But that’s the opposite of Socialism isn’t it?

    Labour the party for people that don’t believe in Labour principles!

    The party that borrowed so much they put Britain on the verge of bankruptcy. The party that didn’t regulate the banks leading to the worst banking crash ever.

    The party that hates Britain, hates Britishness, hates the idea of nationstate democracy & hates ordinary working class Brits.

    Labour have utterly betrayed the people of this country.

    Labour the party of Traitor Unionists

    • Nick Royles

      You’ve waffled on quite a lot but have failed to notice that the right have committed many of the ‘crimes’ that you have listed above. It’s been socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor for a long time.

      • evad666

        Read the Road to Wigan Pier revisited, Labour started the rot not the Tories.

        • Nick Royles

          Read Tacitus. I think it started in his period or maybe when the Saxons invaded.

    • evad666

      ” Every other name on the maternity unit costs is East European.”
      Your lucky in many areas the only name on the Cots is Muhammed and the Shops just sell cheap imported Toilet Tissue.

      • Tway

        Why are we lucky to have been invaded by 2nd world Slavs, who in the short term are here to exploit us financially, and in the long term will surely mix and mongrelise all of us down the line?

    • MichtyMe

      Think you a wee bit mixed up. There were no East European migrants when we had socialism there. Socialists believe in controls, in migration as in other things. The Right strived to bring down socialism in the East, to free the people. They are now free, to move here, to contribute to the success of capitalism.

  • Sten vs Bren

    You had your inverted snobbery confounded. Maybe you are missing more of the world than you know just through sheer prejudice.

    • wudyermucuss

      Wealthy bourgeoise proclaiming the virtue of far leftism is virtue signalling/guilt alleviation.
      Leftism would strip them of their privilege.
      Pointing this out is hardly snobbery.

      • blandings

        I understand what you are saying, but Sten won’t

  • Felixthecat

    Considering Labour is the party of the public sector middle class, the fact that Corbyn is leading the polls does not surprise me in the least. These are the kind of people who think everyone gives a shit about whether they buy fair trade coffee.

    In any case these metropolitan leftists got rich of the property boom, so income tax rises are unlikely to effect them.

    • Grace Ironwood

      “the public sector middle class (who) think everyone gives a shit about whether they buy fair trade coffee”
      🙂 That’s them!

  • This shouldn’t be that surprising, John Cruddas found something similar in his analysis of Labour’s defeat. Since 2005 it has been the working class, social groups C-E that have left Labour, over 10% of them, compared with just 2% of group AB.

    As much as it may hurt Labour’s sensibilities, Miliband lost the working class with all the rent controls, market intervention, anti-capitalist rhetoric. Blairism is more aligned with working class voters than Corbyn/Miliband.

    The heart of the Labour party is now well off, well educated, guilty middle class voters. I asked a neighbour who has one son a builder and one a roofer why they voted Tory and they said “neither of my children have been out of work a day in 5 years. I remember Old Labour not working”. Quite.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Pity Cruddas didn’t run for leader. He’s the only Labour politician I’ve heard who speaks sense.

      • Sapporo

        He’s also the MP for Dagenham, who bought a property in Kensington, so he could get his children into highly sought after schools, rather than mix with the poor lower classes in the increasingly migrant dominated schools in Dagenham. Every socialist is a total hypocrite

        • Damaris Tighe

          Didn’t know that. As you say, is there no end to their hypocrisy?

          • wildcolonialboy

            Is it hypocrisy? Can you point to here Cruddas has said it is wrong for children to go to private schools?

          • greencoat

            In other words he’s sly as well.

        • I don’t remember Cruddas being so evangelical re: public services though. It’s not like Diane Abbott campaigning against private schools then sending her kids to one.

          Different scales of hypocrisy I suppose.

          Btw, I’m from Dagenham and I don’t blame him for a second and neither would many of his constituents – schools here are appalling!

    • Angharad

      ‘Blairism is more aligned with the working class voters than Corbyn’?

      Shows you know fuck all about the working class; get out of your box and have a look around.

      • blandings

        Cruddas is certainly more aligned to working class voters than the risible poseur Corbyn.

        • Angharad

          As someone that happens to know Corbyns policies I know his polices are very working class friendly.

