The sound of my alarm woke me up. I grabbed my phone, saw the result and felt thrown into a dystopian world. The United Kingdom have voted leave. My chest felt heavy, I felt betrayed. The thought of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson celebrating sickened me. A campaign, based on racist xenophobia had won. In this moment how can any ethnic minority feel comfortable. The need for change has never been more present. Though British politics has taken a shift to the right, this could be a chance for politicians to realise the working class exist to support rather than exploit.
The EU Referendum may have reinforced division, a sense of otherness and alienation; however these tensions did not develop overnight. With right wing politics dominating the British political sphere since Margaret Thatcher in 1979, deindustrialisation and the changing nature of the workplace has destroyed the fabric which held together the traditional working class in the north and south. It is then no surprise that there are generations of working class white people who are frustrated. The concerns of working class people are overlooked in mainstream politics, with Tony Blair’s “New Labour” being a party of the middle class and state schools lacking resources, thus failing to engage children from poor backgrounds.
The poor are under attack. Homelessness is on the increase, people are using food banks, status frustration is endemic; all as the job and housing markets worsen. Though I empathise and understand the frustration of the white working class, new waves of precarious workers are not to blame. Focus should instead be put towards a political system, which one could question if ever was designed to cater to society’s underdogs.
History has shown the British working class to be divided on racial lines. The friction between migrants and skinheads with the success of The National Front is a perfect example of this. Once again the white working class have in searching for change politically, failed to acknowledge the suffering of others. The divide and rule politics of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage alike has succeeded, pushing black and minority ethnic groups into a further narrowing corner and unfortunately setting the white working class up for further disadvantage.
With economic insecurity, the selfishness needed in capitalism increases. Voters who perceive themselves as assimilated and voted Brexit, feared competition despite Farage hating all migrants. If the left wing in this country could engage, mobilise and emphasise community against the individualism and austerity of the right; the future post the 2020 General election could be brighter. Whether this will be down to Jeremy Corbyn, is something only time will tell.
It then must be asked whether leaving the EU is the change needed for all working class people to finally be considered. Gang crime is tearing apart communities, yet investments are instead being made into housing instead of parks, youth clubs and libraries. Although white working class people have been neglected, so have the descendants of slaves and indentured servants who built Britain yet ironically were ignored in the EU referendum campaign. With the rise of far right politics, it is then these people who have fear and insecurity in their own homes. Though the Brexit result has been framed as a white working class result, vulnerable ethnic minorities in the working class and those unstable in the middle class played a role. These subgroups have voting power. If the 2011 riots were not enough to make politicians acknowledge the working class in its complexities, Brexit could be.
Inequality must be tackled by the British left, whether racism, unemployment or quality of education. If not I fear this country will only become more divided.
One thought on “Will You Acknowledge The Poor Now?”
Another interesting opinion piece! Keep up the good work!