X Close

Stop pretending to be working class I'm sick of posh Lefties lecturing the proles about hardship

Alvaro Fuente/NurPhoto/ Getty

Alvaro Fuente/NurPhoto/ Getty


May 14, 2021   6 mins

“I think there’s a really big difference in saying certain factors support the reproduction of class power and saying these things determine what class *is*.”

So declared the public-school educated, Oxford University graduate Grace Blakeley earlier in the week: “No matter what your accent or education, if you’re forced to work in a call centre, you’re working-class.” Which is staggering to those of us who, unlike Blakeley, are of working-class stock.

But how can I, a journalist living a comfortable existence in a nice house in North London, possibly be working class? Good question: there is no way today I would suggest I am living anything other than a fairly comfortable middle-class lifestyle. However, is that the same as having been born into privilege? Absolutely not.

I was born in the north-east of England; my dad was a steel worker and my mum a shop assistant. I was raised in a two-up, two-down terraced house with an outdoor toilet (yes, they still existed in the Sixties) and no bathroom. The only books in our house were the odd Harold Robbins or Catherine Cookson, and there were no trips to concerts or the theatre, or any form of so-called “high culture” either among my family or anyone I knew. No doubt a different upbringing from the one experienced by Blakeley.

When, in 1968, we moved to a new-build council housing estate in Darlington, it felt like total luxury. We had a bathroom, which meant an end to tin baths filled with hot water from the kettle, and central heating, which was so much better than huddling around a coal fire.

But despite the improvements, expectations were low. The local comprehensive school was more of a holding pen for what the teachers saw as feral children, with the very limited ambition of teaching us to read and write and put us on the road to a factory or cleaning job.

My parents, alongside my younger brother and nephew, neither of whom can afford their own place, still live in that small, three-bedroom house. I am the only person in my entire extended family with a higher education.

I was told by teachers and school career advisers that what was available to me after leaving school was factory or shop work and, if I was really lucky, marriage to a well-paid tradesman. My confidence was nil, and the idea of going out into the big bad world and meeting people from different class backgrounds was terrifying.

Thanks to feminism, however, I found a different world at the age of 17. Meeting middle-class educated women, I decided to go to university and be a writer. It took another ten years before I enrolled on an Access Course and subsequently a polytechnic. My accent, poor education and lack of confidence among the middle classes all held me back.

But before I met the feminists, I looked for lesbians among my own tribe. I found a nightclub, rough as a badger’s crotch, in nearby Middlesbrough where the lesbians were so butch they looked like they could donate to a sperm bank. This was at least in part because they didn’t have the support and protection that the middle-class lesbians did — there were no hippy alternative tree-huggers around to join in solidarity with these women.

As proud as I am of my working-class origins, and of doing well for myself against all the odds, I am not sentimental. From a very early age I was well aware of my perceived inferiority to those born into families that can afford books, trips to the opera, and holidays to far-flung places. My parents worked hard and had no access to domestic help, which meant they were less able to help us with homework than those parents who had the privilege of childminders. And my working-class origins still make a huge difference to how I am viewed and how I move in the world — inevitably.

In 1988, a year into our relationship, I took my partner Harriet to Darlington to meet my family. Harriet is from a well-off secular Jewish bourgeois home. Raised in Hampstead, she grew up with music, literature, and the confidence and expectation that she would get a good degree followed by a career.

During that visit, my mum brought out the monstrosity that is Concorde Peach Wine and showed Harriet the hostess trolly, proudly telling her that we were the first house on the estate to get one. While my dad went to the pub, which he did every Sunday lunchtime with the same religiosity as others attended church, mum had cooked the dinner by 8am, vegetables and all, and it would sit festering in the trolly, perched by the fake stone fireplace adorned with ornaments, further cooking the overcooked offerings.

I recall Harriet buying a very nice bottle of Chablis, into which my mum poured a good slug of diet lemonade.

Pretty much everything from food to what TV you watch gives your class background away. I often play the “salad game” with new acquaintances. Middle-class kids will have had croutons and olives in theirs, working-class ones will tell you about pickled beetroot and a slice of gala pie. Then there is the issue of dinner time – 5pm “teatime” for the commoners, “dinner” for the middle class, and “supper” for the super posh. Meanwhile middle-class households hide the TV like it’s a dirty secret, and only put it on to watch something educational, whereas our family telly was almost on fire by the time we went to bed.

Blakeley’s comments were posted during a discussion about the desertion of “Red Wall” voters from the Labour party. She followed up her post, which had attracted a lot of derision and anger, with: “Clearly, I’m not working class. Clearly, my education and upbringing are what allowed me to reach the position I’m in now. But these things don’t *define* my class position, my relationship to the production process does.”

Blakeley is but one in a long line of super-posh leftists who lecture the proletariat on the class system. For example, public school educated journalist Shon Faye who bragged about working at a call centre while a student before being sacked for smoking. She wrote an article entitled “The fight for trans equality must be recognised as a class struggle”, which would be met by anyone on the council estate where my family live with wide-eyed astonishment or derision.

Despite what the privileged kids of journalism might think, a working-class woman in a call centre, trying to raise a couple of kids and having to negotiate with her manager about time off when her childcare lets her down, might have a different experience than a posh young MA student who is “forced” to take a job in a call centre because daddy has pulled the plug on the monthly allowance. Working-class mothers cannot afford to put a foot wrong, which often leads to them being targeted by sexual harassment and unfair treatment. It is not a game or an “experience” for them; there is no way out.

“Class is a social relationship rooted in production,” tweeted Blakeley in response to criticism to her first post. “Either you own resources critical for the production process, or you sell your labour power to those who do. If the latter, you’re either a professional with some autonomy and some assets, or a worker with little of both.”

This analysis seems to emanate directly from the writings of Karl Marx, but it lacks credibility in a post-industrial society and completely fails to grasp the British class system, which has created significant cultural distinctions depending on where your family come from and how you were raised.

My working-class roots have never really left me, in fact they still have an impact on my life, despite having left the Darlington council estate more than four decades ago. I have been assumed to be an administrator by a male interviewee whilst heading up a major research project; I’ve been asked by an academic whether I would ever “consider doing a degree” in response to me telling her I attended a sink school; I’ve been laughed at when I have no idea of key historical facts that most would take for granted. It’s not the greatest injustice in the world – but the idea that education and upbringing does not define a person’s class is ludicrous.

For Blakeley to say, “Class has nothing to do with: your accent — where you live — where you grew up — what your parents do — where you went to school,” is the epitome of middle-class ignorance. If we need to look anywhere as to why Labour is losing so many working-class voters, this mindset is not a bad place to start.

What we are seeing now is a version of the strange colonisation of working class life that we saw in the 1970s, when Oxbridge educated students joined a version of the Socialist Society and ended up interloping as factory workers post-graduation in order to identify as one of the “workers”.

When I first heard this I thought about my dad, coming home after a gruelling shift at the mill, working in 100-degree heat, often with injuries sustained from being hit by bits of screaming hot metal. I wondered what he would have made of some plummy-voiced rich kid raising his fist in solidarity, masquerading as one of them.

Class disadvantage is not a costume that can ever be really discarded, and nor is it one that the poshies can put on to score points. In the meantime, in my nice middle-class household, the arguments rage between Harriet and me as to whether to watch Gavin and Stacey or some worthy, intellectual sub-titled documentary. In such arguments, “common as muck” sounds like a badge of honour.


Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.

bindelj

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

305 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

This account of your life, Julie, mirrors my own very much, although both my parents were split up and unemployed. I grew up on a British council estate and while I hated it at the time, I’m now grateful for the experience. There were evil people living on that estate, but there were also good people who had your back – displaying a loyalty that I thought long since gone from the world until I emigrated to the American South and rediscovered it here. Living on that council estate and working in dingy pubs and dive bars has taught me more about the real world than all my college degrees combined. I can no longer consider myself working class, I suppose, but I’ve always tried my best to hold on to my roots. Just from typing this post, I realize my shabby upbringing has shaped my political views more so than has my education.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I am astonished that most of the participants in this discussion don’t seem to understand that there is a difference between class as a category of political or economic function, and class as a social category based on ancestry and culture. Sure, there is some overlap, but generally speaking they’re very different concepts.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Absolutely!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Yes absolutely.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Cheryl ,were you echoing Susannah Baring Tait out of social diffidence

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

The contemporary Left try to hold onto the economic concept of class, while denying that working-class cultures exist largely because these cultures disgust them.

