21 June 2009

Class Dismissed

I couldn't help but comment on Janet Street Porter's analysis of the expenses saga - to her it shows that the class system hasn't changed

The class system still existing is an interesting theory - I don't see how you can regard those who own moats or servants' quarters as representative of a broad social class - no doubt they are 'upper class' but they represent such a tiny minority it is hardly worth noting, they are the remnants of it, and are mostly left in just the political arena

The true debate over class has always been the middle vs working classes, who make up 99% of the population - the items she describes the Labour MPs as claiming for are no different to what any average middle class person would consider (e.g. treating dry rot), few in the 'middle' classes would be claiming for silver tea trays and moat cleaning

Janet presents the Labour MPs, who claim for biscuits and jellied eels, as essentially working-class heroes (although she herself says only 10% of MPs are working class, don't ask me how she worked out that figure) - while the Tories claim for conservatories, duck pond houses and moat cleaning - therefore they are middle or upper-class toffs

I fail to see what exactly that proves - the Tory party is stuffed full of millionaires and toffs, the core theme being that their status is inherited rather than earned, it always has been this way

Does that really show a class divide? Tory voters are the average middle-class person, they tend to work, own their homes and dislike paying tax - nothing about the average voter relates to the fact that the average Tory MP lives in a castle

What it does show is that Tory voters are idiots for being duped into allowing the landed wealth to represent them - these people are a tiny proportion of society, if they are actually a class, they do not represent the broader class divisions across society - they merely show that parliament is for the old elites and the wealthy

This has little bearing on the Labour members - who may all feast on jellied eels, but have the niece of the 7th Earl of Longford on their front bench (that'd be Hattie), as well as 'Son of the Manse' Brown, and of course Blair, almost as privileged as Cameron himself - for every Prescott or Johnson, there's a Blair or Harman

You want to make this about class? Then the real facts are that most MPs are professional middle-classes, gaining their second home and buying big tellies, granted a fair chunk of Tories are gentry, but there are plenty of those middle-class people who don't own half of Oxfordshire on the blue side - the fact is, almost all of them are in there through privilege or contacts, the rest came in from the unions (which presumably is the 10% Janet mentioned)

If you need any further evidence of Janet's slant - note her argument, she starts 'comparing' food - listing the apparently working class food (pork pies, biscuits) of Charles Clarke (privately-educated Cambridge man) and Nick Brown, but then compares that to a Tory buying orchids and getting an aga serviced, nothing about the food they bought - she also omits the fact that Nick Brown has claimed £19,000 in food bills in four years, considering few think 'food' is a legitimate expense ('do you eat twice?') this seems pretty suspect - oh and using the Tory leader as pretty much the sole named example...he who is descended from William IV, hardly a representative sample - my (Tory) MP claimed for a £300 washing machine - yes, he actually does his own washing!!

I don't know why she picks on the aga - I wouldn't be surprised if Janet had an aga herself, they're a common staple of the middle-classes, any MP could afford one on their salary, or indeed a house big enough for one - they're in the top 10% of earners after all

But she goes on to paint the Labour MPs as 'desperately trying to claw their way up the property ladder' - the use of the term desperate for someone on double the average household salary, with one of the best pensions you can get, seems a tad extreme, especially considering over half of the Labour party have been in government, meaning they earn even more! But no, no Labour MPs struggle to make ends meet - employing mates to do some plumbing on the cheap - does this not hint of someone engaging in complete fantasy? I am unashamedly middle-class, my parents combined income is below an MPs salary, and they live the middle-class dream pretty well - if Labour MPs are having trouble paying the mortgage I suggest they seek a financial advisor

The article is also misleading, for all Janet's disparaging of Labour's failures over the past 12 years there's some rather obvious psychological warfare buried in this - the basic premise is: criticise Labour, because they're crap - but the Tories are toffs, Labour are decent people, so keep the faith in Labour, all wrapped in what seems like a general swipe at politics...not very subtle

The average person is not represented by any party, Labour are no more 'the working man's party' than the Tories (or even the Lib Dems), so don't be duped by Janet that Labour is full of hard-working commoners representing us humble peasants - they are all members of the 'political class'

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