Class Does Matter – And Should 148

The media and political classes like to tell us that we are now a classless society. Class should no longer be a factor in politics. Measures aimed at fairness are a sign of “the politics of envy”. Everybody should realise that fatcat bankers stashing away their £100 million pa incomes in tax havens magically benefit everybody.

Yet of course class does exist and really does matter. For a lesson in class in Britain I only have to walk out of leaf lined Whitehall Gardens, down the hill and into the South Acton estate. Four hundred yards but an entirely different world. With entirely different voting patterns, too. Class remains an important factor in the election. The working class – much of which has no prospect of work – still clings to New Labour.

Not only does class matter, it is more rigid than ever. The UK has the lowest social mobility of any developed country.

It also has the biggest gap between rich and poor of any developed country except the United States. The gap between wealth and poor grew larger under New Labour at an accelerating rate. In fact we are catching the US up, and the wealth gap under New Labour grew much faster than under Thatcher, indeed at the fastest rate since it has been possible to measure it. When Mandelson said he was “Extremely relaxed about the filthy rich” he really meant it. The government’s enslavement to the city, deregulation and worship of Mammon has had spectacular ill results.

This lack of social mobility is a product of social attitude as much as structure. Anybody who has moved around the higher echelons of the City and of government will know that there is a nexus of family, school, and Oxbridge college relationships that greases the path of commercial and political transaction. Similar systems work in every country, but it is stronger here. To get the finance for my African project, I used the services of a man whose entire value was that he was at Oxford, a minor aristocrat, dines at the Wolseley and knows everybody. He could get me in the door of the merchant banks and seen at decision making level. He had no other qualification and had never done any succesful business himself. He lives off introduction fees. Others are able to make better use of their opportunities but I tell the story to illustrate a simple truth about this country. It is who you know that counts.

With such a huge wealth gap and with almost no social mobility, class resentment in the UK is not just natural, it is needed. The irony is that it is the Conservatives who are set to suffer and New Labour to benefit. The only desire of the New Labour leadership was to insert themselves into the gilded circle – into which Blair was anyway born – and get troughing. But New Labour voters still do not see that, not least because they are kept in such a pit of poorly schooled, reality TV-fed ignorance.

Cameron has made the crucial mistake of surrounding himself with fellow toffs. Thatcher was not one and had Tebbit as her self evidently non upper class attack dog. Major was not one either and was backed up by blokey Ken Clarke. I can only imagine that Cameron surrounded himself by an entire front bench of public school yaahs because that is the company in which he feels comfortable. But most people like their subservience to a ruling class they cannot join not to be rubbed in their faces quite so obviously.

Huge puzzlement is being expressed all over the media and blogosphere about how the Tory lead can have narrowed so much. There is your answer.

148 thoughts on “Class Does Matter – And Should

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  • MJ

    “Secondly, there’s your typing”.

    Yup, it’s your mannerism of never putting a space after full stops, commas and dashes. Have you not noticed in all your researchin’ that everyone else does?

  • Steelback


    I have mentioned being on STW marches ad infinitum but given the attention span of these dickheads-several of whom-oilman,MJ,techni et al-I tend to think turned up on the 911 thread debating Larry…(?!) I might just as well have said I’d met the man in the moon!

    I think their brains are totally addled by drugs and the corporate media they simply bcan’t follow the discussion-end of story.

    Their new debating line has changed from ARE YOU POLITICALLY CORRECT to ARE YOU NICE?


    Like you said Apostate these mindless adolescent dingbats are utterly out of their depth.

    P.S.Are you nice? Do you do nice?

    P.P.S.Maybe that’s what techni and oliman ask when campaigners come knocking.

    Utter dingbats!

    Come back Larry and angri then when the “debates” between them and the adolescents start we can just visit this site just for sheer entertainment value.


  • MJ

    mindless, adolescent, dingbats, disinformation agents.

    morons, nutjobs, batshit crazy, conspiraloons.


  • Anonymous

    Anyhow Steelback, before you jump to conclusions about attention spans, I recall that months ago you said you had been involved with the Left but had become disillusioned because they wouldn’t acknowledge the role of Israel/Zionists in global politics for fear of being labelled “anti-semitic”.

    Naturally, not long after Freeborn or Apostate popped up offering total agreement with your views.

