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British politics

The Tories are wrong about the working class

Ignored by both sides? Young protesters in Birmingham. Leon Neal/Getty

Last week’s appointment of Lee Anderson as the Tory party deputy chairman betrays exactly how politicians see the working class, says Owen Jones in The Guardian. The likes of Rishi Sunak, who “enjoys a family fortune twice that of the King”, see blue-collar voters as homogenous: white men in their 50s or 60s with Midlands accents and reactionary opinions. So they view Anderson as an “authentic voice of ‘ordinary’ people” – unlike, say, union leader Mick Lynch, even though Lynch’s job revolves around empowering workers through strike action. For the right, being working-class is not about labour, but culture – specifically, about being opposed to “urban progressives who favour immigration, multiculturalism and ‘wokery’”.

This means the young are “effectively excluded” from the category of working class. Because they’re more “socially progressive” than any previous generation – more accepting of “migrants, people of colour, gay or transgender children” – the right dismisses them as part of the liberal elite. Never mind that most are in “low-paid, insecure jobs”, and couldn’t dream of affording to buy a home. Part of this misinterpretation is orchestrated by the press: right-wing provocateurs love to dismiss young people as “entitled snowflakes”. And a lot is down to politics – the Tories have calculated that they simply don’t need the votes of the young, while Labour assumes their allegiance is unwavering. So the plight of the youth – saddled with stagnating living standards, a lack of well-paid work and a suffocating housing crisis – is ignored by both parties. “Britain’s new working class has been silenced.”