Electronic dance stars Underworld like to say the town of Romford in east London, where they are based, is their New York. But frankly, on the wet Wednesday my train from Stratford chugs into the town, I am struggling to see the comparison. Unless it is something to do with being mugged. I witness a near fight between a shopkeeper and a man fleeing from his store within about a minute of setting foot in the high street. … Justice (“What we don’t have a lot of,” he says when I ask him his name) is drinking tea from a union jack mug; I get mine in a mug with the flag of St George on it … Romford’s MP, Andrew Rosindell, who achieved instant fame in the 2001 general election when he campaigned alongside a staffordshire bull terrier dressed in a union jack waistcoat … “We should definitely come out,” says Katrina Woods, who is shopping in the market square with her friend Jane Verner. “We’re overcrowded as it is. We’ve got no houses for our own children. Or look at the way they’re treating people in hospital. You go down the hospital and you’re waiting hours. You’ve got old people left on trolleys. They haven’t got beds for them.” … When I ask for their names, they look anxious, fearing they have spoken too openly. But Webb reassures them. “Don’t worry,” he says, “nobody round here reads the Guardian.” Which, I discover later, is not quite true: Quadrant News in South Street has sold out – both the Guardians they get daily have gone. “They certainly soon go,” says the man behind the counter. It seems that even Eurosceptic Central has a few closet liberals.So to sum up, Romford is a grey horrible town with ghastly flag-waving right wing people but there are some really nice ‘Guardian’ reads, so all hope is not yet lost.
The largest town in Ceredigion is Aberystwyth, which has a population of around 13,000, plus another 11,000 students at the university, and after my day in Romford that is where I head, on a train that trundles amiably through the lovely countryside of mid Wales. The slate-grey skies of east London have turned blue; lambs gambol in the fields; the river Dyfi winds its way gently towards Aberdovey; the inviting beach at Borth hints at the possibilities of summer. … a former lady mayoress who tells me she was instrumental in twinning the town with Kronberg im Taunus in Germany (an odd twin since it is several hundred miles from the coast). Aberystwyth, she says, is proud of its twin cities in Germany, France and Patagonia. In Romford, no one had mentioned being twinned with anyone, and I fantasise that it stands proudly alone. But I discover later that it is twinned – with Ludwigshafen am Rhein in Germany and Hesdin in France. … Williams explains why his constituency is the most Europhile in Britain. “The influence of the universities [Lampeter to the south as well as Aberystwyth itself] is significant. We have been an enriched, cosmopolitan community for a very long time, and there are enduring links with the universities.” … you can’t go to any village or community in this constituency where there isn’t the European emblem up somewhere for a project that’s been directly funded by the EU.” … “I’m pro-EU,” says law student Rebecca Hopkins. “What are we going to do if we leave the EU? We lose trade, we lose immigrants, we lose everything. People shit on the immigrants that come here from the EU, but they give a lot more than they take. Ukip are clinging to a dead, decaying idea of nationalism. We’re not Great Britain any more. We don’t rule the world. We’re just a tiny island that needs to make positive relations.”So to sum up, Aberystwth is a sunny, enlightened place with wonderful social justice-loving people who are the future of our nation, once we’ve shrugged off these awful hidebound nationalists.