In from an increase in hope for Jeremy Corbyn’s

In conclusion, Corbyn’s economically far-left ideology may
still bring some hope for the working classes. Benn (2015) argues that the
class problem in Britain is “fundamentally economic”, with solutions including
‘raising taxation, public spending, building new homes’- essentially a
redistribution of wealth (McKenzie in Benn, 2015: 332), with many of these
policies mirrored in the 2017 Labour manifesto. However, a more automatic
change will occur if truly equal opportunities give the working class an equal
footing to secure the same grades, and consequently university places and the
same jobs as the middle and upper classes, to break the vicious circle of the
poverty trap. This can be achieved through the abolition of fee-paying schools,
grammar schools, and the re-introduction of grants for university students to
make education accessible to all. It is unlikely that this will happen under a
Conservative government. Although, if MPs were selected from a more diverse
pool of people, there may be an automatic change in the priorities of
parliament, as a result of descriptive representation. All in all, class helps
us to understand politics as it highlights the different economic requirements
of Britain. If listened to, these voices may help to improve equality and
living standards within the UK.

However, in 2017, UKIP received just 3% of the total vote (Ipsos Mori, 2017). Rather than a party
to represent a class, were they just a party formed to represent the issue of
Brexit, simply mobilising a class through their ‘fusion strategy’? Does this
mean that there is, again, a lack of representation for the working class in
mainstream politics? Although it can be argued that this result arose from an
increase in hope for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, this is not the case. Corbyn
may be viewed as disengaged with much of the working class. Much of his cabinet
either live in or represent a constituency in North London, while much of the
‘real’ working class reside in post-industrial towns in the midlands and
northern constituencies. Meanwhile, the co-founder of his grassroots
organisation Momentum, and now member of the Labour communications team, James
Schneider, grew up in a £7m house in primrose hill. (Rhodes, 2016).  In 2017, the middle class swung to labour,
whereas the working class swung to the Conservatives. This was the
Conservatives’ best score among class C2 and Des since 1979. DE turnout also
fell from 57% turnout in 2015 to 53% in 2017 (Ipsos Mori, 2015; Ipsos Mori,
2017). Previously, New Labour schemes aimed at reducing class inequalities,
such as Sure Start children’s centres, came across as a condescending criticism
to working class behaviours (Benn, 2015: 332). In addition, the ‘left behind’
voice is forecast to become even more marginalised, as the class gap runs
parallel to an age gap (as pensioners were likely to have worked in blue collar
industries). According to the British Social Attitudes survey of 2013, over
half of pensioners had no formal qualifications, while just 6% of under-35s do.
(Ford and Goodwin, 2014, 279).

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The above point may also have been enhanced by the
increasing dominance of the service industry in Britain; now making up nearly
80% of the economy (Financial Times,
2016). This is as a result of Tony Blair’s drive for a ‘knowledge economy’
(clearly favouring the middle class, as argued above), and Margaret Thatcher’s
privatisation of many manufacturing industries, leading to job cuts as
companies looked to cut costs (The
Guardian, 2011).

Further contributing to this concept of underrepresentation
is the reoccurring cycle caused by the ‘nepotism’ among the middle and upper
classes. Rachel Johnson summarised this, claiming that the middle classes “have
the money to support their children through unpaid work experience, to support
them through university” (Johnson in Jones, 2011: 170). This illustrates the
issue that the children of the middle class immediately have an advantage over
the working class, who may find it hard to compete with the middle class in an
increasingly competitive labour market. Private education further entrenches
this class difference. Just 100 fee-paying schools out of a total of 3,700 in
the country, accounted for a third of admissions to Oxbridge (Jones, 2011:
172). These inequalities would suggest that the British education system is
‘rigged’ against the working classes. Often, those who have more faith in
mainstream politics are university-educated young professionals. If this
automatic disadvantage is to be reduced, a good-quality education should not be
an exclusive, private good. This vicious circle is a key reason as to why now
just 7% of politicians come from manual occupation backgrounds, as opposed to
37% of MPs in 1964 (Heath, 2016). Heath points out that a successful campaign
was Sadiq Khan’s campaign to become Mayor of London, in which Khan placed a
strong emphasis on social immobility and inequality; reengaging the traditional
working-class support base of Labour.

It can be argued that the reason the white working class has
been underrepresented is because, in the words of Tony Blair, “we’re all middle
class” now; suggesting that Labour only aimed their campaign at the middle
class, because the working class was not big enough to win the Labour party an
election.  In the 1964 election, when
Harold Wilson’s Labour came to power, 1 in 20 voters had a degree, 40% of
workers belonged to a trade union, and 98% of voters were white. As opposed to
in 2010, when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition
government: just 20% of voters belonged to a trade union, the BME vote was over
10%, and 35% of workers had a degree (a proportion which is bound to increase
in the years to come) (Ford and Goodwin, 2014: 279). However, with newspapers
such as the Daily Mail reflecting that “there are now three main classes in
Britain: a scarily alienated underclass; the new and confident middle class,
set free by the Thatcher revolution… and a tiny, increasingly powerless upper
class.” (Jones, 2011: 139), it may have become more apparent that rather than a
loss of the working class, it is a loss of their political voice and
visibility.