    Hope you’re impressed and wish to reconsider your rather rash comment about attention spans. For what it’s worth I agree with you about the Left having a regrettable blind spot about Israel/Zionism.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thank you, apostate. I appreciate you answering my questions. I think that you are very nice person who is pretending not to be. Emerlist Davjack.

  • Freeborn

    Speaking for myself I despise the English working class much like my Dad before me.

    At the time my Dad’s prejudices seemed quite abhorrent and unjust.Now,in retrospect long after his demise I realise he was proselytizing for a way of life-now fast on the way to extinction to which he wanted all his children to aspire.

    Being brought up in such a conventional a middle class family environment all I wanted to do was rebel.In the 1970s middle class kids like me looked up to the working class because to us they were the ultimate rebels.They did all the stuff that appalled our parents.They drank in pubs.They had powerful unions that went on strike and forced the bosses to back down.They played games we liked like darts and football.They had their own youth culture.

    All the sociology textbooks seemed to be written by working class grammar school ex-pupils.They did studies where conventional middle class professions were denigrated and ridiculed.One to which my Dad took great exception to was by David Lockwood.It was called,The Black-Coated Worker.

    My Dad who wore a black suit and bowler hat to work said it made them sound like beetles on the march!

    Macho working class car workers and miners were lauded by their “neutral” participant observers for their community spirit and solidarity.

    The working class and their accents dominated film,theatre and TV.They were cloth cap cool,man!

    Contrastingly the middle classes were conventional and effete.Their insecurities about losing everything and dropping into the working class seemed frankly absurd.Today those fears seem quite prescient.My Dad deserves some credit after all.

    The “deferred gratification” that was said by sociologists to distinguish the middle from their working class counterparts was just boring.We preferred what we perceived was the working class aspiration to have the world and to have it…..well,NOW of course.

    Marxism we learned when we studied Sociology in school taught us to despise the bourgeoisie and we certainly did that.It was just cooler to be a working class hero.

    Then Thatcherism came along and changed everything.It was then we learned how the working class worshipped Mammon.All they wanted to be was middle class so they shat on their own people and the much vaunted class loyalty of the proletariat was smashed during the miner’s strike.

    George Carlin used to say there was no-one more bitter than the idealist who came to discover that his plan for human perfectibility was but an impossible dream.How ironic that the idealist was bound to end up as the worst kind of cynic.

    Thus it was that Thatcherism and its appeal to the working class left many a middle class idealist with a life-long grudge against against the people who so badly let him down.

    Now the working class are feckless heiffer lumps with dysfunctional family backgrounds and learning difficulties.People who are shaped completely by their environment and have no capacity or desire to change it.

    These people once had communities they could be proud of and a class solidarity that seemed awesome from the point of view of middle class kids like me whose parents seemed cowed and unduly respectful of the system and the elites above them who dominated it.

    Now their gemeinschaft community structures have broken down and they prey on the most vulnerable in their own backyards.

    They are on the point of losing much more as the elite Final Solution moves forward.

    Who and where are the working class in the elite plan?

    They’re the “useless eaters” of course.Their dependence on the very public services that are on the point of collapse will determine their fate.

    They always said over the decades as their influence waned that it didn’t matter who they voted for “cos they’re all the same” etc.

    That was about the only thing they worked out for themselves.

    Now it’s too late for them-and it’s probably “Good night” from us,the middle class who are now left standing,as well.

    On the Coming Collapse/Final Solution see Niall Ferguson’s most recent piece in Foreign Affairs or any piece on same topic by Engdahl,Hedges or my favourite,Gerald Celente.

  • technicolour

    Freborn: “Now the working class are feckless heiffer lumps with dysfunctional family backgrounds and learning difficulties.”

    I can’t see that going down well in a party political broadcast. Also, thank goodness, it’s not true. I don’t know what your salary is, but you try fighting the machine on £50 a week as a single father. If you survive the day, as Charlie Parker once said, it deserves trumpets.

    But at least our thoughts are free. Try it. You’re not so far away, maybe. ‘Heffalump’ comes from Winnie the Pooh, originally: now that was a nice book.

  • juniper

    Youz mitey hard on all ussa heffer lumps,Massa Freebon.

    Down St Louis we hate der people wot lef dare own to goan makin’ dollars an’nickels offa back sum ol’cathouse in the desert.

    I gess yu noze who I meanz Massa Free?

    P.S.I reckon yu sure dam rite on bout dem adolecents anna shills too.

