Picked up my copy of The Independent on Tuesday, daring rebel that I am, and chanced to see the strangest thing…
Tessa Jowell giving advice to Ed Miliband…
Whilst simultaneously representing Dulwich and West Norwood ( one of the poorest constituencies in Britain), checking her husbands internet porn bill, and justifying the deregulation of gambling, Tessa has found time to ponder why we were defeated in May, coming to a startling conclusion.
Well, I say startling, but thats only if we dont remember her previous highly valued work as the bag lady for the shysters who form the gambling trade, her love affair with high finance, and her ultra-Blairite credentials. Few have ever been as “New” as Ms Jowell, and few could be so wrong.
Tessa takes the evidence from the latest voter survey by Peter Kellner, and the 2009 British Social Attitudes survey, and hey presto, she comes up with a solution thats bang up to date…if that date is sometime in 1996, and you are Tessa Jowell.
Reducing the findings of these two august surveys to bare bones, the findings are as follows:
- The gap between self-identified class and voting intentions for Labour voters has narrowed dramatically since 1970.Back then, 54% of “Working Class” voters were Labour, and just 22% “Middle Class”. In 2010, it was 33% and 27% respectively.
- In 2009, 75% of people considered themselves “somewhere in the middle” as regards their Class position.
- As of today, a massive 70% of voters consider themselves to have no party affiliation.
Jowell’s response to these very salient points is a classic case of reductiam ad absurdio, in which she ignores not only any evidence to the contrary, but also any definition of class save self definition.
My first response was “I can declare myself King of Denmark, it doesn’t make it true”. This sounds silly, but think about it, objectively, Class is really all about power, control, social status and earnings. How much real power do you have at work? Who is your boss? Do you control your budget?Staffing? How much do you earn? How are you seen in your community? Patterns of work have changed enormously since 1970, for technological, social, political and economic reasons.
After much pressing, Ed Miliband defined the “squeezed Middle” as earning between £16,000 and £50,000 per annum – a ridiculously large number of people really, as I doubt that those on £16,000 have the same worries as those on £50,000 on a day to day basis. However, neither end of this spectrum would be considered rich by any standard today, and will often have more in common than those earning, say, over £200,000 a year.
One salient factor missed by La Jowell would be Labours’ retreat from issues of class, and its embracing of theories that see issues of gender, gender identity, race etc as more important. It was the young idealists of Tessas generation, disappointed with the working classes’ refusal top follow their student lead, that led the way to this New labour thinking. They moved from class adulation to marginalising anything to do with what they defined as the white, male working class – as they saw it, the seat of racism, homophobia, sexism etc. in Britain.
Successive defeats of organised Labour in the 1980s encouraged the view that the working class was dead – as if the working class had only ever been a homogenous group – all flat caps, flat vowels and Union membership…
This was never really the case, but in the over educated opinions of Mandy and others, the mantra developed “even if they exist, we despise the working class, unless we can pigeonhole them into a minority”. “They let us down, in 1983, in 1987, and surprisingly in 1992 – quite frankly, we dont care what happens to them – the middle class is where its at – they vote more often, and have grown exponentially since the founding of the Welfare State.”
On the face of it, this has some truth, as we already know that the vast majority of people in Britain today will readily profess membership of the middle class, and have what we would often refer to as middle class aspirations – self-betterment, home ownership, decent education for their kids, and more money.
Yet these aspirations were behind the formation of the Trades Unions during the latter Nineteenth Century, and of the Co-Operative movement. They are “Core values” ( sorry for the management speak) for us, except for the overwheening greed and individualism.
Yet as the working class became less homogenous, and more racially mixed, so the professional middle classes also saw a change. Few today would feel that everyone who works behind the counter at your local bank are automatically middle class, teachers have seen successive governments exert more and more control, whilst seeing their social status in communities plummet. Social work, once a fairly middle class niche, is now a job where you can exert a substantial amount of control on others, but are constricted by local and central government as to what you can do – one size fits all. Pub Landlords, once upstanding independents, are now mostly waged Managers with little control and much responsibility, or Leaseholders for Pubcos, often earning as little as £75.00 per week.
Many jobs that were once safely middle class are now still white collar, but questionably much more working class in terms of status , hours, perks and control.
Having ditched the working class, Tessa and her ilk decided that it was the middle class for the. Progressively, as those who want power do, they identified the middle class as being a bunch of columnists in the media on £100,000 plus. These people, with much more power than your local GP, were taken to be “middle class’, as has Kate Middleton, a millionaires daughter, from a very (expensive and therefore) good school.
For Tessa, all that matters is an outdated view of class, and to pander to a mythical middle class, best represented as being somewhere between Terry and June and Tom and Barbara Good. This is as silly as expecting the massed ranks of the Trades Unions to suddenly re-appear and bring the country to a halt.
What she fails to understand are the shifts in class position of many white collar jobs, the shared interests of those who are nearer the bottom of the pile than the top.
Sadly, Ms Jowell wishes to repeat the mistake of ignoring those at the bottom, for fear of losing a tiny number of those at the top…