          • blandings

            You are welcome to believe that.
            I don’t, though I realise that a lot can change quickly – we live in volatile times.
            Corbyn is more toytown revolutionary than working class hero – but we’ll see what happens.

          • Angharad

            I’ve made this point before; the Tories have their authentic leader, an Etonian, Ukip have their authentic leader, Nigel fits the bill, I don’t see why the left can’t have their authentic leader.

            We don’t want a hollow, career minded mouthpiece with no ideas.

            Btw, even Farage has said he hopes Corbyn wins.

          • blandings

            “Btw, even Farage has said he hopes Corbyn wins.”

            I know. Don’t assume that your opponents are on your side.

          • Angharad

            I am under no illusion about Farage, the point is he’s hasn’t joined the ‘anyone but Corbyn’ band wagon.

          • blandings

            He won’t. I assume that he believes that UKIP will find it easier to increase its vote share with Corbyn as leader: If Labour splits or contracts then it opens up the field and may even encourage the Tory Party to fracture.
            I’ll lay my cards on the table: I voted UKIP at the last election and will do so at the next: Corbyn won’t change my mind.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Authentic in itself isn’t an absolute good – although I can understand the attraction of a politician who isn’t a cliche spouting suit. But the question is, authentic what? I wouldn’t want to encounter authentic evil for example.

          • Grace Ironwood

            You don’t believe Labour should be centre-left: an alternative government ?

          • Tway

            Mass immigration is good for working class voters how? International socialism is destroying our institutions of national welfare.

      • Caractacus

        Trust me. Teachers vote Labour. Dinner Ladies vote Tory.

        • Angharad

          You’re talking about Union members who, of course, will vote Labour; I’m talking about the working class that don’t belong to a union.

          They were well and truly shafted by Blairs Labour party on many levels.

          • Julian Kaye

            And are now being shafted by Cameron! Cameron has lost 50% of his “public” support. His only friends are tax dodging multi nationals.

          • Angharad

            Has Cameron lost 50% of his public support? That’s interesting to know, where did you discover this?

          • Caractacus

            There is no union for Dinner Ladies.

  • Maureen Fisher

    Spot on Melissa! It doesn’t surprise me that these are the types he attracts. He looks and sounds like a Uni lecturer. Which will mean more votes for the Tories or UKIP from the disenfranchised real labouring class like your builder boyfriend.

  • Observer1951

    Really looking forward to the Andrew Neil interview with Corbyn on Daily Politics. I assume the new leader will be keen to be interviewed ( yes I know Cameron refused). Politics is getting very interesting

  • Peter Stroud

    The apparent close proximity of the two ladies, and the author, suggests they live in terraced houses. I suggest the two horsey ones move to rural Dorset or Wiltshire, where they will be able to buy decent sized properties, for the price of their London houses, close to farms where they can stable their horses, and look after them. They will also save enough money to give sizeable donations to comrade Corbyn.

    • Prendergast Walsh

      I am sure that the people of Dorset or Wiltshire will be delighted to receive these townies.

  • Douglas Redmayne

    Corbyn is authentic which is why many people seem to like him. Not only that much of what he is proposing is not especially left wing. BTW, your ex boyfriend sounds like an arse and I will check local South London roofers when I have my roof done so I don’t accidently employ him.

    • Damaris Tighe


      • Douglas Redmayne

        So what. The Tories are propelling bigotry against people who are on benefits and disabled. I am just doing my bit to visit the consequences of this on those who voted for them. In any case just about every south London builder I have employed has been an untruthful parasite so I see it as just.

        • wince

          In any case just about every south London builder I have employed has been an untruthful parasite so I see it as just.

          You are showing healthy levels of doublethink. Well done comrade!

        • blandings

          “In any case just about every south London builder I have employed has been an untruthful parasite”

          Well Doug, maybe they think the same of you

        • Alexsandr

          Maybe its time someone thought about the taxpayers who pay for all this largesse for a change.

          • Douglas Redmayne

            Fine but bear in mind that people have been softened up for this by appealing to their worse instincts. If I can visit the kharmic consequences of this on a Tory voter then I will feel entitled to be pleased with myself and it would be intellectually inconsistent of him to complain as I will be making a free choice on how to spend (or not spend) my money which is what he is seeking to further by voting for a party that delivers benefit cuts.

