Do you remember your first kiss?

Do you remember your first kiss?
Do you remember your first kiss?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

What does "Working Class" really mean?

From a blogger called "The answer's 42" comes the following blog. Very interesting - makes some very valid points...

"One of the Labour leadership hopefuls, Andy Burnham, talks of returning the party to its "traditional" roots and is proud of his "working-class" background. Not surprising then that he's got
the worst record of all the contenders when it comes to LGBT issues. "Working-class" people never used to be particularly tolerant of homosexuality; their men were men and their women were women.

But I'm not sure that the "working-class" that Andy claims to speak for exists any more. There are lots of manual workers, men and women, who earn considerably more than the down-trodden workers of the past. The most poorly paid are in the service industries, mainly women, earning the minimum wage. On sink estates around the country there are socially-deprived, poorly educated people who have little in common with working-class men like the ones featured in the recent BBC TV Fatherhood series. Many of them read to their children at night after work and encouraged them to pass their 11+ and better themselves. Pre-contraception and modern domestic appliances, mothers were still chained to the sink.

A few years ago I did a funeral for a man who'd been a civil engineer, at the top of his company, who'd worked on projects all round the world. His family told me that when he was a child in the 1930s his family was so poor that he and his brother shared a pair of shoes and took it in turns to go to school in them. His family didn't want me to mention this at first. They were embarrassed about his early poverty. I pointed out that his story was inspirational. His family couldn't afford to keep him at school so he'd left early and gone to work. He got an apprenticeship and went to evenings classes to gain additional qualifications, got a job in civil engineering and worked his way up from the bottom. It wasn't unusual for children to share shoes when he was a child. It is unusual to hear about people who've made such progress now. When he grew up, his children were used to all the privileges their father had earned, and all went to university. They had working class roots, but had never known working class life.

Now, if welfare benefits are properly managed, no one needs to go without shoes. Many of the socially-deprived have all sorts of problems. Many don't aspire to improve themselves by educating themselves; they just resent all the people who have more than they do. Are they "working-class"?

Then there's the "middle-class" that the Labour Party's fought so hard to attract and keep over the last decade or so. They read the Guardian and the Independent, have several cars, own their own homes, send their kids to the "best" schools, drink wine most days of the week, have foreign holidays, and fret about things like "fulfilment".

The "upper-class" used to mean people with inherited wealth; aristocrats or those on the fringes of the aristocracy. Now there's a new layer of wealthiness; people paid silly money as top executives, celebrities who are famous for being famous, and other millionaires (a million doesn't go far these days).

My dad was a book-keeper. He aspired to be middle class but was never well paid and lived in rented accommodation most of his adult life. I remember the Christmas he came home with tears in his eyes after accidentally breaking a bottle of whisky by knocking it against a lamp post as he got out of a car, having been given a lift by a colleague (he didn't have a car). He'd bought it with a discount from work, and he watched it all drain away. On a tight budget, it wasn't something he could replace easily.

I was the first in my family to have a higher education, though I didn't get any encouragement from my parents. They wanted me to stay out of trouble and get married. I did neither. What with one thing and another, I've hardly had any money for most of my adult life, though I've worked in one of the so-called "professions". So what class do I belong to? Hard to say, so I don't. I don't have one.

Mr Burnham's working-class roots were pulled up ages ago. Class isn't so easily defined these days."

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Just saw this, and had to post it. Brilliant!!