Social Backgrounds of UK’s Parliamentarians, makes House look like 1907 not 2007.


Unless a tiny miracle happens and a new Left Party is formed before the next UK General Election, I doubt after that election there will be a single working class MP in the Westminister Parliament and by working class I loosely mean manual worker. We have already reached the stage when if you look at the class backgrounds of the current crop of honorable members, it appears to be more like 1907 than 2007. It is as if the major social changes that took place in the UK over the three decades that followed WW2 never happened, as these days almost the entire House of Commons comes from the urban middle classes. The odd Toff still sit on the green benches of the Commons and as place-men in the House of Lords, but the working classes are becoming invisible from both Houses of Parliament.

Take the Liberal-Democrat’s leadership contest between Christopher Huhne and Nicholas Clegg, about the only nod they give to the working class is to emulate Blair by shortening their christian names to Nick and Chris, believing that by so doing the electorate will see them as classless and not as they undoubtedly are the product of the wretched elitist English class system. That both men were educated at Westminster and Oxbridge in itself demonstrates what a small pond the Parties at Westminister now prefer to fish in when looking for a Party leader. If Tony Blair were still in power all three of the main parties would have been led by a public school, Oxbridge educated politico, as I said welcome to 1907. Just how unrepresentative these Party leaders are of modern Britain is demonstrated by the fact that in the nation as a whole only eight percent of the UK population attend independent fee-paying schools.

In the last ten year of a Labour government, we have witnessed the English middle classes gradually clawing back the political and cultural space they lost to the working classes between the years 1945-79. Above I have used Parliament as an example of this, but I could have equally used local Government, the arts and media. The Blairites have removed entirely via their Governmental Quangos, working class people from the type of oversight committees that used to govern at local levels the NHS, Social Security, DHSS Tribunals and Education. Workers used to be nominated to these committees and tribunals through their trade union branches, district committees and Trades Councils, not any more. Today all of these bodies have been replaced by Quangos, to gain membership of which one must have a professional qualification or ministerial approval. Just as in the 19th and early 20th Century the middle classes used ownership of property as a bar on working class inclusion in the nations affairs, today they are using professional qualifications and the old boys network. [how else can one explain that 30 percent of MP’s went to Oxbridge and a fee paying school when as I have already said the national average is only eight percent.]

The media has also filleted working class people from the airways and editorial offices, for example one is more likely to see an old Etonian presenting Breakfast Time TV than a working class lad who went to his local comprehensive. Listen to the radio these days and you will be hard pressed to hear a regional accent. True we have not seen the return of the cut glass BBC accents which were prevalent prior to the mid 1960s, what you get today is an un-placeable drawl which basically amounts to Estuary English tidied up, or campness made respectable. We are also beginning to see the return of middle class actors doing their stuff portraying cor-blimey working class people as either the salt of the earth who know their place, or Blaggers and junkies with no in between. It is as if the media world has been taken over by Guardian readers, but Guardian readers without a hearts or soul.

Those middle class people who out of opportunist greed and self interest believed it was wise to remove the English working classes from any contact with the levers of political power, are playing a very dangerous game. Europe is not the USA and England is not New Jersey. The main reason this country unlike elsewhere in the world saw so little internal conflict in the 20th Century was because the working classes had created the LP through which they could channel their political demands. If this avenue continues to be stifled or closed off to us, then we may well look for more militant means to get our voices heard; and some Middle class people may well get to re-learn the lessons of 1917, the hard way.*

* Before someone mentions the violent conflict that occurred in the north of Ireland during the latter part of the 20th Century, this reinforces my point, as there was no Labour type party there to which the Nationalist and Unionist working class could turn to settle their genuine grievances.

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4 Comments

Filed under class-struggle, elitism, middle-class, Organized Rage, UK, working-classes

4 responses to “Social Backgrounds of UK’s Parliamentarians, makes House look like 1907 not 2007.

  1. David Lindsay

    Just look at the coverage being lavished on the Oxford Union. Who cares?

    There have been no Tory Councillors in Oxford for years, the Green are on the rise in the middle-class wards, the IWCA is on the rise on the counil estates, and the frought relations between the Greens and the IWCA are an importnat sign of things to come.

    Coverage of any of this? Zero. Covergae of who gets invite to speak at some undergraduate drinking club? Lavish.

  2. Charlie Pottins

    I think the comparison with 1907 can be misleadfing. In 1907 very few working class people went to college. My own parents who were born in 1902 and 1907 did not even get secondary education (mind you they acquired a better general knowledge and literate knowledge than some of today’s graduates).
    The rate of higher education may be going down again because of fees etc, but in recent decades many young people who might have got apprenticeships in the past or went in the forces as my Dad did at 17 have gone to college. At the same time what used to be Poly’s have become universities, and I have noticed that professors too seem to be ten a penny. (In the past I knew quite capable academics who taught well and wrote books but never made professor). Of course the more these things are widened the more the elite retreats behind new barriers – Oxbridge remains top and Durham probably too, for public scool intake and Foreign Office jobs etc.
    I suspect this game of labeling people middle class though. It can be used to obscure the real power relations in society and set people bickering over petty jealousies rather than fighting on the real issues. And many a union bureaucrat and even bourgeois have known how to play prolier than thou while enjoying a bigger income than those they jeer at on superficial, cultural veneers. Labour is not selling out because of its social composition, it attracted careerists because it offered a soft niche. But reformism has always been based on imperialism, it is just that now the capitalists can afford fewer concessions – and the union bureaucracy has adapted to this. Keep your eye on the ball and don’t fall for the bollocks.

  3. Mick Hall

    Charlie

    As I wrote in the piece I used Parliament as an example we can all understand, however my main point is the retraction of the public space working class people gained in the three decades after WW2.

    I think you were active on your local Trades Council, if so you will remember the raft of public bodies that the TC’s nominated their members to, even more so the regional TUC, which in the main were not bureaucratic outfits but were made up of rank and file Trade Unionists. Few of whom would have had higher education qualifications but they were the backbone of our public services and more to the point had a say in running them.

    That at the start of the piece I mentioned the need for a new Left Party shows I am not taking my eye off the ball, the fact is working class people have as much right to sit in parliament as the next person.

    We created, alongside the best elements within the middle class the labour party so as we could achieve this. That this is no longer a vehicle through which working class people can defend past gains and make new once is imo partially demonstrated by the lack of working class people within parliament.

    The fact that we are not up in arms about our exclusion is because we have as a class lost confidence in our collective abilities. But that is another story as you are well aware; and I’m certain this will only be a temporary situation

    all the best.

  4. Garibaldy

    Quality post Mick.

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