The real class war
Apparently William Hague is to be the Tories' secret weapon against Labour's 'class war', which will highlight the privilege and wealth of the Conservative front bench. His Yorkshire twang and comprehensive education will act as a defensive cloak for the Old Etonian millionaires sitting alongside him. The idea of different sections of the elite arguing over their prolier-than-thou credentials is deeply depressing, when the real class divide in British society is so deep and damaging.
In a recent edition of Thinking Allowed, I debated the issues of class with a diverse panel and Laurie Taylor. What interests me is not the divide between the 'working class', 'middle class' and 'upper class'. It is between the vast majority of the population who do work, and those who in long-term receipt of benefits: ie. the 'not working class'. The lives of whole communities of people, concentrated on council estates, and dramatised in programmes like Shameless or films like Fishtank, are disconnected from the formal labour market. Conservative commentators used to label this group an 'underclass'; those on the left prefer less judgmental terms like 'vulnerable' or 'disadvantaged'. What matters is that these are groups for whom poor educational provision is almost guaranteed; pathways to independence are few and narrow; and for whom death comes early. While the politicians play their games about class, at the other end of the social ladder the non-working class are seeing their life chances crushed by the weight of multiple disadvantage and social pathologies. Here, class kills.