How to frame the ‘Class Debate’: ‘Prejudice’ not ‘Envy’

One of the features of an indulgent Christmas nowadays, after the wine and pud, is to log on to the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, etc) and read the thoughts and wishes of contacts both close and tenuous.  One caught my eye this year – it was written by someone I know to be bright and rational, it read:

“MR X is enjoying the Kings College Choir this Christmas. But, can they sing without looking so privileged next year please”

It struck me as such an odd sentiment at this time of goodwill.  It betrays a snapshot into a mind of class prejudice.  Make no mistake class prejudice – and I carefully use the word ‘prejudice’ rather than ‘envy’ – clearly does still exist in the UK, just as racism and homophobia exist. Like other prejudices Class has political mileage that can be exploited.  Whatever the mock protestations from Cabinet Ministers about a clean fight I expect Labour to play the class card in the coming election because, frankly, it works.  The best Tory response to it is rise above it, show how the party has changed and highlight any hypocrisy from the champagne socialist crowd.  The worst response is wheeling on some landed gentry and claiming this is about  ‘the politics of envy’ – the second the class debate is framed with the word ‘envy’ the subconscious message sent is ‘we think we are better than you and you’re just jealous’.  Voters, rightly, see that as smug and aloof.  It is a trap that traditional Conservatives fall into again and again.

With that thought, I think I’ll sign off for 2009 – but I’ll leave with one reflection:  I hope that this time next year there are many more kids looking more privileged than they are now…..  Peace, goodwill and happy new year.



Filed under Center right, Class, Politics, UK

5 responses to “How to frame the ‘Class Debate’: ‘Prejudice’ not ‘Envy’

  1. I too hope there will be more kids looking privileged next year, but reckon it’ll be more a case of the already privileged looking even more privileged. The gap between rich and poor keeps on increasing, which is something Cameron must address when he gets into power. Do believe that class will be a major issue in the GE – the Etonian faction does rather stick in the throat. It appears that anyone who is anyone in politics has had a canny ‘privileged’ upbringing – private school and Oxbridge. Obviously your working class background have done you no harm, but the one thing that’ll be pulling at the Tories coat tails is the fact that everyone in the country knows that Britney from inner city London does not have the same opportunities as Max from Oxford.

    Thanks for the comments on my blog and I look forward to some good exchanges.



    PS. Good luck with the star

  2. That should have said good luck with the start-up.

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  4. Tendryakov

    But then classism is one of the forms of discrimination of which the left approves. After all, you will notice from the comments policy of lefty blogs that only a limited range of discriminations are prohibited. Classist comments aren’t frowned on, neither, for that matter, are ageist ones. Our old friend the totemic “racism” tops the left’s hierarchy of baddies, in rough second place equally sexism, homophobia, misogyny, and new kid on the block, xenophobia. Occasionally you’ll get the carefully-engineered “Islamophobia”. Immediately after 9/11 I went to Islamic bookshops to find out more about the I word. I found a book (for want of a better word) on Islamophobia and the West, but to 99% of the population, the word was unknown. Now, due to the assiduous work of the left and Muslims, it is widely accepted by much of the populace that expressing even the slightest antipathy to Islam is very, very unkind.
    I long ago realised that evaluating entities which constitute the world, including other human beings, is an unavoidable fundamental human phenomenon, and that for every parameter on which humans differ, potentially infinite, human beings will make positive and negative judgments, be it size, weight, attractiveness, intelligence and so on. You can’t escape it, or get rid of it. It’s what humans do. Anyway, enough of my ranting. Happy New Year! С Новым Годом! if this blog does Cyrillic.

  5. Mat M

    Well there is class prejudice, but this is a 2 way street surely? Yes, there are many who are prejudiced against the so called upper classes, but the fact is this prejudice doesn’t stop them getting on, unlike prejudiced against the so called lower classes, working classes and ‘chavs’ which have a very direct impact on an individual’s chances for success.

    So, let’s get rid of the practical prejudices that exist as actual barriers before we start complaining people just, well, complaining.

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