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Marr: White middle classes ‘don’t see’ knife crime damage

BBC politics presenter gives lecture at Primrose Hill church

20 June, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

THE host of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme said “white middle classes” in Primrose Hill do not see the damage of knife crime unfolding just streets away.

Andrew Marr, who comes face to face with Westminster’s major players every weekend on his Sunday morning show, was appearing on Wednesday night at a lecture series staged by St Mary’s Church.

He has become a patron of the church’s youth charity which attempts to steer teenagers away from violence.

“In Primrose Hill we have some of the richest people living in their nice houses and going to their lovely cafés and in the other direction there are young kids in gangs who are killing each other,” Mr Marr said. “If you are white middle class you don’t see this. You don’t see what is going on. I’ve only noticed it because I’ve got friends like Marjorie Brown [vicar at St Mary’s] who have explained it to me, otherwise I would be blundering around Primrose Hill like everyone else.”

Mr Marr, the former editor of the Independent newspaper who moved to the area five and half years ago, said recreational drug users needed to see the link with the violence down the chain. He told the New Journal: “I think the drugs trade is incredibly violent, lethal and destroying lives in big numbers and the people doing it are the middle-class, wealthy people taking drugs in the privacy of their own homes. We should be much more judgmental about middle-class drug taking.”

St Mary’s in Elsworthy Road has a series of speakers booked for a summer lecture series. Mr Marr was, perhaps inevitably, asked about how he saw the Brexit stalemate panning out and warned that it could take “decades to heal” a divided nation.

Speaking to around 300 people inside the church, he said: “I think the chances of a general election are much higher than people think. The very first time in my lifetime as a political journalist the Right is badly split. Right up and down the country, Conservative voters will be working out whether to vote Conservative or for the Brexit party, letting Labour have lots and lots of seats.”

Asked from the floor whether there would be a second EU referendum, he said: “As a journalist I would hate to go through another referendum – it would lead to an angry and divided country. Up in the Midlands I would get stopped and asked why we haven’t left the EU yet and in Primrose Hill I get asked the opposite. I know how divided the country is. If we decided to stay in the EU the country would be so divided it would take decades to heal. But I think one way or another that Parliament would stop us from having a ‘no deal’.”

But he added: “In 10 years’ time I think people will look back and slightly wonder what all the fuss was about. I hope so anyway. But I am an optimist. The problem in this country is we tend to catastrophise the current moment. We tend to have a gooey idea of the past and forget what happened century after century. I’ve studied British history quite closely and you see the moments again and again year after year when the country seems to collapse in some way.”

Mr Marr, who presents Radio 4’s Start the Week and was a former political editor at BBC News, suffered a stroke in 2013 but returned to his show months later.

In his spare time, he said he likes to paint in his studio or “walk around Primrose Hill drinking coffee or occasionally, very occasionally, having a beer”.

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