Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper is to working people what Dr Harold Shipman is to medicine. Yet from the transparent and naked opportunism of this downmarket, criminally compromised tabloid in seeking to exploit the furore over Labour’s Emily Thornberry, you would think it’s the in-house newspaper of the British trade union movement rather than a champion of Thatcherism and a committed enemy of anything resembling the interests of working people.
Emily Tornberry’s only crime is that she identified the collapse of working class identity and culture in Britain into a Thatcherite caricature – a process involving its confusion with jingoism and white van man individualism. And before being accused of snobbery or of being another out of touch liberal commentator, I grew up on a housing estate in Thatcher’s Britain and left school at 15 with zero qualifications. I then graduated from a dead end job in a factory to working as a bouncer in bars and clubs at the age of 17, and in my time have driven a white van too. In other words I’ve got the T-shirt when it comes to the archetypal uneducated white working class male projecting an over-masculine persona to compensate for the crisis of identity that has beset this particular demographic over the past three decades and more.
This is why I reject the notion that Dan Ware is representative of the working class. What he does represent is the Sun‘s idea of a typical working class bloke, but as we have identified this Murdoch-owned rag has played a key role in attacking working class consciousness in our society over the past three decades, in service to ensuring its atomisation and fragmentation.
I have nothing against Dan Ware. I don’t know the man. But I do know what he symbolises and recognise and feel angry at how he has been used by the Sun, no doubt in return for a fee, to further an agenda of right wing populism.
The problem with Labour is not that it is out of touch with working people. The problem with the Labour Party is the way it continually buckles in the face of this tawdry right wing narrative, scared to take on the Daily Mail, the Sun, and Ukip, as if by doing so they will forfeit political support. Well guess what? They haven’t been taking them on and are losing support.
Working people in Britain in 2014 are crying out for an ideological and political alternative to the status quo. At a time when immigrants are being scapegoated, when the rich are being cosseted while the poor are being demonised and punished for the ‘crime’ of poverty, people need a mainstream political party to fly the flag of social and economic justice, to stand up for multiculturalism, the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, the NHS, welfare state, and public services. They need a party which rejects an austerity agenda that has sown nothing but despair and foodbanks throughout the land, while standing for an investment-led route out of the deficit and recession.
Ukip’s victory in the Rochester and Strood by-election was a victory for dog whistle politics, anti politics masquerading as a progressive alternative to the mainstream. And the reason why this wave of anti politics has grown – finding political expression via the SNP in Scotland and in England increasingly via Ukip – is because Labour isn’t Labour anymore and hasn’t been for many years.
One person forced to rely on a foodbank to feed themselves in a rich country is a scandal, 900,138 is a crime, yet where is the pledge from Labour to abolish the obscenity of foodbanks if elected in 2015? Where is the refusal to pander to the coded racism that informs the hysteria over immigration? People are exercised over immigration due to the success of the right in Britain, which includes the Sun, in creating a massive diversion when it comes to ascribing the reason for the sharp increase in poverty, poverty pay, and inequality. It is not due to immigrants ‘flooding’ the country, neither is it due to the moral failing of those stuck in poverty and on benefits. The real reason for it is a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich using the recession to justify the transference of wealth from the poor to the rich under the rubric of austerity since coming to power in 2010.
A report by economists at the London School of Economics and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex finds that
- Sweeping changes to benefits and income tax have had the effect of switching income from the poorer half of households to most of the richer half, with the poorest 5% in the country in terms of income losing nearly 3% of what they would have earned if Britain’s tax and welfare system of May 2010 had been retained.
- With the exception of the top 5%, who lost 1% of their potential income, it is the better-off half of the country that has gained financially from the changes, with an increase of between 1.2% and 2% in their disposable income.
- The top 1% in terms of income have also been small net gainers from the changes brought in by David Cameron’s government since May 2010, which include a cut in the top rate of income tax.
- Two-earner households, and those with elderly family members, were the most favourably treated, as a result of direct tax changes and state pensions respectively.
- Lone-parent families did worst, losing much more through cuts in benefits and tax credits and higher council tax than they gained through higher income tax allowances. Families with children in general, and large families in particular, also did much worse than the average.
- A quarter of the lowest paid 10% have shouldered a particularly heavy burden, losing more than 5% of what would have been their income without the coalition’s reforms.
The enemy of Britain’s working class is not Emily Thornberry. Their enemy is the Sun newspaper, Ukip and the dog whistle, reactionary politics promoted by both. Only when the Labour Party, Dan Ware, and everyone else wakes up to this fact will we begin to move forward as a society.