Sunday, 30 November 2014

The truth about white vans.

White van man-gate has made me chuckle. Labour now seem to approach the issue of class as if they were tip-toeing their way through a minefield. Much as the liberal left used to (and often still do) when it comes to the issue of race. In both cases it is symptomatic of a profound detachment from the group they are trying to speak about. So regardless of whether it is  well-intentioned patronising or blatant snobbery, there is an in-built self-destructive impulse for Labour politicians to make  complete twats of themselves.

Miliband said that Emily Thornberry's recent tweet taking the piss out of a white van and St George's flag in Rochester made him 'absolutely furious'. Much more so apparently than the constant onslaught on ordinary people from the ConDem's austerity programme or UKIP's vicious xenophobia aimed  to split the working class vote.

In an uncharacteristically passionate speech, Miliband says in defence of the St George's flag that whenever he sees it he thinks immediately of Shakespeare and Henry V. Really Ed? I think you protest too much. 

These days there is no denying when most ordinary people see it, they think at best of English football -  and at worst they think of the EDL.

And of course there's ambiguity in all of this. 

It turns out that Thornberry herself grew up in a council house - unlike Ed who was a card carrying member of the chattering classes from birth. Then in a PR salvage exercise it was revealed that her brother is actually a builder - and there's a photo of him having a cuppa in the cafe wearing his hi-viz waistcoat. But hang on, it turns out that the brother is also an award-winning photojournalist. 

And as for all that talk about Islington-ites - only someone who has never actually been to Islington could talk that way. Come to the Hillside estate just up the road from my school - or look at the statistic that half of the children in the borough live in poverty. Despite building the spiritual homeland of New Labour, Islington is still, like much of 'gentrified' London, fundamentally a working class area.

The truth is that class is complicated: Working class 'culture' is complicated: Some of it is positive, that sense of solidarity and community - and sense of humour - that the poe-faced middle class will never get. But other aspects of it - such as ignorance and bigotry - are frankly just shit and depressing. And it's OK to say that.

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