    • Josh Smith

      He’s a terrorist supporter, and yes he is very left-wing, that is why the left-wing party thinks him too left wing. Renationalising everything is as left-wing as you can get, whereas loving terrorists over your own people has also become a charming leftist trait.
      Also nice to know that a builder who is worried about tax becomes an arse just because he voted for the wettest Tory government ever.

      • Douglas Redmayne

        He is only talking about renationalising rail and energy, both of which are national monopolies that have to be regulated and subsidised by the government anyway. As for supporting terorists: there was a case for the UK leaving Northern Ireland and there is more than one side to the Palestine issue.

        • Josh Smith

          I actually agree about rail, but it is a left opinion and energy is a far more leftist opinion, giving the state the power over power is a scary notion to many. It doesn’t matter if you think that, it just should be honestly labelled as the far left policy it is. He also will impose heavy regulation on the stock market and business practices also very left.
          Also there is a difference between believing the UK should leave Ireland and supporting and condoning the men who committed bombings. Those are linked things and pretending that chumming around with terrorists, a week after the Brighton bombing is the same as recognising a case for British withdrawal is wrong. Same with the Hamas terrorists. Supporting a different solution is not the same as befriending racists and jew-hating bomb makers. So that is very disingenuous of you.

      • Angharad

        ‘Terrorist supporter’ my ass!

        To you he may be ‘very left-wing’ but I wouldn’t shout about it as that would put to on the far right scale.

        The Labour party hasn’t been left wing since Blair high-jacked it.

        • Josh Smith

          As I said in my second comment to Mr Redmanye here, he has supported terrorists. He has invited the bombers from the IRA to parliament and he has said Hamas, who this state call a terror group, are his friends. So you are simply wrong.
          He is far to the left, when Labour votes think of themselves as left and him as far left, you may, as a far lefty, believe they are sell-outs or moderates or hilariously red Tories but they aren’t that is what our society has deemed to be left-wing. His views are far-left; huge government control of every aspect of our lives through to his disdain for any free Western democracy and sympathy for thugs like Chavez and Castro (ends justify the means I suppose).
          What did Blair do that was right-wing, invade Iraq? Ok but what about growing the public sector by half and doubling spending from 1997-2007. You may not like the fact he invaded Iraq and pretended to be a centrist but he spent like Michael Foot would have done. So again wrong.
          What is with the desire to deny reality. If you believe the government can and should take care of all these things admit it for the far left position it is and own it don’t falsify reality like Tony Blair.

          • Angharad

            He’s not a ‘terrorist supporter’, you’re conflating his desire for peace, as many people die and suffer as a result of war, with ‘support’.

            He’s a well know peace activist and is head of chair with Stop the War coalition.
            You cannot create peace without getting both sides around a table for talks. Diplomatic language is not the same as supporting a groups actions.

            Tony Blair was certainly not left wing; his party started the process of privatising the NHS; he introduced tuition fees; tax evasion was incredibly rife under Blair, wages stagnated………

            Need I go on? He was no socialist.

          • Josh Smith

            5% privatisation to cover the huge cost of his huge expansion! Christ you people are lunatics, Blair expanded the public sector to a massive extent, he doubled spending in less than 10 years. You can’t dismiss this by pointing to a tiny bit of privatisation, especially when it was to pay for the almost 30% increase in spending on it, for very few results. He introduced tuition fees to pay for the fact he encouraged ‘everyone to be special,’ a left wing notion, and all go to university. Encouraging people to study gender studies at the Polytechnic of nowhere is again a left policy, which needs to be paid for, not in Jeremy Corbyn’s mad world of make believe, but it still does. You are denying reality.

            Wages stagnated under Blair because he introduced the ultra left-wing minimum wage, having the government decide what people’s labour is worth for them and their employers. While cozying up to the left-wing superstate of the Eu to do the left-wing thing of flooding our country with low skilled workers, another cause of stagnant wages.

            Wanting peace is NOT the same as inviting killers and cuddling up to killers the week after the Brighton bombing and an attempt on the Prime minister’s life. It is not the same as saying a man like Raed Salah, an anti-semite who wishes to kill every jew worldwide, is a man worth talking to and inviting to Britain despite him being banned. This is not the same as wanting peace, also if you want peace between Israel and Palestine it is not the peaceful thing to support the side who calls for the annihilation of all jews worldwide and say so often and in public and put in their charter. He calls a terror group who don’t want peace they want war and genocide if possible his friends and you say he wants peace. Good lord.