Terence Riordan
Terence Riordan
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

I think class is about perception of society not political or economic function. The attitude of old money to new money seems to say that.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

In the UK class means social class – which derives largely from parental ‘economic function’, ie is a mix of economic & ancestry elements.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

There is a lot of Good in the USA Deep South – notice they were the only part of USA with no BLM rioting? Because the people get along, because there is more tolerance and understanding between the people. I settled here after living all over, and ‘living is easy’, as Gershwin said. ‘ The Song ‘Summer Time, from ‘Porgy and Bess’, likely now proscribed by the middle class liberals who despise anyone with callused hands – being a tradesman I know almost all construction workers, truck drivers, farmers, and so on are Republicans – Trump voters. Biden voters have soft hands like a baby. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7-Qa92Rzbk

sharonesekhon
sharonesekhon
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You mean the places where the stats for surviving childbirth are lower than that of any other “first world” nation?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes, it’s interesting that racial unrest is primarily found in blue states in the US. In the south, you generally find people, working and getting along with their neighbors better than in blue states and cities. Less segregation as well. With all the people and companies moving to the south, people are finding a more peaceful way of life. Oracle just announced a move to Nashville, TN bringing 8500 jobs with it.

Neil Wilson
Neil Wilson
3 years ago

These people need to have Pulp’s Common People played in their ears on loop until they get it.

Laugh along with the common people

Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you

And the stupid things that you do

Because you think that poor is cool

Neil Papadeli
Neil Papadeli
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

You took the words out of my mouth. Musical genius.
The lack of awareness and empathy demonstrated by these pseuds is astonishing. I’ll add another line:

Everyone hates a tourist

Dave M
Dave M
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Beat me to it
Nothing changes eh?
Mind you, Jarvis did it without making himself the centre of attention or the victim – unlike this piece. Oh and better, way better.

Last edited 3 years ago by Dave M
Rhys D
Rhys D
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

But people like Grace will never understand. They never do.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

The “salad game”, that’s great. Salad for us as kids meant iceberg lettuce with a tomato or two and a hard-boiled egg, all slathered in as much Heinz salad cream as possible. What does that say about my background?

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I know the feeling. I was nodding along to this until Julie mentioned having beetroot on salad. Salad?? Beetroot?? And she calls herself working class…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Maybe you’re familiar with this:
“Mum, what’s for afters?”
“Windmill pudding. If it goes round, you get some.”

Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the term afters might be a signifier of a recent working class back ground.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Fred Dibnah

My parents were – but they managed to make the step up so that we grew up as comfortable middle class kids. But we still said “afters” and “breakfast, dinner and tea” (or maybe that’s just a Northern thing).

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My background is similar but from the East Midlands. Definitely breakfast, dinner and tea.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Fred Dibnah

My folks are from Derbyshire, I’ve picked up a lot of speech patterns from them. Like calling an alleyway a “jitty” for example. In Yorkshire, they’re ginnels or snickets (which I also use).

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“Drangs” in Somerset.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago

Does anyone know the Northumbrian one – Lonnon. I’ve never heard it anywhere else and assumed it meant lane. A friend used to say she was “tappy lappy down the lonnen” which usually meant too much to drink.

nxqf6nfcs7
nxqf6nfcs7
3 years ago
Reply to  Jay Williams

Yes Jay, lonnen/lonnon is used identically in Cumbria too, especially on the industrialised west coast where I grew up as “working class”. Reading the article and all of the comments here my thoughts are drawn to the issue of identity. Nobody defines my identity other than myself, despite now being highly educated, wealthily retired and living in the leafy Cotswolds, I am a working class Cumbrian.

Last edited 3 years ago by nxqf6nfcs7
nxqf6nfcs7
nxqf6nfcs7
3 years ago
Reply to  nxqf6nfcs7

Sorry about the nxq stuff Jay, no idea what that is?

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago
Reply to  nxqf6nfcs7

Asa marra

Eileen Conn
Eileen Conn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jay Williams

hadn’t heard of ‘lonnen’ but definitely ‘snicket’ and tappy lappy’. I’m a lass from Gateshead, Co Durham (grew up there in 50s and 60s). I resonate with all the comments about meal times. Emigrated to London in the 60s but have always carried my inner Tyneside working class identity within my overlaid acquired middle-middle class culture & occupation. It was a long new learning process to acquire familiarity with that style of life.

Rae Ade
Rae Ade
3 years ago

‘Down the entrance’ in Coventry

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Rae Ade

Uptown,whereas in london &south Downtown..

Gareth R Edwards
Gareth R Edwards
3 years ago
Reply to  Rae Ade

….and down the gulley in the South Wales Valleys.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Rae Ade

A ‘cut’ in the two-up two down tin bath outside bog Hampshire Railway town I grew up in, very much working class, father was a card carrying communist like many ex-soldiers who saw the waste of working class lives the upper class Ruperts caused during WW2.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

We used to ask if we were having dinner for tea when we moved class and started to have the main meal at 6pm instead of 1pm, but we always called pudding , pudding. My parents called the toilet the lavatory referring to outside ones , we called our indoor one the loo , but lavatory for the outdoor one which stood in the playground-so Nancy Mitford U & Non U would have got a bit confused. I remember looking at a census and saying that we had moved up quite a few letters. However even in a left-wing profession like teaching we were mainly friends with working class made good. The ‘to the manner born’ were a separate lot.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

As I’ve always understood it, your “dinner” is your main meal of the day, whether you take it at 1.pm or 8.pm. Hence the ubiquity of “Christmas Dinner”.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago

That’s my understanding too – but then, as an American, I don’t know that it’s relevant to a discussion of the English class system. For what ever it’s worth, we use both “lunch” and “supper” as meals had at particular times of day.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

We always had our main meal at midday-school or home. When we became embourgeoisement we entered the world of dinner parties (with wine!). A world we had only seen previously on television for example I don’t think anyone when I was a child invited other adults ( outside their own family) round for a meal, apart from parties.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

On weekdays we always had tea with bread , jam and cake at about 4 pm and that was our (children’s ) day’s food. My father got supper when he came home from work. Having dinner in the evening -dinner for tea- meant we all ate together.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Not all working class kids had breakfast, dinner, and tea, some just had the one bag of chips while sitting on a pavement, and that covered all that days meals.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago

McDonalds these days

ShellyAnne Finney
ShellyAnne Finney
3 years ago
Reply to  Fred Dibnah

If at least 70 years of use of the term afters among my working class family qualifies as ‘recent’. I didn’t know anyone who called it anything else till I went to school

Tom Fusco
Tom Fusco
3 years ago
Reply to  Fred Dibnah

Unless you’re on my side of the pond in which case you would have no idea what people are talking about when they say “afters”. But from context, I think it means dessert.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My mum would do extra Yorkshire puddings – we would have them with golden syrup after the mains – summer it was tinned fruit salad in syrup and evap milk

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

We had bananas in custard (that had been cooled and set in the fridge), Ambrosia rice pudding and bread & butter pudding with Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Divine – I could eat all of those right now.

ericstout2
ericstout2
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You had a fridge? Social climber!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  ericstout2

We were the only ones in the street with a fridge. You used to get a knock on the door, be handed a bowl of wobbly jelly, to be collected later for the party.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  ericstout2

Four Yorkshiremen from At Last 1948 show springs to mind,updated by Monty python

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Ambrosia rice pudding? Christ no, mum boiled up rice pud from basic constituents, hated it. I’d rather have a cheese and marmalade sarnie.

David Rooney
David Rooney
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Now I still love tinned fruit and evaporated milk but I especially love it with a slice of brown bread and butter to make sure I have finished it all !

Hilary Davan Wetton
Hilary Davan Wetton
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

I am enormously posh, but I used to love Yorkshire Pud with Golden Syrup, and nag my mother for it constantly. Does that change my class? Well, I would pay that price if so….

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

We had ours for starters on their own with gravy , then the main course followed by pudding. I think there maybe a bylaw against allowing your Yorkshire puddings to be eaten your way.

Christina McCausland
Christina McCausland
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Why is it that English working class food is so simplistic ? and even posh daily grub ? I can understand the nostalgia for it, but it isn’t overall attractive or healthy food.
Working class french or Italians, north African, Asian or whoever have had thoughtful classy tasty real cuisine not simplistic food…those with little money still eat tasty healthy cooking.
Eg. Italian has a pasta industry with dozens of succulent pasta types…so for supper or tea (whichever word you are attached to) a specialist pasta with home made tomato sauce…is delicious but cheap ! Tinned meat pie with mash …mushy peas…packet comfort food ! Why ? How ?
Nostalgia for our recent historic grub is understandable but it’s embarrassing !

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

Actually I grew up eating very good food-meat or fish with home grown veg. British people preferred their food plain & not ‘messed about’. Convenience food didn’t become available until 1970’s-until then it was fish & chips

Anakei greencloudnz
Anakei greencloudnz
3 years ago

Well this comment is classist in the extreme!
You also underestimate how long it took exotic ingredients to get to the working classes. Where were we supposed to find all these ingredients and recipes? We didn’t go skiing in the winter, or to Italy or France in the summer. I never saw a clove of garlic until 1976. I made my first “foreign” recipe, chilli con carne from a recipe on the back of a tin of kidney beans at a friends flat.
The only processed food in our house was tins of tomatoes and soup. baked beans and frozen peas. Everything was made from scratch, using fresh ingredients, either from the garden, or from the twice a week market. Tinned meat pie?? not in our house – too expensive. Instead my mum cooked the cheapest stewing beef in the pressure cooker, making a rich brown gravy and topped it with a thick crust of homemade shortcrust pastry and served it with buttery mashed potatoes and cabbage or beans picked from the garden 10 minutes previously, and cooked until bright green. Delicious home made food well cooked should not be sneered at.
I see a lot of old British favourites like bread and butter pudding, are making a comeback but I think Nigella makes hers with brioche, not the ends of a loaf…..

