Don’t mention it

With election campaigns now in full swing, there is a word which seems to hover over the whole thing but which people, by which I mean the media and hence people in general, shy away from. Class.

Class was what distinguished the parties right up until the 1980’s. Labour stood for the working man and the Tories stood for, well, the man who didn’t need to work. But since then party definitions and even class definitions themselves have become increasingly blurred. And recently complaints have arisen more and more concerning the similarity of the major parties. Nick Clegg was applauded in the first leader debate for commenting of the other two party leaders; “the more they attack each other the more they sound alike.”

But now, for the first time in many years, it is clear where the party leaders stand in terms of class. David Cameron’s upbringing and Etonian education are clear marks of the elite of the British establishment. And suspicion surrounds the mysterious phone call, alleged to have been made by a member of the royal family when got Cameron a place in the Conservative party to begin with.

Brown’s upbringing could not be more different. The son of a Scottish minister, he frequently came into contact with poverty and unemployment through his father’s work with the less fortunate.

But this examination of the characters of the individual leaders seems to be as deep as the class-based analysis runs. In the light of day, the distance between the two main parties is astounding. When the phrase ‘redistribution of wealth’ is mentioned, the immediate assumption is that wealth is being redistributed downwards. The economy is a pyramid, a wider, populous base and a narrower, wealthier top, with a tendency for money to slowly move up the pyramid. And Labour have reverted to their old pledge to return some of that pyramid-climbing money to the base by guaranteeing jobs for the young and the unemployed and making proposals for compulsory education up to the age of 18.

In stark contrast, the Conservatives are making a concerted effort to increase the flow of money up that pyramid, cutting child benefits, the SureStart program and public funding in order to finance tax cuts including a £1.2bn inheritance tax cut.

This is a clear challenge to the less well-off, the Conservatives are drawing a line in the sand. An economy that, until recently, showed signs of faltering and growing strike action, such as the recent BA strike, is making the present day look more and more like the late 70’s when Thatcher came to power. But here’s hoping that Britain circa 2010 doesn’t have the stomach for strike-


In spite of this, Cameron is still concerned with covering up said cuts. Brown, in the first leader debate, broadcast on ITV, challenged him again and again to definitively say whether or not he would make cuts in education and the police force but Cameron refused to confirm or deny Brown’s statement. Class conflict, it seems, is still taboo.


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