in Shaftesbury

Missing my first election

I’m fully aware that many wonder why on earth I feel so strongly about Asda calling themselves ‘Clapham’. I’ve been expounding on it a lot recently, not on this blog, but the story has been covered on BBC Radio London, in the Evening Standard, the South London Press (not on their website) and the Wandsworth Guardian.

I think I’ll to a post I made on Streetbook:

To return to the discussion about the difference, London is not a bland homogenous entity. Its charm and beauty is that Battersea and Clapham aren’t the same. Just as Soho and Pimlico are different. Or Wembley and Kilburn. There are similarities, but the atmosphere, the vibe, is always different.

In many ways we are not only trying to protect the name Battersea, but also Clapham, which is mis-used to cover so much of South London it’s becoming meaningless.

To have an attachment to a place, you must first know that place. In exactly the same way you can’t truly have a friend or lover who is a stranger to you. To say that you love Clapham when you really mean Battersea only betrays that you haven’t yet made that connection. And it’s those connections and common bonds that strengthen our communities and society.

And I’d probably add a line from the Wandsworth Guardian for good measure:

It’s no coincidence that those who believe it’s Clapham are often those with weaker ties to the area; new residents, antipodean travellers, Yorkshire based supermarkets.

My opinions on it are fairly clear. What I just cannot understand is Asda’s opinion, or lack thereof. They are holding a ballot in store to ask people what they think. And I’m boycotting it. I know it’s just one vote, and am not going to suggest to anyone else that they boycott it, but it devalues everything, Battersea, Clapham and democracy.

I may as well hold a ballot on whether a giraffe has a long neck or to see if people think it would be quite cold in the Arctic circle.

Democracy is about opinions, beliefs. It’s about a political process and a choosing a vision for a town, borough, region, nation. It is not something that changes the facts. All a ballot will prove is that of those that voted some know the store is in Battersea, and some didn’t.

To suggest that the long history of places like Battersea and Clapham can be changed by a few shoppers putting crosses on scraps of paper is nonsensical. While after a 1,000 years historians may still point to Battersea’s place in the Domesday Book, I rather doubt any will be referring to Asda’s pointless ballot in 3010.

If they want ballots perhaps they can have a look at the one being run by the Battersea Society which currently shows 97.8% of people know Asda is in Battersea. If they want something more neutral, perhaps the Wandsworth Guardian’s poll would do, that currently has 78% of people putting Asda correctly in Battersea. Or maybe the South London Press’s straw poll of shoppers which had 70% correctly stating it should be Asda Battersea.

So, I’m not taking part in something that shows nothing be disrespect to the area I love and its long history.

But despite that I’m looking forward to a result that reflects all the other polls and shows a sold victory for Battersea. If it’s any other result, I’ll have to see if the Asda manager will do me a favour if I stand for re-election, it would save all that lengthy campaigning!

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    • Unfortunately they’ve chosen to brand themselves ‘Asda Clapham’, which is very different to ‘Asda Clapham Junction’. It would be like assuming that the area around Charing Cross is ‘Charing’.

      On the more general point I’m aware that places change (otherwise I’d be defending Patricesey rather than Battersea) but think that change should be signalled by something a little more profound than a new store manager who doesn’t know the area.

  1. I think rebranding it “Asda Paris” will actually attract more customers, Yorkshire tourists and will certainly create a spot in tourist guides of most surprising locations. I will vote for that 🙂

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