Laila Namdarkhan
Laila Namdarkhan
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That’s mild… in our house .. same question … ‘ hanky stew’.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

My sister definitely considers herself middle class, and keeps putting pickled beetroot in my salad!

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Queue ..month python the Yorkshiremen sketch… eee… we were evicted from our hole in the road

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

That’s the first thing that I thought of when I read the article.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I have to say, no self respecting working class mother, (dads didn’t do meals) would never have put beetroot in a salad!

Eileen Conn
Eileen Conn
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

pickled beetroot from a jar.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eileen Conn
John Wilkes
John Wilkes
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

It counts as working class if it is pickled beetroot from a jar, but not artisan candied beetroot from Waitrose.

mel.swan2
mel.swan2
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Pickled, out of a jar… the crinkly cut stuff was posh ;0)

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That sounds like a solid mid to upper working class salad. You can tell you’re not lower-working-class, they don’t eat salad. >:)

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

They do because they grew their own, usually on an allotment , though usually radish with salad and celery in its own ‘vase’ for some reason.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

You had celery in a vase too!!! Dear God I thought we were the only ones. The “vase” was a beer glass in our house.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

I was thinking more recently/currently.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

Yes, in the US blue-collar workers are said to scoff at “rabbit food”.

Diane Duggan
Diane Duggan
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

My working class family often ate salad in the summer. Cucumber, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and salad cream with chopped boiled eggs.This was in the 70s and 80s.

Last edited 3 years ago by Diane Duggan
Rosy Martin
Rosy Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Actually Katharine, it says more about your age. I had that too and we were hard up but definitely middle class..no olives or croutons in sight ! Some folk don’t understand that distinction, it is very much a British thing. It may be on the way out , with the influx of many folk from the third world, where wealth and class come to same thing, Marx never understood that either. .

Last edited 3 years ago by Rosy Martin
Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago
Reply to  Rosy Martin

Sadly , there was a very great deal that Marx didn’t understand.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  Rosy Martin

And in the US of A too I think.

Wil Harper
Wil Harper
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I play the ‘what do you call your meals’ game as well. Its Breakfast, Dinner (sometimes lunch if its sarnies or a packup) and Tea. And yep, salad was lettuce, bit of cucumber and tomato. If I was on a visit to my Nans they might be homegrown in my grandads greenhouse at the end of the garden. Made me realise I rarely hear people say ‘afters’ now, I still use it occasionally but get these weird looks from the other people in my house. My parents made the step up in the eighties to liberal left wing middle class, having both benefited from the 11+ system and been able to access good quality education despite being from working class (steel and railways) families, but my childhood was poor to start withuntil Mam got a job as a teacher. I went to a sink comp in the north because my parents despite being by then comfortably middle class. I remember loathing it, and hating them for that decision which was taken because they felt they should put the political ideology of ‘equal education for all’ above the personal and practical aspects of sending their kids to the local failing comp instead of the secondary in the nearby town with other teachers kids. I was neither one thing or another, my dad still claimed working class roots and all the rest of my family was working class, (cousins etc) but my parents gradually moved further and further away from that themselves. I didn’t fit in with the small portion of ‘posher’ kids from the nice villages, but my parents insistence on me ‘speaking properly’ set me aside from the kids in my own village. I’ve drifted uneasily between the classes ever since. I’m aware that my own degree (achieved part-time whilst working) and job make me middle class. On the other hand I also live on a council estate and work in frontline (low paid) healthcare which I guess in today’s britain makes me working class. I do find it harder and harder to mix with certain people however, and feel like shaking them in their comfortable assumptions. I think class is incredibly complex in Britain, job, income, education all play a part. But you are most certainly not working class if you’ve never had to stare at a broken washing machine with a crying two year old and wonder if you can afford to fix it this month, if you’ve never had to get up at stupid o’ clock to trek out on public transport to your low paid, zero hours or physical labouring job, if your biggest worry for your kids is whether they get a gap year this year (anyone else see that incredibly smug guardian article) and you honestly know deep down that if you lost your job you’d be OK really, because you have a nice big house/savings or family with houses/ rooms to spare.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Wil Harper

I realized my parents were getting a bit Hyacinth Bucket when they started to refer to currant teacake as Sally Lunn?

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Same as mine. Can you still get salad cream? I fancy a fob on my baby spinach, rocket and pine nuts.

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

Don!

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

Eek, dob! Damn autocorrect.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

What is “rocket” in this context?

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

some fancy sort of lettuce — at least it is over here

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

I don’t know, to be honest: I don’t live in Britain anymore. But I feel like a dollop of salad cream now too!

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

This is so funny. I grew up in post war rationing so my mother could no longer whip up homemade mayonnaise; thus, Heinz salad cream it was. And i loved it! (I can still hear my father questioning if I’d like a little salad on my salad cream!) I live in the tropics, but only yesterday I suddenly, out of nowhere, thought of Heinz salad cream and then wanted some. I wondered, as a poster above does, if it is still produced.

Last edited 3 years ago by Susannah Baring Tait
Graeme Morrison
Graeme Morrison
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

Heinz stopped production for a while (90s at a guess) but it was brought back due to popular demand. Mum (who was never a ‘cook’ in any sense) used to mix it with chopped hard-boiled egg-yolks and grated cheddar, and spoon the gloop into the hard-boiled yolk cases. It was the core of her egg salad which I loved as a kid. And so did my mate – whose mum was practically cordon bleu.

Last edited 3 years ago by Graeme Morrison
Penny Gallagher
Penny Gallagher
3 years ago
Reply to  Gwynneth Coan

Oh yes!

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You would be working class if you had Heinz baked beans with it

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Ron Wigley

Tomato ketchup sandwiches?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Oh no! Really? That’s a thing? Now, Marmite sarnies….they’re lovely.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Oh, i still have those. In fact, a friend brought out a new pot of Marmite for me last month. At boarding school, we would lather it on fried bread. Delicious!

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Ron Wigley

what would you be if the beans were made from scratch and that was the whole meal of a Saturday with a bit of bread and butter?

irishbog28
irishbog28
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Oh boy – growing up in ireland in the 70s meant never eating salad. It was meat and two veg for dinner (1pm) and rashers and sausages for your tea.
Never had rice or pasta until I was about 17

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You parents shopped for food in M&S? Very middle class. Oh actually they have sliced potato as well

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

The title of being ‘working class’, seems to be changing within the far left. Their version is very much based in Marxisim, as Julie points out, but the traditional British left of Attlee etc did not come from the school of Marx (or very few did), it was a very much a British take on socialism. This has changed over the last few decades, and the root of this change orginates from Blair, and his middle class version of Labour. His biggest mistake (or one of many big mistakes!) Was his mantra ‘ Education, education, education’, which taken on its own is not a bad thing. However, in practice this led to nearly every school leaver wanting to attend university. The outcome was a mass of university graduates who were/are over educated and under employed. Hence you get the Middle class university grad upset they are not a CEO and are working in a call centre which has led us to the situation we now face, with the rise of the Middle Class Marxist. I do believe class has many different attributes, but one thing to keep in mind is that wealth can be easily lost through generations, and so the question arises, is a skint duchess working class?? I think not.

Last edited 3 years ago by Looney Leftie
James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I think the biggest mistake was not pumping up the polytechnics, as they were known then, designing the highest quality possible, vocational certificates and diploma courses. Forget re-branding them all ‘universities’. It was ‘social engineering’ in the wrong direction. We have our rotten public school/old boy network to thank for that, the perception that an academic degree is the ‘gold standard’. This argument is as old as the hills.

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Very true. I know this wouldn’t happen over night, but we also need to re-industrializie, which would help matters hugely, and with what has happened recently with the worldwide scramble for PPE, the government may be waking up to this notion. Well, I live in hope anyway.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Absolutely.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

How do you re-industrialise with the environmentalists watching you? Perhaps the fabled Green Jobs?

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

We still need products to be produced, it doesn’t mean we have to return to coal mining and the traditional industries. We need innovation, not a return to 19th century industry.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

In short, putting some thought into it. It’s a dumb bird that fouls its nest.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Indeed, we also need to wake up to the fact thst China being the workshop of the world is not a good thing. To put mildly.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

It may be good for the Chinese. ‘Rise quietly’, they say.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Yes, it has been a ‘quiet rise’ until the pandemic. I think the rest of the world has woken up a bit now. It will also be interesting moving forward with the green agenda. China seems to sign up to all the agreements, and then just ignore them. I have heard they pollute more than all the major Western industrial countries put together. This is one of many areas where Trump went ‘wrong’ (depending on your morals??). He was too honest about his intent.

