What happened to the working class?
In this section I will draw on the stats quoted in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race when Reni Eddo-Lodge discusses the British working class. The shaping of the argument is entirely mine, however.
The myth of the white working class
First, the old industrial working class in Birmingham, Northern England, North Wales and Glasgow have gone. The financialisation and flight of heavy industry to cheaper climes of the 1980’s destroyed the industrial base they depended on. There is a lasting legacy of severe deprivation in these areas. Ironically, given the Brexit vote, these areas received large sums of regeneration cash from the European development funds. You can imagine how the modern Tories would have made sure a good part of this money went in their own pockets, but this didn’t happen.
Quite rightly the people living in these areas feel abandoned. This is because they were. Thatcher’s government talked about managed decline for places like Merseyside, which was arrested to some extent by EU money and the intervention by unlikely people like Michael Heseltine after the riots in the 1980s.The places that didn’t riot, or weren’t financial hubs like Leeds or Manchester, were left to slowly crumble. Blair did nothing for these people but cynically banked their loyalty to gain power. He used these reliable constituencies as rewards for his place men and women to stand in. Those who stood are the people we now see yearning for a return of Blairism and the power they once had.
The abandoned are the people who are vulnerable to specious arguments about immigration. These are the folks who live in sink estates, where the only routes out of poverty are being good at sport, selling drugs, or joining the armed services. These are the places where schools are supposed to get by on shrinking budgets, and what little opportunity that might come from education is hard to capitalise on. These communities are isolated and struggling.
These are the people that are condescendingly called the white working class, that unashamed empire socialist cynics and fascist demagogues call on when they moan about the metropolitan elite and political correctness. The word here is not…