Chuka Umunna took the Evening Standard on an excursion yesterday to a private street in his constituency that he believes sums up the problems of the nation:
‘Crescent Grove, a small private cul-de-sac, is an oasis of quiet after the main road where fine Victorian houses surround a pretty lozenge of flowerbeds and ornamental trees.
“That’s The Wall,” said Mr Umunna, pointing to the low wall topped with long spiked railings. “Look at the contrast with what is on the other side.” Beyond the railings is Crescent Lane and the Notre Dame housing estate, a post-war construction of small flats and walkways bedecked with washing.
“This wall describes what I see as the problems we have to tackle if we are to build the country we want.”’
It’s debatable as to whether the nation’s issues really are encapsulated by the fact that some houses have railings outside them. But it’s interesting that Umunna should choose this street, of all streets, to typify social division and inequality.
For Crescent Grove is no ordinary street – it has a celebrity former resident. Until 2011, Number 1 on this cul-de-sac, secure behind “The Wall” Chuka warns of, was inhabited by none other than Polly Toynbee, doyenne of the modern left.
Chuka ought to have known this (Streatham Conservatives certainly did) – particularly as he did an interview with Polly in 2010, billing her as a “local resident”. In the video, they spent several minutes discussing inequality. Strangely, at no point did he take the opportunity to challenge her about her street being enclosed by “The Wall”, or its standing as a supposed bastion of social segregation. Has he only just decided it’s a problem, or was it always forgivable just so long as the residents also write left-wing newspaper columns?
Incidentally, when Toynbee sold up in 2011 she pocketed a cool £2,085,000 – making the property one which would fall under Ed Miliband’s “mansion tax”. Houses on the street now sell for upwards of £3 million.