Last edited 3 years ago by Looney Leftie
jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I recall in 2012 telling people, we should be making ‘Stuff’ ourselves not buying from the Chinese. they make us everything including Covid.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I agree with you 100% except for the fact we produce probably the most expensive Electricity in Europe. Many Investment trusts investing in alternative energy offer yields of 5-8%. Yes there is plenty of money to be made in this well inflated commodity.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

High value, for example Swiss watches. Consider worth of product over weigth. Swiss watch, weight say 100 grammes, worth ÂŁ20K. Car weigth 1T, worth ÂŁ20K.
Fraction of cost due to energy, land, raw materials minimal for Swiss watch, high for car.
Look at value of 1 hours labour for someone making a satellite, Swiss watch, top level furniture, jewellery etc or making a basic car.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

OK. Not a problem them. Does this mean we get to vote in Swiss referendums?

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Unfortunately for many in government, PPE stands for Politics, Philosophy and Economics, the political hack’s degree of choice at Oxford, which every university-educated PM since before the Second World War has attended, with the exception of Gordon Brown.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Prior to 1960s, people could leave school at 16 or younger to take up apprenticeships or clerkships. They when went to night school to study academic subjects relevant to their career. Degrees were offered by U of London. The Insts of Engineering offered courses leading to exams, Pt1 HND , Pt2, Degree level which were required to become Chartered. Degree level exams were offered in Law, Accountancy, Banking , Insurance and Surveying, Physics and Chemistry . Education was related to local indusry. Arts/Humanities degree were not offered.
Proof of success – Barnes Wallis Wellington , Bouncing Bomb, Camm- Hurricane, Mitchell – Spitfire, Chadwick- Lancaster, De Havilland – Mosquito. These left men grammar/public school at 16 years of age to take up apprenticeships.
From 1960s evening classs stopped and arts degree started. This meant a craftsmen could not study for degree for degree level exams at night school . Craftsmen had to leave work for 3 years to obtain degree. This meant a craftsmen could not enter professional middle classes. It was said that Pt2 exam of the Inst of Mech’ Eng was tougher than any degree.
From the 1960s, education has been dominated by left wing middle class public sector arts graduates who have a contemopt for trade and technology. The evening school/poly route which enabled those in work in to enter the professional middle classes was closed down by left wing middle class. If we had kept a the poly focused on the evening education of technical subjects,developed with Collges of Advanced Technology and copying Fraunhofer Institutes with Swiss Technical training in schools from the age of 11 years , the UK would be ina better position.
The massive inrease in arts degrees post 1960s has taken money away from producing crafstmen, technicians applied scientists needed for advanced manufacturing producing high value goods.
Switzerland has a high cost of living but can afford to produce watches because they are of very high value.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thank you for that, Charles.
I remember reading this in the mid 80s 9780140226621: English Culture And the Decline of the Industrial Spirit 1850-1980 (Pelican S.) – AbeBooks – Wiener, Martin J.: 0140226621
The Independent newspaper also regularly featured pieces on how the German system of vocational education and training was so superior.

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Thank you, not as good as Swiss. Swiss friends have noticed decline in German Railways

Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I picked up on some of a sequence of letters in the Guardian last week/early this week concerning the value of art/history degrees compared with vocational. One of the correspondents stated that because of the way they were taught history degrees should be considered as “multi-vocational”. I was appalled.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I think the educational systems of at least the English-speaking world have been strongly affected by popular demand for entrĂ©e to white-collar professional-managerial jobs. I don’t know why this is thought to be a plot by “left wing middle class public sector arts graduates who have a contempt for trade and technology” since it is generally spread throughout the population and does not seem to be produced ideologically. Possibly there has been a successful advertising or propaganda effort on the part of universities to, basically, sell their product (credentials) but deeper investigation is needed. There is also the problem of deindustrialization which I think was invented by capitalists looking for cheap labor, not the aforesaid left-wing middle class public sector arts graduates.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Look at increase in number arts degrees at polys, universities such as Kent, Sussex, York, Essex, etc. No of arts degrees post 1967 compared to number of applied science and engineering degrees. In Switzerland small number of arts degrees large numbers of applied science /engineering, hence ETH Zurich

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

What I’m saying is that the push toward white-collar bureaucratic jobs is widespread in the population, along with a belief in the magic of credentials, usually a college degree.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

No, it was technology moving from low to middle to high and industrial development in what were Third World Countries. Look at how German industry bounced from 1948 to 1963, Japan from 1950 to 1975, and China post early1990s.
Germany moved out of low and middle tech by mid 1990s. Switzerland has only operated in advanced/high tech manufacture as living standards make low and medium tech unprofitable. Read Dyson Report on Innovation.
One could not outsource Swiss watch industry because no other country has skills. American car industry has been outsourced because it is low tech compared to Germany who have built factories in Slovakia. If one takes Switzerland as centre, where there is German speaking population and or influence in any of surrounding countries there has been a tradition of high quality metal work since the Middle Ages, Milan- armour.Craftsmanship is cultural; the desire to produce perfect objects; to continually improve, to aquire a vast range of facts and skills over years if not decades, to work to tolerances of 0.01mm, to never be satisfied. Those who have slap dash, near enough is good enough, could not care less attitude, who are lazy, not consistant, can never be trained to be craftsmen.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

China is a curious case, since their science and technology seem to have been well ahead of the West until our late Middle Ages — and then just ground to a halt. Now they’re grinding ahead again….

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Joseph Needham asked that question and the same can be said for Moghul Empire.
A Toynbee said the creative leaders lose their creativity and Parkinson said over large state needing too high taxation saps people will , e.g Roman, Moghul and Chinese post 1500 AD.

jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Love that comment Charles.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I don’t think the modern graduates are ‘over educated’, as you put it, so much as educated in many instances in pretty useless disciplines. The great error of the drive to send half the cohort to tertiary education, was that no one paid any attention to steering the students into more economically fruitful areas of enquiry. More STEM and fewer soft arts graduates are needed.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

Agreed, re useless areas of study and qualifications. Was David Beckham studies a myth?? However, there is also a case of ‘Too many chiefs, and not enough indians’.

Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

Indeed. The currency of the degree was debased by Blair’s policy. Now every semi literate comic reader has been to ‘uni’.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

It was a carefully calculated move, keeps them off the dole queue and loads them with a debt, those from the ‘right’ background will go the the better ‘endowed’ Uni’s and probably pay their fee’s directly, the rest will take on the crippling loans that will keep them in their place…

Arts and ‘umanities s-TOO-DENSE/graduates are also very useful cannon fodder for the left, already edumacated they won’t question further indoctrination, they positively welcome it. Universities love the easy money they represent, STEM labs cost more than the annual fee each STEM student pays to run, so the profit from ‘bums on seats’ is essential without proper governmental funding.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I like that Thomas, “…is a skint duchess working class??”

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

Hehe 😉

Caz
Caz
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

And, of course, universal university education kept the unemployment figures artificially low which suited the Blair administration.

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

That was funny and spot on. I became middle- class via education and teaching but “you can take him out of the working-class but you can’t take the working-class out of him”! We still have breakfast, dinner and tea. We voted for Brexit. We like Wetherspoons’ full-English. Working-class is definitely a mindset especially with conversation which is not littered with false laughs.

Hilary Davan Wetton
Hilary Davan Wetton
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Wetherspoons Full English is astoundingly good value, if you like to gamble with Death in that particular way… I am a gambler, so I am always up for it

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago

When people acquire the ability to make choices they do so overwhelmingly in a way that particular interest groups find destructive to a particular “collective vision”. Those interest groups want to recapture the power to dragoon people into the service of their agendas.
Julie seems to argue that her Feminism and homosexuality are liberating for society. However, we see that they are central to the agenda of these interest groups who increasingly using the force of law impose their “collective vision” upon is, by controlling what we learn, read, think and say.
The loss of the red wall, is symptomatic of the working class realising that they are being played, managed and controlled. In most ways with far worse outcomes for families and communities than was present 100 years ago.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

It’s nice to know where you come from but “class-consciousness” is a prison that the elites would like to keep us in.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

You were lucky. There was 15 of us living in a shoebox int middle of t’ Road eating nothing but a handful of cold gravel, and when our dad got home he’d beat us to death with a broken bottle. And you know what? Tell a guardian reader that nowadays and they won’t believe you.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

My thoughts, exactly.

p.thynne
p.thynne
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I suppose one of the joys of free speech is that we have to let you be a patronising git. It was funny when Monty Python did it but less so now

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  p.thynne

It wasn’t meant to be patronising, but there’s definitely a dose of “4 Yorkshiremen” about this article and most of the comments beneath it (including mine). I think we are all having fun reminiscing about how unprivileged our childhoods were and taking pride in overcoming them. And monty python is always quotable.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Exactly!

