Brexit logic in our deprived towns goes something like this: so what if the country collapses economically? At least then they will know what it feels like to be us
The phone went one Sunday evening. It was the bishop of Wolverhampton, my then boss. There was this job he couldn’t find anyone to do. Would I go and look after a parish to the north of Walsall called Blakenall Heath? Big barn of a church, no money, struggling. Just for a bit, he said. I’d like you to pack up and go there in a couple of weeks. We did, with a new baby and no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.
People generally didn’t go to Blakenall Heath unless they came from there. Unemployed men would sit around in their front gardens on discarded sofas, looking bored. Some of my parishioners spent all day in their dressing gowns. Burned-out cars decorated the roadside. Back then the vicarage was ringed by flats whose residents would frequently shoot at each other with air rifles. At night, the pellets would ping off our roof. Even the local police didn’t like going into Blakenall Heath. It was treated as a ghetto.