Well, not quite. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and all that etc. And not quite the incumbent government we have in power now, but the last Labour government that lost to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. In 2009, the then Labour government said it wanted to tackle class discrimination against poorer working class people in the UK and challenge the growing problem with social immobility that was getting worse. Getting worse under a Labour government. Yes, a Labour government. Who would have believed that?
The fact that the Guardian had a feature on this in 2009 meant that it was newsworthy. What I suppose they meant was, both Labour party and the Guardian, although you really wouldn’t notice in most of the mainstream media virtually anymore or for that matter for about 30 years, class discrimination was a serious problem and also that social mobility was not really happening anymore. Which of course is a big problem, especially for those who want to get on, move up, move forward, get a house and a stake in society. What’s ironic, although I am a working class chap very much from a traditional old school working class background still living on a very nice, quiet suburban council estate, is that I want to move into the middle class. Not to become some mythical clipped accented, briar pipe smoking, short and back sides and sensible cardie wearing sort of person obsessed with irrelevant social etiquette and mindless, and almost always bland, good taste and reading the right newspaper and shopping in the right supermarket middle class, like something out of the 1950s, no, the economic middle class where my talents and dreams and hard work move me up the scale. You see, far from many of us working class types being resentful of some stereotypical middle class, whatever class means anymore in that sense anyway, we all benefit, and greater society in general benefits when the ambitious, the hard working, the educated working classes, regardless of our skin colour, religion or lack of, or any other thing, can move into a truly expanding economic middle class, that is not about posh accents or hiding one’s social origins or small minded snobbery and so on, but about all kinds of people from poorer economic backgrounds having the opportunity to get up and get on. Surely anyone can see that a healthy society, one that is stable will have a large socially and economically expanding middle class, not in some false class consciousness way, but through the opportunities that any healthy, and wealthy democracy like the United Kingdom, should have.
Of course, there is a problem isn’t there? Firstly, the mainstream media’s almost blanket silence on the white (and by default other ethnic) working classes political disenfranchisement, marginalisation and growing poverty under both Labour and Conservative administrations, which seems sadly to have been the unspoken policy of both those governments, and at the same time to have made the white (and by default other ethnic) working class people as, quite frankly, ‘the enemy within’ to be contained, a problem to be solved, or a problem to be dealt with. Also, it’s getting more obvious to those of us with our ear to the ground, that as the working classes have been pushed out of the spheres of power, influence, wealth and decision making, the middle classes now seem to be somewhat under assault, too. Witness the government’s attack on the Drs, the teachers and even the police force. We seem to have entered an American style attitude of “Hey, if you work really hard, study real hard and aspire for better things you’ll succeed” which may technically be true, but it isn’t the full story, is it? The American economy is run along the lines of pulling yourself up at any cost, pay no attention to those beneath you, compete ruthlessly against those on the same level as you, and brown nose those who are above you and where you want to be in, order to get what you want and where you want to be. On an economical level, at least, it is the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ ‘war of all against all’ and to me, on any level, it cannot create really healthy societies. This is a generalisation and an over simplification of America and American society, but it is the way I see their society. It is a very aggressive and very competitive society, but it cannot be healthy socially, and in fact does not seem to be. The much vaunted ‘American Dream’ that ‘everyone can become a billionaire’ results in a relatively few very individuals, families and giant corporations owning most of the wealth, a beleaguered but prosperous middle class, and then millions and millions of people scrabbling just to get on the first rung of the ladder. I think we are moving to that sort of society in the UK, sadly. It’s spoken and theoretical aims are admirable, but result in effect just creates many angry and selfish atomised individuals who in some cases will stop at almost nothing to get what they want and to be where they want to be, possibly because many of them have nothing to lose. Expensive education, expensive private healthcare and a violent dog eat dog economy and society. Everyone seeing everyone else as a person in the way, a person to be used in their ambitions or just as collateral in their selfish ambitions.
Now, the most extreme version of the American free market and aggressive ruthlessly competitive individuals trying to outdo each other, is anathema to me as a Christian, and as someone who just feels that life and society in general is better when we regard the other person with respect and at least a modicum of compassion. The last Labour party’s aims where good and positive, even if they failed to see the light of day. Far from many of us educated, and otherwise, working class people being utter hard lefty proto commies, which I am certainly not, we just want the same chance as the wealthy and affluent to get on and contribute to society. At the moment, we have an economic system underpinned by a, for want of a better term, neo liberal free market economy which is actually rigged in favour of the very wealthiest, the most powerful and influential and the connected, and against the majority of us not wealthy and without connections. This includes most of the middle class, too. This economy does not work in the interests of the majority, but a cosseted and already wealthy minority who as we have seen don’t even play by the rules they demand of everyone else and by the looks of it aren’t even paying anywhere near a fair level of tax, either. How can any of us from ordinary backgrounds compete against that? So, if you are middle class, and listening, I would like to have the same chance of becoming middle class too. At the moment, that is a distant likely hood, to say the very least.