I was loitering with intent to irritate in the far left Compass site and came across this quote
“Was it Tony Blair in 1998 or John Prescott the year before who declared "we're all middle class now"? Or both? I am not sure it matters much who it was, but in retrospect the statement seems pretty central to the New Labour “ Some thoughts about class and New Labour then...
Odd isn’t it that the Blair administration claimed to have moved beyond class. In fact this was a weak imposture ,of a piece with the entire New Labour advertising campaign designed to convey the impression that the Labour Party as was had left socialism behind . As we know, once in power the Party back benchers reasserted themselves behind Brown and over the next ten years government spending increased buy 30 % .
A large part of this went towards turning the post manufacturing regions into welfare wastelands where a new class , the underclass, was born. By bizarre logic infantilising hand outs were all the more necessary as many of the recipients were also paying more tax than ever directly and indirectly . These funded the pensions and sinecures of the “Public Sector Professional Class”.
The Working class structures that had sustained communities , already in trouble were shattered by the removal of fathers and floods of immigration . The calculation was that people once on the payroll could not escape and in any case would hardly vote for the Conservative Party. A little noticed fact was that 35% of Labour voters consistently put the BNP as their second choice. Since the Ealing result a succession of dog whistles have been blown at this ‘class’ but they have proved considerably less stupid than Labour had hoped and quite reasonable ignored the Damascene conversion of internationalist progressives to their communitarian culture .
So in one sense Blair was wrong , class is very much an issue and he has kept it that way. Class mobility as we know is now lower than in the seventies and has ground to all halt thanks to insane education welfare polices , marginal disincentives to work and the development of information industries.
In another sense the Blairites were right .The panic that created New Labour was that people were indeed becoming middleclass ,as the benefits of Capitalism freed by the Thatcher and Major years flowed into ever more pockets . As choice and independence spread people naturally had no further use for the Labour Party. This problem was papered over with witless jargon about social entrepreneur-ship .The real project was to expand the class of “Public Sector professionals “ , immigrants and the lower grade unionised public sector class , a vestigial remnant of the time when Labour had a purpose .This is the Labour Constituency. Without it they are extinct.
Thus class division remains essential to the left , it is recast and failing but class war is rarely far from the surface of their rhetoric . Conservatives must recognise that the way to beat labour is not by engaging in this war but by spreading opportunity .
The aim must be 'One Nation' at peace with itself .