Class is a construct. Lennon was right ‘we are all fucking peasants.’ There are those who cling to the concept as it either plays to their vanity in believing their wealth and privileges afford them status or it is a sleeve by which others stitch their working class credentials upon. We are all peasants.
The Middle Class in the UK is now the same size as the traditional working class. The new middle class have been deceived. Owning a nice little house, mortgaged to the hilt, as he and she now have to work to afford the dream lifestyle fed them. Having jobs the better to pay the nanny who looks after their obligatory two point something or other children, is no sign of superiority, of having done better in life. It is a fallacy perpetuated to enable a system built on having drones, like worker bees, feed the mechanism that fuels the harvesting of wealth. The re-defining of the class structure began with the advent of Margaret Thatcher, no Conservative her but a Monetarist acolyte of Liberal thinker Frederic Hayek. She sold off large swathes of council homes to those that could afford them and then, by a wave of a subtle, and very flexible spreadsheet announced that the ‘drip feed’ method worked and that the new owners of property had ‘moved up the ladder,’ that they were now middle class.
By polishing the conceit of those still tribal enough to swallow wholesale such hogwash she thereby manipulated a considerable mass of people away from their roots, their voting roots that is, to a more Neo-Liberal thought process. Enter Tony Blair.
Disenchanted by eighteen years of Monetarism which had effectively, too effectively, in fact, replaced old fashioned Conservative ideals of ‘one nation’ Toryism with Thatcherite ideologies, the electorate, now convinced that New Labour represented progressive policies, a little and far gentler version of what had gone before, voted for change. And change they got, short changed perhaps but in fairness a little less strident than that which preceded it. That said, and with Iraq and lies told about said war firmly in mind, New Labour were nothing less than pink Tories, Liberals in fact. Blair and Ashdown saw the possibilities of a merger but none arrived. All of this hinged on the way in which class was evolving. From how great a divide had existed to a shrinking gap. Not so wealth which is the real issue here. That gap grew and in growing the divide between the 'haves' and the 'have not's increased.
What Blair saw was an electorate vastly different than ever before. Gone were the huge gaps between Left and Right, the muddle-fudge of Maggie’s class manipulations had produced a large mass of people who no longer saw themselves as being working class. They then voted in a manner in which they thought they should and which suited their lifestyles. Centre Left, Centre Right, Centrist. The one problem with that is the extreme right never go away. Enter Ian Duncan Smith, John Redmond and, of course, Nigel Farage. In fact, right and left are nothing but a circle that spins ever further away from progressive democracy. In the end, the one becomes the other – dictatorial, authoritarian, inhumane.
The change in the voting public has never been taken into account. Class is now no less of an issue than it was but it is used and abused by those seeking to make flaccid points. Those moral problems remain. Inequality, privilege, poverty, education but are not the remit of the idle rich or the downtrodden. The growing division between the rich and the poor is no longer just about class. Britain has adopted an American-style view which suggests no matter your background you can become rich, part of an elite. It is this striving for perceived better that promotes avarice, perpetuates greed. Those once of the working class can now, by dint of fortune, buy their way into a self-created neo-class.
Those who believe the lower classes instinctively vote left are dreaming. Being poor does not equate to voting Labour any more than being rich means you are Tory. This has become even more apparent now as children from poor backgrounds, their accents rightly accepted in a broadening sense of what being British is, may have come from traditional Labour voting homes, they may still share the same values but they may, in fact, they have, taken on new ones never dreamt of in their parents time.
The largest body of voters in Britain are the baby boomers. There are more of them than the previous or subsequent generations. This being so does not mean lacking the vision to see the value of young voters. They are the future. That growing number no longer share the same values as my far larger group do. Much of what seemed so important to us appears less so to them. There have been positive social changes, far too few in my opinion, but those changes are reflected in the young voter’s attitudes to life and politics and to class. Tuitions fees, undoubtedly wrong, has not prevented better education. Race, still an issue with some, is far less a concern to the young. Homosexuality matters little to them. It is this ever growing group who are now seeking progressive but alternative change.
All of this, the change in attitudes, born from a more liberal set of values, has altered not only the way young voters think in terms of themselves, a group not easily defined by class, but how they think in terms of who to vote for.
Of all the parties that suffer least as this paradigm shift formulates in the manner such things do – slowly, in fact, formulate is the wrong verb, permeate of perhaps ferment is better, are the Conservatives. After all, they change but little even if they are no longer the Conservative party of Disraeli or even MacMillan’s days. Briefly, the Liberal Democrat’s seemed left of New Labour, more pioneering, but that was just an illusion. Labour are Labour in name only. The Labour party of the sixties is nothing like the Labour party now. Less radical, more Thatcherite and far, far less progressive.
Those clinging to the memory of the left cannot see the left has up and left. Replaced by a desire by those few who still bother to vote for alternative thinking. You cannot have Communism without there being Capitalism to grant it a reason to exist. Centrism only appeals as it attempts to steer a middle course through the mishmash of historical garbage that befuddles current political thinking. It is populist politics at is most febrile. Too long have we suffered by two party politics where voters, like football fans, support their side no matter that their side is no longer trying to get the ball in the opponent’s net but is scoring a succession of own goals. The class barriers that existed then when I was a child are changing.
The class divide no longer means an obligatory X beside the Labour candidate. You will always have a minority who romantically pursue the action of years past, tiny Che Guevara’s seeking violent revolution, those who limpet-like hanker for former glory days as did their grandparents when speaking of the war. That was then this is now. If we are to arrive at some better destination then it must be by seeking methods appropriate for the modern age, not some dewy-eyed myth of how things might have been if only.
Class is changing and with it political views. What was once a clear cut choice, between voting red or blue, is now opaque, a different set of values exists. The same moralities are challenged, that of wealth, privilege and inequality but there are others issues too, ones that the two party system does not allow for. Class is now seen for what it is, ‘we’re all fucking peasants after all.’.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.