    P.P.S.Massa tungstein say yo bio like a bref a fresh air.He reedin’ it now wile drinkin’ol’Larry’s licker.He say he goan looka up dat Nil Fergus stuff too.

    Bravo,Massa Freebon’!

  • technicolour

    Ah, juniper, how lovely to read more of your work. But I think we’ve all got where you’re coming from, so why don’t you save your fingers and do some knitting instead? Meanwhile, with your cod ‘black persons’ talk, you could always try stand-up in Brixton. I would be very happy to witness the results!

  • MarkU

    Unless I’ve missed something, an entire discussion thread concerning class and social mobility has petered out, without anybody so much as mentioning inherited wealth. Surely, in order to have anything even faintly resembling a meritocracy, inherited wealth must be capped. I’m not talking about a few hundred thousand or even a few millions, that would be ‘politics of envy’ territory. What I’m talking about is the inheritance of assets so vast that they represent a degree of political influence that should be unacceptable to a democratic society.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Freeborn, thanks for that very intriguing and moving history and the references. Yes, the trajectory of political consciousness and activism in the UK is a dispiriting one; I, along with many others, shared those feelings esp. during 1980s-and-on. It shapes one – everyone, not just the groups defined culturally as ‘working class’ (though of course, if we’re on a wage or salary, we are working class).

    Were you a Mod, by any chance?

    Those who know a lot about gold seem to have a handle on the underlying macro-economic rubric. Still, as technicolour rightly points out, even today not everybody is brain-dead – but will it make a difference? Will a trumpet solo sound – from either ‘Bird’ or Israfil (Raphael)? I hope so.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “What I’m talking about is the inheritance of assets so vast that they represent a degree of political influence that should be unacceptable to a democratic society.” MarkU


  • technicolour

    MarkU, I think the reason the thread has petered out is

    a) Class, pfui. Eton may have produced Cameron, but it also produced Orwell. Who’s to say the latter should have been silenced because he sounded posh?

    b) Unscrupulous use of contacts and peers and pursuit of personal power is not limited to class

    c) It is, really, not what you know, or who you know, but who you are

    d) And yet it’s all so unfair.

    The problem is that we know what the problem is. We now have to find the answers. The thing is, I think it will take about 300 years to sort this out seriously, and the short term measures currently being proposed do not go far enough to alleviate real suffering (hunger, homelessness, dying of the cold) even in this country, in the meantime.

  • Steelback

    On working class heroes a must read is Nick Warren’s memoir about his Dad:the great Dessie Warren.It’s called 30 Years in a Turtleneck Sweater.

    Dessie was one of the Shrewsbury pickets who included scouser actor/comedian,Ricky Tomlinson.They were imprisoned under 1970s Tory anti-trade union legislation restricting the right to picket.

    Dessie refused to do a deal with the authorities that would have got him early release.Dessie’s son,Nick took on the paternal role in the family while his father was inside.

    Naturally Nick resented his father when he finally got out for putting his principles before the family.

    The book is a retrospective tribute to Dessie the class fighter and I cannot recommend it highly enough.It gains much of its emotional power from the fact that Nick is obviously quite apolitical but has since his father’s death come to understand that Dessie fought for what he believed in.In the end no-one can ask more of anyone.Not even his own son.

    Dessie’s speech on being sent down in 1973 spoke of an elite conspiracy against the unions.Ironically,of course,it was conspiracy legislation that was being used to prosecute them!

    “The working class movement cannot allow this verdict to go unchallenged.It is yet another step along the road to fascism and I would remind you:the greatest heroes in Nazi Germany were those who challenged the law when it was used against them as a political weapon by a government acting for a minority of evil men.”

    It’s poignant and stirring stuff that will remind Freeborn of just how cool it really was once to be working class.

    Sadly now in the days of co-opted union leaders now in Cabinet and the Lords we won’t see the likes of Dessie Warren again.

    RIP Dessie.

  • technicolour

    Uh oh, I think the bots are learning. Steelback ‘disagreeing’ with Freeborn? Good game, guys. And yet, somewhere, there’s a smidgeon of something. Am I wrong? Could you give up the BNP? Would you be writers instead? Poets? Songsmiths? Lovers? Dreamers? Academics? Where would it lead you? Only away from damage and destruction, which I would not wish on you, or anyone.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’m going to get it through the library. What a great title! Have you read Glaswegian, Stuart Christie’s book, I think it’s called ‘Granny Made Me an Anarchist’? The title reminded me of that of the song, ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ by The Purple Gang, a kind of whimsical 1920s-style pastiche.