The representation of the working class in popular culture
also left them feeling alienated, contributing to perceptions of the white
working class such as those mentioned in the previous point. In Till Death Do Us Part (1965), the
protagonist was an older white working-class man, portrayed as racist, with
television serving as an important depiction of society broadcasted to the
nation, along with other depictions of ‘dirty whiteness’ (Beider, 2015, 26-34),
this kind of representation still exists in shows such as ‘Benefits Street’ (Benefits Street, 2014). This creates a
clear difference between the perception of the ‘deserving’ versus the
‘underserving’ poor (Benn, 2015: 330). Although, on the whole, the white
working class are viewed as apathetic and ‘intolerant’, by voters such as young
professionals (Ford and Goodwin, 2014: 277); giving way to a sense that “you
have failed to take advantage of the opportunities that were provided for you”,
or “you do not even deserve sympathy” (Winlow, 2017: 154). This lack of
sympathy for the working class, combined with the impact of multiculturalism, has
been a contributing factor to the fact that the white working class is one of
the most underrepresented voices in modern politics (Winlow, 2017: 109).

On the other hand, however, there is a degree of
intersectionality creating this political grouping. In 2015, when a total of
14% of white voters voted UKIP, just 2% of BME voters did (Ipsos Mori, 2015), meanwhile Labour (the most prominent supporters
of multiculturalism) lead BME voters by 54 points to the Conservative Party in
2017 (Ipsos Mori, 2017). This is
because, while parties such as the Labour party support multiculturalism, while
the working classes experience greater competition for scarce job vacancies,
policymakers view the white working class as seeking to ‘maintain a privileged
status at the expense of overriding needs by groups who are nationalistic,
racist, or both’ (Beider, 2015: 33). Many of the views of the white working
class were translated into UKIPs 2015 campaign. A survey of 6,000 UKIP
supporters found that one of the main motives for voting UKIP was
‘dissatisfaction with established parties in Westminster, and their management
of immigration and the financial crisis’ (Ford and Goodwin, 2014: 278). This
illustrates how UKIP filled a ‘radical’ gap in the political spectrum which the
main two parties did not cover.

The role of class is important in understanding the success
UKIP experienced in said elections. Firstly, the interests of the working class
were no longer properly represented by either Labour or the Conservatives. In
Tony Blair’s 2005 Labour Party conference speech, this alienation is summarised
by his dismissal of the working class; claiming the economic climate was ‘unforgiving
of frailty’, and “replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift
to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change” (Reeves, 2017:
704). If even the party whose sole aim was once to represent the working
classes are looking down on state dependence, in favour of winning more
middle-class votes in the centre ground, it is easy to understand why the
working classes felt frustrated with mainstream politics. Furthermore,
politicians wanted to appear ‘cutting edge’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ (Winlow et al,
2017: 110), prioritising ‘multiculturalism’. New Labour were one of the key
drivers for this; further maximising votes by adopting an economically centrist
and socially liberal approach (Beider, 2015: 25). This concept of
multiculturalism was continued by ‘one nation’ conservatism (Beider, 2015: 25).
The Middle class may also be more tolerant of different cultures not least
because of their position of financial security, but also their ability to pay
for international holidays, and sample different cuisines (Beider, 2015: 34)

UKIP was founded in 1993, among a group of ex-Conservative Eurosceptics.
Upon the election of Nigel Farage as the leader of UKIP, Farage began to use
the ‘fusion strategy’, to unite opposition to Europe and opposition to
immigration in the minds of voters. At one point, in 2014, UKIP had the largest
working-class following since Michael Foot led Labour in 1983. (Ford and
Goodwin, 2014: 282).

In May of 2014, UKIP placed first in the EU elections,
winning 26.6% of the national vote; the first time since 1906 a party other
than the main two won the highest vote share in a national election. Whereas in
the 2015 general election, 18% of men in class DE, and 21% of men in class C2
chose to vote for the minority party. UKIP’s success can be attributed to their
appeal to the ‘left-behind’ class- further alienated from the political process
following the coalition government’s Austerity. This was mirrored by Douglas
Carswell’s defection from the Tory party to UKIP, winning the by-election
(often being used as a platform to express discontent with the current
government, through the use of a protest vote) in his constituency of Clacton,
representing his new party (Ford and Goodwin, 2014: 277). This bizarre surge of
popularity for a radical third party arose from the frustration of the working
class that Westminster had forgotten their voices. This essay explores the
circumstances which accommodated for the changing attitudes of the working
class: including alienation from the centrist New Labour, the bias of the
economy and educational system, to the increase in immigration from the EU, and
in turn, competition for jobs in the unskilled labour market.

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