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  p.thynne

I bet you were one of the snobs with a luxury shoebox filled with real straw…

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

We used to DREAM of having straw, we used to have to lie on a bed of rusty nails

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Rusty nails? Luxury.
We used to lie on broken glass….

jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago
Reply to  p.thynne

Python is still funny, so is Till death us do part, Love thy neighbour and all the stuff on the box frowned upon these days

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Luxury….

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

I struggle with this one. There is working class and from the article I must be working class. But when I go to Tescos I see many sub-working class people.

The drive to make everybody equal by means of state aid has created something else which can’t be called working class.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I know what you mean. I grew up working class, but got a good education and a good job and don’t know if I still am. My dad was a delivery driver all his life and never read a book as far as I can remember. He’d get up at 4 in the morning and wouldn’t get home till 7, and I never heard him complain once. My brother is much the same as him now. We had pretty much the same upbringing that Julie describes… But there are people around today who are probably labelled as “working class” who’ve never worked a day in their life and have no wish to. I wouldn’t put them in the same class as my family.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

There were and probably still are lots of gradations of working class. When my father saw a BBC drama about ‘his’ class he was roaring with laughter.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“Underclass”

Stu White
Stu White
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

The underclass always existed. but there were fewer of them. I’m an ex-miner and everyone I knew despised anyone on the dole. Not sure what class l am now though. Every aspect of my life except where I was born and what I started out doing would have me as middle class.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Stu White

I think you get to the issue with that comment. My maternal grandfather was a typical Victorian who support the Labour Party and hated Churchill. He never discussed politics with me of course and now I have means to find out what he really wanted from the Labour Party. I hope it was to have a secure, better paid job that allowed him to support his family without state handouts. I don’t know what he would think if he could see what has happened through increasing state dependency created by all politicians.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

These are the inevitable products of our educational, welfare, and judicial systems. Globalization and mass imagration are also parlty to blame.

jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

There are really nice working class,middle class and “upper” but there are also shits in all classes.

Julian Rigg
Julian Rigg
3 years ago

I remember my working class childhood in the 1970’s. It was tough but not a bad experience over all. My point is

I never felt I was a victim.
I never felt I was in any “class”.
Education was there for all as a way up. Grammar schools still existed in numbers for brighter pupils (not me).
The community in our street was close, friendly and helpful. Every door was open.
There was a sense of pride in our country even at the top.
There was nothing to keep us indoors and we played in the street and wondered far from home.
You would see a doctor within 24 hours of making an appointment.
Over the last 50-60 years the establishment has sold us out and we have let them do it. We deserve what’s coming. What we have now is

So many “victims”
.because they’re told they are victims!
People trying to be working class
. And failing, badly.
A good education for the lucky or wealthy. Education is now propaganda.
Decreasing sense of community.
No pride in our country from the people who control it.
Children being kept indoors and missing out on the “university of life” and becoming “street-wise”.
No chance of seeing a doctor anytime soon.
There’s no going back

we are in trouble!

alancoles10
alancoles10
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Rigg

BULLSEYE!

Benaut Benaut
Benaut Benaut
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Rigg

All very selective, eg., “… see a doctor within 24 hours of making an appointment.” How would you make an appointment when you did not have a phone? … (Land lines only 50-60 years ago.) To see your GP you turned up and waited in the queue. The doctor worked long hours. Now we all have mobile phone and doctors have a work life balance. Not enough doctors … increase taxes. Now how to do that could be a real class divide.

Julian Rigg
Julian Rigg
3 years ago
Reply to  Benaut Benaut

We used things called phone boxes. Do you remember them? Red in colour with a slight smell of stale urine. Sometimes they were vandalised, sometimes they worked.

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
3 years ago

Excellent article Julie. I have a friend who presents himself very much like Grace Blakeley, and he similarly infuriates me (a genuine nice guy though, but I’ll keep well out his way when the revolution comes). He is another acolyte of Marx and, like all Marx fans, it is imperative for him that he sells himself on being a prole – to do otherwise would make him the communist version of a Satanist (do they exist? Marxists who thrive in their role as the bourgeoisie?). However, this beloved self-identification of being a prole, as we can see with Grace, always ties itself up with other modern, fashionable identities, and it becomes impossible for them to disentangle ideas, and it then follows that every ethical stance they hold gets tangled up with ‘being a good prole’. So we see trans-issues becoming a class war, or we see race-issues becoming a class war, and if any actual Chablis & diet lemonade working class ever spoke against this, they are no longer a prole worth listening to . . . and then, always, the next step is talk of their ‘re-education’
At which point the Chablis & diet lemonades say ‘Screw you snobs, I’m voting Tory’. And Grace and my mate shrug, and get on with unaffected lives

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sorrenti

Before the internet came along so you could check actors and writers used to say they were working class-especially if they came from the north. One turned out to be the child of a judge who was privately educated at a school with guaranteed places at Oxbridge. Its a bit like Bounderby in Hard Times who I think might be the inspiration for the 4 Yorkshiremen.

Dawn Osborne
Dawn Osborne
3 years ago

Your life is the same as that of my husband and myself except we never made it to university, it was never an option for people like us. Despite this and working on barely above minimum wage for our whole working lives, we managed to send our children to private school, buy a nice house (even with interest rates at 16%) and save for our retirement. We are labelled as white privileged and the generation that stole the lives of the children of today, it infuriates us. The reason we did so well was because we went without, no big white wedding, no honeymoon or holidays for many years, no carpets in our house for the first two years and second hand furniture. Maybe if people were willing to go without as we did they too could be where we are now. We were too busy getting by to become victims.

crispletters
crispletters
3 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Osborne

Yes Dawn,austerity was normal,I mean the secondhand furniture,no holidays kind.Its very hurtful to be told by your children that you stole from them.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  crispletters

The problem is not being told by the children but the children being told by the left leaning media. My maternal grandparents were my political education. He voted labour, she voted Conservative. I used to walk to the polling station and listen to them each tell the other they’d spoiled their vote. It all ended amicably but It made me think my vote should be worth something so I’ve always been quite serious about it.
I was lucky enough to be one of the Grammar School lot. Later I realised it was my left leaning friends: all educated like me, who were determinded to get rid of Grammar Schools but had no idea how to make what was left good enough.
So my lifelong view is “don’t throw stuff out for polital reasons if you have no idea what and how you’ll replace it with something better”

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Osborne

The concept of “doing without” is as foreign to young people as the rotary phone. We didn’t see it as a hardship; it seemed quite natural. You worked your way up until those items fit the budget.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There was no credit back then. So one saved up for what one really wanted, then cherished it. Or decided on something else when the time came.

Caz
Caz
3 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Osborne

Too right. We now have a constantly repeated agenda (thank you, David Willetts) of the ‘baby boomer’ generation being stereotyped as a homogenous mass, all of whom supposedly benefited from free university education, mortgage tax relief, gold-plated pensions etc., thus ‘stealing their children’s future’. No-one ever acknowledges the 90%+ of school leavers who did not go to university and had to work and save hard to climb the ladder. And many of those who did have higher education had to do similarly if they started out with no family money behind them.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

Grace Blakeley the moet Marxist would not know a working class person unless she gets a delivery from Waitrose.
I am a caretaker who lives in a council flat so I am working class or at least a line in a Beatles song.
Grace Blakeley, ash Sarkar and the rest of Novara media are everything that is wrong with the labour party and the left in general, snobs and pretend revolutionaries who will never struggle because they are rich and privileged

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

Every day’s an education! I had always assumed I called the 5-6pm meal teatime because I was a yorkshireman living in Scotland. I now discover it’s my background. Yes I do remember the outside toilet which became the concrete base for a sandpit after my (late) dad built an indoor bathroom AND central heating himself. No B&Q back then No M62, he travelled in a Ford Popular from West Yorkshire to Lancashire to pick up the materials.
Having been degree educated and living in a warm house with an inside toilet it never crossed my mind what my class was, always assume middle class. I was a Labour voter all my life. My parents were very active Labour supporters. I often came home from playing out and the front room had a “meeting” with the local MP David Ginsburgh in his usual pose….very slumped, practically horizontal in the armchair.
Given my background and location am I Labour voter? I would like to say yes but all I see is an intellectual uni educated left who seem to believe that they know whats best “for the working population”. If anyone questions that narrative they MUST be silenced (censored) or ignored.
So here I am in this manufactured Covid crisis being labelled a right wing conspiracist because of what and where I read ALL THE NEWS and for NOT listening to the insanely woke uni educated leftists.Thank god I’m not alone and watch Russell Brand and realise politics is no longer left-right it’s about de-centralisation and individual liberty.
Traditional politics is dead and we desperately need an alternative and damn quick before the banks crash the economy and certain highly dystopian “solutions” are forced upon us.

