What is a ‘class issue’?

Mike Smithson thinks he has found evidence supporting the argument that ‘class war’ issues do not poll well. He says;

Thus if Hindal’s assertion that “most class war issues are deeply popular” was correct then they would figure higher than the 7% for inequality and the 3% for “low pay/fair wages” that were recorded in the last such poll.

However, this argument is deeply, deeply flawed by its fundamental premise. Namely that if class war issues really polled well then the figures for ‘inequality’ and ‘low pay & fair wages’ would poll higher. Most of the issues listed in the tracker could be described as some way contingent upon social class in both how they are viewed and how they affect people.

Furthermore, the paucity of Smithson’s case is glaring when you consider the 27% who cited ‘Unemployment/Factory Closure/Lack of Industray’ as an important issue. How is this not a ‘class issue’? Glaringly from the syntax it is; so, you don’t even have to accept my argument above for Smithson’s argument to completely collapse. However, if you do accept my argument then the 49% who cited the ‘Economy’ as top-issue are also concerned about a class issue as are the 20% who cite Health and 12% who cite education.

In fact, as I said pretty much every issue cited on the tracker can be said to have class permutations and connotations. This reductionism has its ideological roots in an attempt to deny class actually exists at all and whether conscious or unconscious it is a reflection of an ideological standpoint.

It’s also deeply patronising and wrong to say that working class people only concern themselves with wages and inequality. Smithson actually reflects what I would call a liberal ideological prejudice and in the process turns into an illiberal. Presumably then he would not agree with the recent Independent editorial which saw Labour’s campaign to maintain the fox-hunting ban as an extension of its ‘class war’ strategy?

I happen to not think it is but the very fact that these two opponents of ‘class war’ make deeply contradictory arguments show how intellectually vapid their case actually is. I am prepared to accept that how the strategy is implemented is open to discussion however there is no doubt in my mind that it is a worthy one for Labour to pursue and there should be no moral qualms about them doing it. After all, the likes of Zac Goldsmith and Lord Ashcroft are allowed to pour significant funds into promoting the representation of their own class interests. Why are other interests not allowed to be represented and fought for?


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4 responses to “What is a ‘class issue’?”

  1. Charles says :

    The fundamental problem with a “class war” is that it is a divisive approach to government: instead of the “One Nation” you are explicitly trying to govern for specific sectional interests.

    Additionally, you are attacking people for something that they have no control over: their background (delete and replace with race, religion, gender, hair colour). If you don’t like rich people fine – increase income tax (or inheritance tax) to 100%. If you don’t like Eton put a tax on school fees. Just don’t attack people because of choices that once made can’t be unmade – encourage them to change their behaviour instead.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    And the problem with ‘One Nation’ is that it perpetuates the myth that there is no structural inequality in society and also is it not true that cohereing people around a national indentity divides them against other nations?

    I agree to a degree that people cannot change their background however if they choose in later life to let that background determine their choice of policy and their choice to represent the ‘sectional interests’ you describe so well in those policies then I feel questioning that is legitmate. Agreed though that there has to be a policy implication here and it is not enough to criticise people.


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