    • ill-liberal

      He sounds like the vast majority of builders and tradesmen I know. Sensible.

      I hope you do your due diligence an all potential roofers and it leaves you with the damp house you deserve.

    • chiefwhippet

      I think he lives in Chobham in Surrey, not London. He was dumped by Melissa and sounded rather confused, upset and disillusioned in their relationship when I bumped in to him in one of these comments pages. He owned and rode a horse and Melissa loves a good rider.

      Humanity disappoints many but Corbyn MP at least tries to make things better (he does not insult individual people) in this fractious world we have made for ourselves. Sometimes a Comet seems preferable.

      • Douglas Redmayne

        Thank you. You have now made me feel sorry for him.

  • Yorkieeye

    I’m rather worried about Corbyn’s nihilism, it’s a sort of new Puritanism. It suggests a guilty, miserabalist approach to the joys of life and a throw back to the self flaggelating priest class of yore who revelled in their unworthiness to exist. It may help to explain his austere and perfunctory way of life, as reported by himself.

    • ill-liberal

      I had also been thinking that. It’s a kind of pious and judgmental view of humanity, which he clearly dislikes.

      Fortunately, I can’t see the country wearing his hair shirt collectively. Hopefully the Labour luvvies will continue on the path to obscurity.

  • oresme2

    At least these neighbours were not talking about their neighbours.

  • Fraser Bailey

    Well we have known for some time that only the rich can afford to vote Labour. Even so, this is somewhat surprising. Having said that, these women might have worked out that Corbyn’s policies may well unleash the type of inflation that will see their properties become twice as valuable, at least in paper money.

  • evad666

    The US and UK Leaders are currently engaged in Emergency Talks about the latest Announcements from N. Korea:-

    The Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Marshall Kim Jong Un as instructed the People’s Armed Forces Minister General Pak Yong-sik
    and the Chief of the General Staff General Ri Yon gil to act decisively in support of the peoples candidate Chairman Corbyn in his attempt to wrest control of the workers party from the failed Blairite oligarchs and return it to the rightful control of the Pony loving illiberal elites who’s successful policies of wealth redistribution will be given a final chance to impoverish and remove the striving aspirational entrepreneurs who hold the UK back.

  • jim

    Women!!.. Pah!…What do you expect……

    • blandings

      A good screw and dinner on the table.
      And you?

      • jim

        You sir, would appear to be firmly in accord with the eternal symphonic rhythms and cycles of human society which have always been the cornerstone of our way of life in this great country of ours. By Gad Sir!!.Values,tradition! .These are the things that matter. Stout fellow..

        • blandings

          Stout dinner table

  • blandings

    Some ladies of leisure like a bit of rough (so I’m told).
    Let’s hope they get what they want, good and hard.

    • Angharad

      Keep your sexual fantasies to yourself.

      • blandings

        I didn’t mention my sexual fantasies.
        (They are real humdingers by the way – very popular)

        • Angharad

          Oh but you did; It’s all there in your original comment.

          • blandings

            Are you sure?

          • blandings

            Your comment has been removed(?)

            I was not making a sexual comment.
            I am innocent
            I was echoing a quote by H.L. Mencken

          • Angharad

            I removed it as I thought this inane chat was filling up too much of the thread.
            There’s no post moderation on this thread, only pre-moderation.

            I’ll be removing this comment to for the reasons I’ve already stated.

          • blandings


      • Damaris Tighe

        Spoil sport. I want to know more …

        • Angharad

          I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you. 🙂

          • Damaris Tighe

            Angharad, welcome back. I’m glad we didn’t fall out terminally.

  • Grace Ironwood

    Hope your name isn’t really Melissa! 🙂

  • Esmee Phillips

    Talk about padding out an unrevealing anecdote.

  • Tway

    I can ‘shed’ some light on this. Middle class women listen to Radio 4, and the spectrum of acceptable political opinion on Radio 4 these days runs from far left to centre left. Anyone listening to it would be convinced that to be middle class is to be be international socialist.