Andrew McCoull
Andrew McCoull
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

I’m from the right politically, but I agree completely. The coronavirus “pandemic” response and the climate “emergency” scam are both being used to usher in a global totalitarian government, freedom, personal choice and responsibility are now anti-social concepts. Never thought I would be agreeing so much with Russell Brand!

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew McCoull

I’m more optimistic. We do live in a country where we can vote them out and eventually change happens. However, as my Dad used to say “Thank fully the military chaps swear allegiance to the Crown”

John Eaton
John Eaton
3 years ago

The hypocrisy starts with Marx. Born into a wealthy middle class family, he never met any working class people himself. Given an allowance by his (lawyer) father, who subsidised him all the way up to a PhD, became a journalist and mixed exclusively in a circle of other writers, academics and middle-class agitators. Marrying an aristocrat along the way. All the while dictating class warfare to the “proletariat”.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Eaton
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  John Eaton

Yes, Marx was a terrible old fraud who also got the servant girl pregnant when he was married, or something like that.

Peter Anderton
Peter Anderton
3 years ago

The cultural points made are unarguable. You can obviously be culturally ‘working class’ but well off (although the binary division of working class v middle class is oversimplified). However, not all educated, culturally middle class gig economy workers are playing at being poor. I don’t think I agree with the narrative of ‘you can’t have a valid stake in issues such as minimum wage, working conditions for working class people because you are a poshie who likes Chablis and chooses croutons in your salad’. Yet you still have ÂŁ24.68 in your bank account and work for the minimum wage, and live in rented accommodation. Whereas the author, now well off, reserves the right to speak authoritatively about being working class to children of Mums who had a hostess trolley.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Anderton
David K. Warner
David K. Warner
3 years ago

Nobody working class has ever defined themselves by their relation to the means of production. Only a middle class person from the fauxletariat would lack the self-awareness to do this.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Grace Blakeley? Isn’t she the one who is or was the New Statesman’s economics columnist? She’s appalling, the embodiment of all that is wrong with ‘journalism’ and the world.

David Rooney
David Rooney
3 years ago

What a wonderful article it brings back so many similar memories of life growing up on the council estate in County Durham. “The Salad Game” is such a genius description of a real life event, ours consisted of a slice of cold meat, iceberg lettuce leaves, a tomato, radishes (why I have no idea perhaps someone nearby grew them) and the obligatory hard boiled egg. With seven children to feed we always had a plate of bread and margarine to help fill us up every tea time !
I am proud of my upbringing my father was a miner, later became a full time union official and was a devoted Labour member, but he always told me that your political views were a matter for you to decide, and no-one can expect you to follow a particular path just because others do or always have done so because that is what is expected of you.

Karen Vowles
Karen Vowles
3 years ago
Reply to  David Rooney

you and I had the same upbringing. I did well for myself and put it all down to my careful northern parents.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

Grace Blakely is the shouty one who screams over other people in interviews. Being middle class hasn’t improved her manners.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

She’s absolutely manic in interviews

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

Nomine facta discordant then?

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

Typical of her entitlement then.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

I had a similar beginning in the north but I was fortunate and got to university. The most important change was moving to London where the streets were really paved with gold compared to South Yorkshire. However, I refuse to have class labels attached to me.
I consider how essential people are in relation to my needs. At the top of the list are the people who collect and deal with my refuse and the people who keep the sewers running. They probably don’t have a good education but they are far more important than public school, lefty intellectuals, which I can manage without.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Too true. If gender studies graduates went on strike nobody would notice, but when the bin men go on strike it gets unpleasant very quickly. Of course, there may be a sizable cross section of bin persons who are also gender studies graduates. It would be nice to think they’re doing something useful with their time.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
3 years ago

Today I have read an article by a journalist who who was enthusiastically ticking off a list of attributes which “proved” how “posh” he was. All tongue-in-cheek you understand – but he seemed pretty pleased with himself.
And now I read an article from somebody who wants to tell me how poor and working-class they were. This person also seems quite pleased with how well they’ve done in life.
To me, both articles come across as rather snobbish, self-obsessed, and quite dull.

Last edited 3 years ago by Albireo Double
Matt Spencer
Matt Spencer
3 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

And now I read an article from somebody who wants to tell me how poor and working-class they were. This person also seems quite pleased with how well they’ve done in life…snobbish, self-obsessed, and quite dull.
Yes, I agree. I expect the author fully supports the working classes just so long as she does not have to associate with any, or, God forbid, live near some.

Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
3 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

People who have been really poor do not talk about it much. My parents were at times, and they were quietly proud I never experienced that.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

Guess who are the people who do the necessary jobs? The cleaners, the factory workers, the street sweepers, the maintenance workers, the bus drivers, the bin men (they are usually men) the delivery drivers, the supermarket staff, nurses, the police. If they all go on strike for a week, you can always read an article by Julie Bindel.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

The PTB seem to be trying to turn the police from upper-working-class to more conformist & tractable lower-middle-class. Less life experience, more University degrees.

borrieboy
borrieboy
3 years ago

The well cosseted middle class student seeks a taste of “working class” life and may well indulge for a while but then when it gets to the sharp end, post grad and “getting on with life” then that’s when bank of mum & dad and other social contacts kick in… a job, deposit on a flat, a car maybe and so on. Then it’s “cheerio” to “slumming it”, fun as it was. Working class cosplay rather sums it up.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
3 years ago

Then – a Northern terrace with with no bathroom.
Now – a comfortable North London House.
Two impeccable Left wing credentials which should combine to devastating, virtuous, effect. But to me, they sit uneasily with each other. Combined, they look just a little like a boast, “…Look at me – done so well – but still got me roots!”
One might wonder about that “comfortable North London House” (not a mere flat, natch…). Is that rented, with some “tenant shame” around the neighbours? Or is it owned, with some “millionaire shame” around the family?
No problem with Left wing readers of course – to them, this is the Holy Grail. “…those poor people need saving – I don’t, of course, I’m far too successful”.
That’s the thing about this isn’t it? Lefties all want to be the saviours, not the ones who need to be saved. No one wants to be the inadequate who needs saving – and that’s why Labour can’t win elections.

Last edited 3 years ago by Albireo Double
Malcolm Powell
Malcolm Powell
3 years ago

You can divide people into two groups

  • those who need to work to be able to live and keep their families
  • those who dont need to work to be able to live and keep their families

A far as I am concerned the former are working class wheher they are street cleaners of chief executives. All will have problems and vulnerabilities, to some degree, if they are sacked or made redundant. The problem is that middle class professionals dont see this.

Ray Thomson
Ray Thomson
3 years ago

I’m working class and left school at 14 with zero qualifications. So f*cking what?

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago

Such a great article. Growing up in a blue collar area, my parents really encouraged all of us to work hard and go to college, but so many of my friends at primary school fell behind. The issue wasn’t a lack of brains or work ethic, but a lack of self-belief. With no-one in their families who had any inkling of further education, they just assumed certain doors were closed to them. I remember one very bright kid who was astonished at how well he did in his final exams.
The confidence that comes with being born into prosperity can also mean you take more risks with your early career, or spend more time travelling or pursuing further education. Unless you can understand how terrifying it might be to lose your job, and how hard it might be to find another one, you can’t really know what it means to live hand to mouth, or to put things back in your weekly grocery shop when you realise that you have to get something else, and money and credit cards only stretch so far.
The ironies abound. I remember reading of one man who grew up in a heroin-filled slum in Dublin in the 1970s, who lost both his parents to drug addiction and had struggled to escape a life of crime and poverty, being lectured for his “white, male privilege” by a group of middle-class women. Their response to structural inequality and prejudice was to condemn an individual they knew nothing about because of his complexion and gender.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

I grew up on a very working class Bracknell council estate in the 70s and was the 1st in my family to go to uni. We didn’t have a tin bath but I can relate to a lot of what Julie says. I’ve done ‘ok’ and on the surface live a fairly middle class life. But I do feel the difference when my colleagues recount their far more middle class upbringings, their mums were homemakers (both my parents worked full time to keep food on the table), they holidayed as children in France and Spain (we had day trips to Hayling Island or a week in Swanage if we were lucky), they shopped in John Lewis and Waitrose (we wore hand me downs, on Saturdays we’d walk to Bracknell market and a box of broken biscuits was a treat), they had piano lessons (we played the recorder in assembly) and so on and so on. My extended family wouid probably be called chavs – smoke, drink, quite loud, pretty unambitious and a kebab is experiencing a different culture. Salt of the earth though and always ready to help you out. Strong moral instincts, sense of community, common sense and pragmatism (everyone when I grew up knew how to tinker with cars, fix things, build things). None of them went to uni but that didn’t mean they didn’t have an intelligence that I respected (an uncle of mine was very knowledgeable about constellations and had a telescope, an aunt was very very good at general knowledge quizzes and crosswords, my dad can identify almost every plant you can think of). I don’t feel completely at home in their world anymore but I understand them and I feel quite fiercely protective of them. Brexit brought this into sharp focus for me. I reluctantly voted Remain bowing to my more liberal middle class instincts but I felt the pull of my upbringing, I got exactly why all my family voted Leave and I knew that decision resonated entirely with their world view, not economics or trade laws, it was about democracy, independence, national pride, identity and I think a natural aversion to the concentration of too much power in too few hands (we all read Animal Farm and 1984 at school and have a deep English mistrust of authority). The unspoken questions: What makes being in the EU so inevitable, so mandatory? Why such a vehement opposition to a democratic choice to leave what is being presented as ‘just a trading bloc that never removed our sovereignty’ (hmmm that doesn’t ring true now does it)?? It was OK for the eastern bloc to leave the USSR, what’s the difference? The very fact that leave was considered an illegitimate choice means there was only one ‘valid’ choice on the ballot. If you only have 1 choice you no longer live in a democracy. This made the choice to leave *even more necessary* and, being Brits, we forge ahead, taking one for the team. I felt it too and in the end, as events unfolded, I realised my visceral disgust at the smearing and slandering of people like my family made me far more sympathetic to the Leave position. It’s part of me – and I’m proud of it.

