SHEDNOTES 50: 99 days to go …

99 days to go to Election Day and The Shed is still waiting to nod in sympathy with Ed Miliband but did sympathise with some of the comments made, on behalf of his lost voters, by Lisa Mackenzie, author of Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain, in an article for the Guardian, 21.1.15.

She wrote (edited highlights follow):

The Sutton-in-Ashfield estate I grew up in, a mining town a few miles from Nottingham city centre, was a tight-knit community where almost everyone on the estate worked and lived in close proximity. I didn’t know that we were no good; I didn’t know that living on a council estate devalued you as a person. I understood my position in society as working class but I thought that was the best class to be. The middle class were boring, and the upper class were cruel – they hurt animals and sent their children away. This is how I thought about my family and my community during the 1970s. I was really thankful to be a working-class child.

During the late 1980s I felt very differently – almost ashamed of who we were. We were ridiculed, we were old-fashioned, poor, and didn’t know what was happening in the cool world of the “yuppie” and “loadsamoney” – a catchphrase made up by a middle-class comedian about working class people made good …

Working-class people, and the communities where they live have been devalued to such an extent that they are known simply as “problematic” and in need of making better. It is the deficit model that working class people have something wrong with them, which needs putting right by intervention, by carrots and sticks. They are misrepresented and devalued. This is damaging and painful at best, and dangerous and vicious at worst.

I have seen, experienced and written about how thought becomes action. How the Thatcher government’s rhetoric of “underclass” and “the enemy within” became an attack on working-class communities, despising them, destroying families and identities. New Labour did little better with its social exclusion model, where it took the concept of social justice from France that tried to explain how groups of poorer, working-class people were becoming excluded from society. New Labour subverted it into something about how poorer families were excluding themselves with their “wrongness”, their bad culture and bad practices. This led to almost 13 years of top-down middle-class philanthropic social work culture.

The consequence was an open door for the Centre for Social Justice thinktank and my nemesis, its founder and now work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith …

My estate in Nottingham is in decline. The one Co-op supermarket has gone and in its place are corner shops that sell no food – only cheap alcohol, electric cards, and lottery tickets. There isn’t one single pub left on the estate, and local people sit on the walls where they once were with cans of cheap cider. This is perhaps one of the saddest things I have seen.

My estate in the mining village where I grew up is devastated; no work, no hope, pound shops and charity shops have replaced the local bakers, butchers and toy shop I remember as a child, although there is an enormous Asda superstore. And London, where I have lived for the last 18 months, is truly terrifying because of the callous ways working class people are treated; at any time you could become street homeless.

Even now when I have supposedly made it, I know that even a small rent rise on my privately rented ex-council flat in Tower Hamlets will see me out of the capital, where the super-rich and the politicians who bow to them are not even aware that we are here.



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