Is the garden gnome any longer a valid symbol of the suburban way of life?
I happened to be in the audience on Thursday as Ed Miliband made a major speech touching on welfare reform and the economy. He took a Q+A session afterwards. Most of those picked were the assembled media: Nick Robinson of the BBC and his counterparts from Sky, ITN and the print press were all chosen but I had my hand up too and asked if Ed could extend his laudable pronouncements on housebuilding and clamping down on private sector landlords to regeneration, particularly in the neglected suburbs – not quite middle England, not the hangout of the metropolitan elite and not urban enough for urban regeneration yet suffering 21st century problems; decaying infastructure, hollowed out high streets, inadequate transport links etc.
He answered that growth was the key to answering all of the above and Labour had a plan for tackling high street blight in its 2010 manifesto. I think in some respect he’s answered it too with his “squeezed middle” narrative. Anyway you’re wondering “what’ve gnomes got to do with it?” to paraphrase Tina Turner. Well this is how my intervention was written up (behind a paywall) in yesterday’s Times – right at the end of this sketch:
Amusing enough report but looks like a sensible point has been reduced by the commentariat to the usual scenario of anti suburban prejudice painting suburb-dwellers as gnome-obsessives. This sort of outmoded stereotype is precisely what I’m trying to smash in my work on suburbs. There is clearly a vocal pro-gnome minority who complained to IKEA recently but life in the burbs these days is a high pressured environment where there are not enough hours in the day, not peaceable gnome-land. I can’t remember the last time I saw one and I live and work in suburbia. If anything the Tories are the party of the garden ornaments. In fact their last properly elected PM was a bloke who’s dad manufactured them for a living.
Right, will all that out of the way I’m off to do some leafleting for Labour in Ealing today in Walpole ward. I confidently predict that my gnome count of creatures spotted will be zero but I can let you know if I’m wrong. Here is the meantime is an Image from Disney’s Gnomio and Juliette (equally unrepresentative of the modern suburban dwelling but maybe we can blame the creators for being American and not knowing better):