Monica Mee
Monica Mee
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Cheryl, I lived in Bracknell in the 70s, owned our house and lived on a new estate, And like a previous definition of ‘middle class’ I must take issue with your rather grand ideas of what middle class is. On our estate of terrace houses, there were a lot of people with degrees and professional qualifications, but also technical people earning good money and rising up the managerial ladder without degrees just ordinary people who started working life with an apprenticeship. Regularly shopping in Waitrose and John Lewis? we couldn’t afford it, we didn’t eat out more than once or twice a year, not even kebabs (did they exist then, I can remember a Berni Inn, in Bracknell but no other eatery, may be near the market, a cafe).
My husband and many others were engineers, Bracknell was a engineering.high tech town, so repairing the car and doing the servicing to save money was as common on our estate as elsewhere, we didn’t run to foreign holidays either. We stayed with relatives fortunate to live by the sea. In our street we were friendly. sociable and had a very effective hand me down system for clothes and toys. None of the clothes I wore during my secnd pregnancy were mine, all came from a common wardrobe of maternity wear that we passed around.
The whole class thing disintegrated after WW2, but politicians and journalist are such dinosaurs and these classifications are so convenient . All we actually have now is an income distribution. Many technical and skilled craftsmen earn more than those in office jobs, live in the same houses, shop in the same shops. The craftsman who fitted my kitchen, shopped in all the farm shops in our locality and the specialist bakery. He lives in a house almost identical to the house my son lives in, and he is a senior academic.
Any definition of class, middle or working, will only encapsulate a small proportion of those who are theoretically in that group, so these antideluvian divisions should be ditched for percentiles of income distribution.

Rob Cameron
Rob Cameron
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Bracknell is a strange place for those that think the world is black and white and divided into just 3 distinct classes. I grew up in the the town during the 1970s and 1980s. It was always changing, always evolving. There were people with reasonably well paid and highly technical jobs living in terraced council houses. A lot of the original engineering firms along with the Met Office have departed and now it feels like some of the ex-council estates are filled with ‘white van man’. Many sneer at these ‘common’, ‘working class’ people but they are quite entrepreneurial in spirit. They display an inner drive and ambition to better themselves and their family circumstances which seems to be sneered and derided by some of the intellectual socialist supposedly ‘middle class’.

Danny K
Danny K
3 years ago

Last edited 3 years ago by Danny K
James Slade
James Slade
3 years ago
Reply to  Danny K

The problem is that are millions of people in this country that have those memories and they blithely dismissed by the comfortably off privately educated over quail and claret at high table.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  James Slade

I don’t think the middle class are all Brideshead Revisited. Strangely they started to be less formal-wear Kaftans , cook a form of ‘peasant food’ to differentiate themselves from the formal upper working class with their anti maccassors on the chairs etc.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

Don’t listen to that posh leftie over there, listen to this common leftie who sold you out years ago and would be happy if half of you didn’t exist.

sebhyatt
sebhyatt
3 years ago

I found the similarity between the Upper (and Upper Middle) Class and the Working Class most apparent in the Army. A disproportionate amount of officers and soldiers smoked, loved fry ups, spoke loudly, had little self-consciousness about using fruity language and had oodles of small talk. There was a natural affinity not shared by civil servants in polyester short sleeved shirts who often resented the laid back Public School Poshifficers and looked down on the soldiers.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  sebhyatt

It was always so. It has been the middle class that is forever the outlier.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Thanks Julie. Posh lefties posing as ‘the workers’ goes back a lot further than the 1970s – to the 1870s at least, when John Ruskin persuaded a group of Oxford undergraduates to engage in a spot of road mending at North Hinksey. Amongst the unlikely navvies was Oscar Wilde, who later wrote:
And Ruskin worked with us in the mist and rain and mud of an Oxford winter, and our friends and our enemies came out and mocked us from the bank. We did not mind it much then, and we did not mind it afterwards at all, but worked away for two months at our road. And what became of the road? Well, like a bad lecture it ended abruptly—in the middle of the swamp. Ruskin going away to Venice, when we came back for the next term there was no leader, and the ‘diggers’, as they called us, fell asunder.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew D
William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

The sight of privileged young graduates and undergraduates thrusting their soft fists in the air is laughable. The real working class despise them. the BLM movement use them as cannon fodder. And academics use them as Marxism fodder.
Then they go and buy a nice little house with deposits provided by their parents and get jobs through their old school networks. Having added nothing of value to life. Then they inherit their parents property and the cycle restarts.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Cameron
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

As a posh righty, I take great delight in lecturing posh lefties about not lecturing the working class.

Martin Cooke
Martin Cooke
3 years ago

I enjoyed reading this, and (for a change) I enjoyed reading the comments from readers with similar backgrounds. I also got into higher education through an Access course – do they even exist anymore?

gwyn.robers
gwyn.robers
3 years ago

The easiest way to tell if someone is working class for the older generation is to ask if they used to pee in a bucket, a practice that was common when we had outdoor loos and you got taken short in the early hours. I remember Blair’s reaction of disbelief on being asked this question by Frank Skinner.

Stu White
Stu White
3 years ago
Reply to  gwyn.robers

You had a bucket!

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  gwyn.robers

But so did the upper classes. Except their ‘buckets’ were beautifully decorated bone china ones. Chamber pots. I can still see my great-aunt’s one. With matching water ewer and bowl on the night stand.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago

I bet she didn’t have to sell her piss though.

jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago

I vividly remember the day my Dad died. I was 14. He owned a little tyre shop. I suppose we were not poor, but there was never money to splash around. i managed to get my 11 plus at the third attempt and went to a half decent Catholic school. But I also remember a teacher on asking my name to which I replied “Payne Father” (he was a priest). His reply “Pine”? “no Payne”. “Well I shall call you Pine until you can speak properly” I left school at 16, no qaulifications, to take over our little shop. Worked 7 days a week till I was 21 in order to pay off debts my Dad had run up while ill. I did move to and bought a big workshop, bought a little house, then a bigger house, converted a derelict barn and this year finished building my own,to be our last house. But tho’ we are comfortable, I am not rich. Am I still working class? I certainly am and very proud of it. Tho’ my friends wouldn’t think me anything but ‘Middle Class, (my mum (not Mummy) would as well!

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago

That bit about being forced to work in a call centre (Grace Blakely). Now it all make sense… they’ve brought back the press gang. People are plucked from the streets, into the back of a black van, and next thing they know they’re chained to a row of phones. .

Last edited 3 years ago by Mark H
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

The real difference is that for you that world still exists. Even if you are out of you know that there is no safety net for you and if anything goes wrong you could end up right back where you started.

Wil Harper
Wil Harper
3 years ago

The safety net is an important aspect I think. I talk to some people who are in precarious positions re jobs/ finances, but really, if things got bad they could go home/ ask family to help. An example is the daughter (approx my age) of a family friend, she hated her job and had a nervous breakdown, so she went back ‘home’ in her thirties to live with her parents, who then loaned her the money to retrain in another career. Whilst I don’t deny the impact of mental health for her, I can’t help but wonder what she would have done without the luxury of having other people pay her bills for her for six months.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  Wil Harper

But my mother’s family would have taken her in if they had very little to share. My Dad came home from WW2 and had a nervous breakdown. 7 of us in a 2up2down. My maternal grandfather, a miner, spoon fed my Dad. Washed him and helped him as if he were a baby and we all knew we were loved.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Lets hope BJ carries out his levelling up promise – if we rebuild UK’s technology base we can restart the sort of social mobility on offer in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Some of the bien pensents that sneer at us workers will do OK as they live on family money. Many, especially those with useless humanities or social science qualifications will get a crash course in social descent: They can choose from low paid work, benefits or crime.

