Pauline Pearce is exactly what politics needs. But politics is too safe and boring to accommodate her

The Hackney Heroine could have invigorated the Lib Dems

Share

Pauline Pearce, the “Hackney Heroine” of the London Riots, has a welcome tendency to speak exactly as she finds. Her unique insights and sterling powers of communication were what made her so attractive to the Lib Dems, so there’s something beautifully ironic about how she’s deployed these strengths to trumpet the party’s failings so publicly.

Pearce has announced she is stepping down from the race to be Liberal Democrat president, citing the party’s “Neanderthal views on diversity”. If Pearce had been successful she would have stepped into the role currently filled by MP Tim Farron.

Clearly, we’re still very much in a political world where only Yes men and those with squeaky clean histories are permitted to hold the reins.

Pauline Pearce is a black woman in her late-40s with real insight into the needs of working-class Britain – indeed into the needs of the “underclasses”, if that’s a term one favours — although I wish there was a cosier word for “people with no bloody hope”.

Pearce can’t, she says, afford internet access at home so is largely unavailable by email. It’s tiny details like that — so curious and bewildering to the middle classes — that make her such an unusual figure in the political world.

During the riots Pearce was at ground level in Hackney’s Pembury Estate – walking home to her flat – and was filmed rebuking rioters for the shortsightedness of their anger. Why are you kids burning your own shops? It was something many of us were thinking, but I didn’t have the energy to deal with the fall-out from writing it publicly from a keyboard four miles away. Pauline Pearce said it to the rioters’ faces.

More importantly, I feel, she emphasised to the media hoards the importance of communicating with young people - of being approachable, inquisitive and non-judgemental. Pearce wasn’t just saying these type of things as touchy-feely soundbites, she was revolutionary enough to actually mean it.

We cannot, Pearce seemed to believe, solve problems of social cohesion in Hackney by sending missives from Westminster telling people to stop being naughty and get a bloody job. Policy-makers had to be brave and interact. In a world of political claptrap Pearce was a breath of fresh air. Which party wouldn’t want a person like Pauline on its side?

 

But after the initial Lib Dem love-in, Pearce says that her plans to run for a senior post in the party have been quashed by patronising comments about her lack of experience, and ridicule about a police record for drug-smuggling. Both of these aspects of her were no secret at the start of her Lib Dem journey. They were seemingly not a problem when Pearce was giving the party a little edge and a scoop of “realness”, but they became one when the woman wanted some actual power.

Pearce accused the party of “neanderthal views on inclusivity”. She concluded, perfectly pithily, “I'll just stay and be the token person who sits and smiles in the background and do my community activism that I always do”. I must confess to a hoot at that part of her statement. It’s just so wonderfully dry. Because I can fully imagine future Lib Dem press calls featuring the usual men in suits mumbling about the need to understand the disenfranchised, while Pauline sits in the background, a perfect example of multi-cultural inclusivity, even if she is, y’know, effectively mute, power-free and brought in mainly for photos. Smile Pauline!

In 2014 it seems we are simply no closer to re-dispersing political power into either the hands of the less privileged, or the hands of those less than squeaky-clean pasts. I can’t help wondering how, if Pauline’s lack of e-mail was a problem, why someone from the Lib Dems couldn’t simply help her out. The crux of inclusivity, very often, is people “just being quite helpful”. You live far away? We’ll get you a taxi. You can’t read very well? We’ll help you learn. You don’t have the right clothes? Here, have a gift token.

The key to inclusivity can be the smallest things. With this in mind, can someone in the London E5 area go round give Pauline Pearce a 4G dongle? Imagine what she could achieve with fast broadband? More seriously, and also quashing her rise to power, Pearce was in her youth involved in gangs. One might think she has some very useful insights into this hot topic if she’s permitted to speak.

She became involved in drug-smuggling and served three years in prison. Surely this indicates she knows about penal reform, plus has experience of the reality of post-prison job-seeking. She is a shining example of life not ending after terrible choices in one’s youth. Until we truly believe in second chances we will suffer the political figures and their short-sighted policy that we truly deserve.

Incidentally, every time a liberal sends me that photo of a young George Osborne with his former friend Natalie Rowe, reportedly a dominatrix, as a way of proving that he’s shady, it only serves to makes me warm to him. In a previous life, George must have seen a few sights. And I don’t want society’s reigns to be in the hands of those with a life half-lived.

One of the only saving graces of being over-40 is that my generation and the ones before made our mistakes pre-camera phone and social media. By 2035 there will be barely anyone left with a reputation unblemished enough for power at all. We need to change our attitude to second chances or politics has a very grey out-of-touch future.

READ MORE:
The shooting of Michael Brown proves (once again) how racial stereotyping can lead to murder 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant - Travel

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Mechanic

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Auto centre is based in We...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Greek Yes voters were so shy they didn’t even turn up to the polling stations

John Rentoul
epa04832814 Supporters of the 'No' campaign wave flags and react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma Square, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum were asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors. 10367444  

Greek referendum: As Greece spirals towards disaster, a new era of extremist politics begins

Daphne Halikiopoulou
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate