Before the General Election the Tories were upset. They were upset because of suggestions made about them by the Labour Party that they were a party of the privileged; all toffs to a man. Labour and others pointed to their front bench and saw a team led by old Etonians and other überprivileged types. Such a scene had not been witnessed since the last MacMillan government of the early 60’s. The Cons claimed that the spectre of class war had been raised by Labour and moaned about how ‘unfair’ it was. Bless. Life’s tough when you’re a Tory.
Since the Tories have been in power, they have embarked on a series of measures which reflect the relationship of their class to the working class and those who are unemployed. The claims that Labour was embarking on a class war now ring hollow given the Tories’ fondness for targeting those who do not share the same level of social, economic and political capital as them. Make no mistake, this is a class war and it is being waged on the working class by the upper middle classes. This is Thatcherism without Thatcher – a sort of Thatcherism: The Empire Strike Back, produced by Policy Exchange and the Adam Smith Institute; directed by David Cameron and edited by the Lib Dems, it has been shot entirely in black and white.
This Spectator blog sums up the Tory zeal in pursuing the weak while handing out favours to the rich. The article typically ignores how unemployment comes about and how certain regions of Britain had their industries systematically destroyed by the party’s ideologues in the 1980’s. For them, it is the fault of the poor and, more importantly, the housing that they live in. We can’t all be derivatives traders living in £1,000,000 homes in Surrey, you know. The blog title is also instructive, “Smashing the welfare ghettoes”. The words ‘smashing’ and ‘ghetto’ suggests two things: the word “smashing” suggests a symbolic will to violence with which the anti-working class policies will be pursued. While the word “ghetto” is conjured to suggest a kind of social housing hell which is allegedly at the ‘root’ of the ‘problem’. Just ask Hammersmith & Fulham’s Stephen Greenhalgh what he thinks of council housing. He has gone on record as saying that he wants more rich people to move into the borough and he wants those in social housing to move out.
The real answer to the housing problem, and the one that has been misidentified by the Conservatives, is the way social housing has been built: much of it is high density and designed to maximise income without considering the aesthetic needs of the residents. Let’s face it, no one likes ugliness so why subject the working classes to the cruel architecture of blind urban planners? The new brutalism of post-war urban architecture has been replaced by a class-based ideological brutalism to deny and de-skill the working classes. Attack the people and attack the homes that they live in. This is the Big Society.
IDS talks of jobs but what sort of jobs does he have in mind for this reserve army of labour that he plans to attract to the southern shires? For Tories like IDS most people who are unemployed choose it as a way of life. This is a slur: many people have no choice but to be jobless because the opportunities; those jobs for life that their grandparents enjoyed, aren’t there anymore – the Milk Snatcher turned Job Snatcher and stole them all away. For me, it’s a clear indication that the Tories have found an easy scapegoat and are working tirelessly to project at least part of the blame for the country’s economic problems onto them. This is a sign of philosophical bankruptcy. No wonder Ayn Rand has become popular with Tories. It’s all black and white.
IDS proposes that the government would provide incentives for people to move from areas where there is no work to areas where there are ‘jobs’. This all sounds remarkably like the ‘research’ done by Cameron’s favourite think-tank, Policy Exchange, which claimed that people in the North should simply abandon their homes and move to places like Oxford to take up phantom jobs. The thinking here may be described by many Conservatives as ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘independent’ but from where I stand, it looks nonsensical and plumbs the very depths of the worst of bad thinking. I laughed when Policy Exchange came out with this, little did I know that it would find its way into government discourse. What other wacky ideas have these guys got?
So, if we were to take Policy Exchange’s proposals to their logical conclusion, there are questions that need to be answered: what will happen to those parts of the country that have been abandoned? Will they be placed under martial law or razed to the ground? Or will they be converted into massive theme parks that remind people of ‘the way we used to live’, complete with cap-tipping, clog-wearing, pigeon-fancying Northern types who keep whippets and bash people over the head with black puddings? Who says there isn’t a north/south divide?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no one likes a bully.