Darren Stephens
Darren Stephens
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Don’t hold your breath. I don’t think k anyone in Downing street really has a clue what “levelling up” means beyond it being an empty soundbite to feed to the usual suspects

brian.lynch13
brian.lynch13
3 years ago

I love your article.
Would be interesting to get your parents take on Harriet and their acceptance of your relationship.
Lots of posh kids never had the warmth and love that you clearly grew up surrounded by.

Paul Nash
Paul Nash
3 years ago

A great article as it struck so many chords in my own up bringing. I now work in IT for a charity so I guess I’m middle class in Blakeley’s view of the means of production – like you I’m thankful for my working class up bringing as I have a fantastic loyal family because of it.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago

Very nice story. It parallels my mother’s path in life.
She grew up in a working-class, Italian community. Her father was a tool and die maker. Both parents crafted munitions during the war. They did live comfortably by the standards of the day.
My mother and her friends encouraged eachother to go to college. Her parents were not keen on the idea; they expected her to go straight to work. But, she and her friends did go to school. She ended up going to a local Jesuit school.
My mother paid for it with earnings from work at the cafe down on the corner. Unbelievable, yes? — but that college education opened up a new world for her. She got a job in Washington, DC.
In 1956 she met my dad. In Washington. He came from middle class but educated stock. (His mother was the principal of a high school in the mid-west. She ended up marrying one of the teachers. That teacher had four older brothers. They must have loved the scandal of that whole affair.)
The husband (my dad) went on to nab a Nobel Prize. The (still extant) paper of his hometown crafted a very nice piece titled something like “Central High nabs a Nobel”.
My mom supported that venture. My dad couldn’t have done it /and/ raise five kids without the great energy and support of the girl from the factory town in Connecticut.
The great tragedy is that the path my mom took is not obviously open to young people today. Big Ed has degraded education and priced it beyond the means of folks of modest means.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chauncey Gardiner
Brett Hannam
Brett Hannam
3 years ago

My grandfather was a farm worker, later a gardener. He lived in a tiny, rented cottage and was definitely working class. He stopped my mother taking up a university scholarship because he wanted her to stay at home to look after him. She qualified as an accountant, married a bank manager, and sent me to private school. She was definitely middle class, despite liking beetroot. She sent me to work in a shop and later as a lathe operator. I never imagined a year of this or grandpa’s work qualified me as working class. However, when I joined the army, as a potential officer I spent two months doing the same training as every other recruit. My OC asked what I thought the benefits of this would be. Naively, I replied that I thought it would give me a good understanding of what those other recruits went through. He roared back: “You will never know what it is like to be one of them. Your experiences, aspirations, outlook and entire life have been and will be totally different.” He was and Julie is right. It was a fact then and is now. It doesn’t make me a better or worse person because it is true.
Class is often given a moral dimension. Usually: Working Class = Good; Middle Class = [insert term of opprobrium]. Hence perhaps Ms. Blakely’s and others’ desire to escape one to claim the higher moral position that is attributed to the other. For what it is worth, my sixty years of ‘lived experience’ has taught me that there are good people and bad people in every class. Being working or middle class is no more an indication of a particular moral quality than our choice of salad.

J Reffin
J Reffin
3 years ago

We Brits all know how the “class” game is played really. There are two classes that you can only be born into: the aristocracy and the working class. No amount of personal enrichment, donations to good causes, honours, purchasing of grand houses etc. can catapult you into the aristocracy. And poor old Grace Blakeley is never going to be welcomed into the warm embrace of the British working class no matter how many hours she works in that Amazon warehouse. At least not in one generation. Alas, poor Julie Bindel has discovered that, by contrast, the middle classes gobble you up voraciously and instantly. The moment she moved in to the nice London home with Harriet she moved into the middle classes – a very precisely delineated subset of the middle classes, but middle class nonetheless. No amount of “brought up in t’ paper bag” exposition will wipe that stain from her, I’m afraid. For a genuine view from the working classes, we will need to listen to Julie Bindel’s parents, younger brother and/or nephew, which would be pretty interesting.

Jaine Gabbitas
Jaine Gabbitas
3 years ago

Is “pseudo-middle-class” really the same as working class?

Last edited 3 years ago by Jaine Gabbitas
Jay Williams
Jay Williams
3 years ago
Reply to  Jaine Gabbitas

I’m so old I sigh for the days when I didn’t know anything about all of the above.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
3 years ago

Reminds me of the faux support for football teams voiced by Labour MPs, which is like listening to nails being dragged down a blackboard.
I have often thought I would happily disregard every other quality in a politician and vote for him if he said he hated football but loved opera.
It’s pretty simple, I think – those relatively posh boys and girls have been brainwashed into feeling they have something to apologise for, so they assume the garb of the great unwashed in an effort to take the edge off their original sin (that of having been born into privilege).

It’s a mistake. If you think you have too much money, find a deserving charity. If you think you have too much education, put it into the service of others. If doors open for you that do not open for others, walk through the door and persuade those who opened it for you.

In short, be a man or woman for the people, and stop pretending to be a man or woman of the people. They may come to respect you for the former, if you keep it up, while they will always despise you for the latter.

Last edited 3 years ago by Kremlington Swan
Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Well said. Blakeley is disengeniously trying to strip out culture, epigenetic inheritance, the nurturing environment, poverty and structural disadvantage to refashion class identities for politically motivated purposes.

Her goal is twofold, to reposition the middle class Precariat as ‘working class’ and by the same token, to frame the Precariat as trans class and trans national with the aim of refashioning Labour’s core values as supporting the Precariat for a post industrial gig economy age.

Conveniently, she is able to do this by referring to orthodox Marxist ontology which utilises the simplistic binary of proletariat and bourgeoisie.

Of course, utilising this simplistic ontology strips out history including the development of the welfare State, critical public infrastructure, the distinction between personally owned tools and technologies and commercially owned tools and technologies as well as the evolution of ICTs which are critical for production for swathes of the global economy but occupy a space between the private and the public realms as well as providing a platform by which the global workforce can compete.

In other words, Blakeley is trying to resuscitate material determinism as well as frame humans as culturally, socially, politically and ecologically disembodied economic organisms within a strictly dualistic framework that distinguishes between people as either the oppressor or the oppressed.

As such, you could say Wokeism is trying to get back to its philosophical Hegelian roots.

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Gwynne
Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Yep. They think the dialectic is time-proof , but it’s aged more quickly than last week’s bread.

Harvey Johnson
Harvey Johnson
3 years ago

Yawn. More from the victimhood Olympics.

“Woe is me, I’m more working class than you.”

It’s not a currency, you know. Stop playing their game.

Last edited 3 years ago by Harvey Johnson
James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

So you have a comfortable and prosperous lifestyle but a genetic memory of working class hardship, making you better qualified to pontificate on the state of the “proles” (your choice of word) than Grace Blakeley? Two cheeks of the same derriere if you ask me.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

” genetic memory ” how so- she lived in a council house and was working class and no doubt experienced financial hardship

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Although working at NME was probably all round a more traumatic expeirence and probably contributed much more to her intellectual improverishment.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago

Oh dear – everyone has to start somewhere

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

The kind of degenerate music promoted by that disgustingly philistine magazine is a direct index of the cultural decline of British society.

Sally Emanon
Sally Emanon
3 years ago

I recall whole left nanosects where the party line was to get a job in a Ford factory or on London Tubes. Some were Oxbridge grads. When they discovered the working class was impervious to the leaflets they returned to a good career else where. One such commenced at the BBC, went to Ford, then transitioned to Channel 4. Is this what trans means?

Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago
Reply to  Sally Emanon

Most working class folk would kill for job on the London Tubes. Great money & pension and cast-iron job security.

dave25
dave25
3 years ago

Apart from the sexuality, it mirrors my life growing up. Cried with laughter and tears. Cracking article, Julie.

Darren Stephens
Darren Stephens
3 years ago

I read Blakeley’s tweets, and the subsequent defensive responses with no little wry amusement. I share some of Bindel’s experiences, but not all. I too was from a “traditional” northern working class background. Worse yet, in the 80s my dad was made redundant, and never worked in a full-time job again, though not for want of trying; we were pretty much at the sharp end. As a result lots of these cues are extremely familiar. However, I’m just a little younger, so when I was at secondary school in the 80s, while there was an undertow of crowd control in some places, those of us who were academically decent were encouraged to be ambitious and look at university as an option if we wanted. A key factor was that for those of us not so well-off, getting a degree was not only free at the point of delivery, but we were paid to do it. Afterwards, I stayed in the north because even then the cost of living in the South East (especially the capital). I ended up teaching in HE, and now still work for a university (though in a non-teaching role). These things I suppose make me much middle class, but even now I don’t much think of myself that way. I’m still very much on the (self-declared) prole end of the salad spectrum, for example.
Part of the problem now is that some perceptions of class have changed quite a lot in the last 40 years or so. The jobs that marked those classes out are either disappearing or changing rapidly, and a more aspirational consumerist