    This is about my pal, Willie Maley’s father:

    Willie and his brother wrote a play about their father’s life.

  • Freeborn


    Read it,mate.Loved it too.


    Maybe you were in Torra Borra when the Mods were around.Even I was too young for that particular youth culture.Anyway like most such-it was working class.How could I possibly be part of a working class youth culture?

    A pint-real ale only of course,a game of darts,football yes- but running around on a Vesper and popping purple hearts?

    Get real,pal.Think I’m some kind of bloody oik,or what?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    No, no, you see the Mods drew in youth from various social classes. During the 1960s, they were mainly a London phenomenon (though later ‘waves’ encompassed broader geographies) and quite a few middle-class lads became Mods. Their taste in clothes was derided by their rivals, the Rockers, as being effete, middle-class. Of course, the whole thing could not have happened in the way it did in the absence of the British class system. There were different groups of Mods: the ‘hard’ Mods later evolved (if that’s the right word) into skinheads, while some of the ‘soft’ Mods became hippie-types – and not all of these were middle-class, eg. the Kentish Town Mod group, ‘The Action’. This is a simplification, obviously, but it makes an interesting study.

  • juniper

    Ware da fuck Brickstown,man?

    Who yu sayin’ warein’ a cod-peece? Iz mitey big sho’nuff dere’bouts anyways widout puttin’ on sum kina piece,man!

    Maybe I can’t speke as good as ol’venerable Doctor Du Boyz but I noze horseshite when I smells it,boy!

    Larry,angri,suhayl,techni an’dat guy wid crabs wot finely got him izza alla’bunch a horseshite sho’nuff!

    One final queshun for yu Massa techni.Yu nefer herd a gal call Zora from down Florida? Her books fulla peepl talkin’ jussa likka me.Dem dayz dem literaree critics all sed she demeaning her peeple an’ all wid characturin’ dem likka minstrels an stuff.

    Well,today Missa Zora wot rote Dare Eyes Woza Wachin’ God anna Jonah’s Gourd Vine reconized as one da gratest chroniclers a’ da African-American Esperienze ever lived.Hell,gals likka Toni Morris anna Alice Walka jussa worship da groun’ she walked on!

    Jussa like me,Missa Zora din need no high falutin’ talk anna codpiece.

    So,Massa techni you dam shill-yu jussa takka yo’ codpeese anna stick it inna yo’pipe anna smoke it,boy!

  • technicolour

    Come on, Freeborn, you’ve seen Quadrophenia. You can’t be that much younger than me, and one of my best friends was a Mod, who joined the ICF. And why would Suhayl have been in Tora Bora? Come on Freeborn, people who work – the working class – are beautiful, and if they’re not being ground down by poverty and hardship and cynicism, more so. We know that.

  • techniclour

    And Freeborn, if you’re a fighter, and want to punch things, get a punchbag, not other people. It’s OK, to be that scared though.

  • Apostate

    If it’s working class history you want read Phil Piratin’s Our Flag Stays Red.

    Piratin and Willie Gallacher were the two communist MPs returned in the 1945 election.Both lost their seats after one term only.

    Piratin’s account of the rent strikes in Stepney and the Battle of Cable Street when the East Enders turned out en masse to repel the Mosleyite fascists and their police allies is quite unforgettable.

    Evidently the locals laid a trap that cornered the police trying to railroad Mosley’s march through Aldgate,Stepney and further East in a side street.At this point women in a local lemonade factory began pelting the police on horseback with the huge glass bottle-stoppers they used in those days.

    The police took one Hell of a pasting before promptly “surrendering” to the locals who not expecting this outcome took the police helmets for souvenirs of the great victory of what was remembered for a long time in that part of London as the Battle of Cable Street.

    During the war,according to Piratin,it was the communists who broke down the gates to the Underground so that working class people could shelter from the Blitz.They also gate-crashed the Savoy in protest at the elite’s extravagance there in the war years.

    Check out Phil’s obit in The Indie.

    “A Working Class Hero is something to be”-John Lennon.


    P.S.Wasn’t there an English Leveller called “Freeborn”,George I think? I read about him in Paul Foot’s The Vote.

  • technicolour

    You know, Freeborn, Apostate et al, although you’re sounding more rational, I still suspect that you’re only talkking to each other. Come on, tell us, what music do you enjoy?

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