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UK: White and Working Class

… the one ethnic group the BBC has ignored

By Richard Klein

Over the past two decades, Britain has been through a

The in the peacetime history of our country.

Globalisation, mass immigration and economic upheaval have helped to transform the fabric of our nation.

Today, we are one of the most culturally and racially diverse places in Europe.

These changes have been the subject of noisy debate within the media, politics and academia, yet it is a curious irony that, in all the heated discussion about the consequences of this revolution, one voice has been largely absent: that of the white working class.

Politicians pontificate and academics argue, yet the voices of the British working class public have been all but ignored.Given that they are the people most affected by all this upheaval, this is a bizarre omission.

No longer hailed for their community spirit, their attachment to strong families or their respect for tradition, they are now often portrayed as reactionary or backward, with opinions so outdated they can easily be dismissed.

The voice of the white working class is barely allowed to intrude into British politics or culture.

In metropolitan circles, where sneering at any minority ethnic group would be regarded as an outrage, this white working class opinion is all too often treated with suspicion or contempt.

The word chav, for instance, is now often accepted as a way of marking the behaviour of the working class, even though any similarly abusive description of ethnic minorities would lead to police inquiries.

What is particularly bizarre about this approach is that, until recently, the white working class were seen as an integral and respected part of our national life.

Working class heroes, like Michael Caine or George Best, were celebrated as national icons, their strong accents and easy self-confidence adored by the public.

Working class life was realistically portrayed in novels, films and dramas. Working class culture was the driving force in popular music, comedy and sport.

In politics as well, some might argue that the white working class exerted an enormous influence, in a positive way through the expansion of welfare services to alleviate poverty and illhealth, and more negatively through the tribalism of the trade union movement that ultimately led to the disaster of the Winter of Discontent in 1979.


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