Well well. All of a sudden the chattering classes have discovered that group of people known as the ‘white working class’. It would seem that, jolted into action no doubt by the rise of the racist BNP, the political classes have started reflecting on some of the things that might have made people so angry in the first place. And John Denham has found (part of) an answer: ‘We must avoid a one-dimensional debate that assumes all minority ethnic people are disadvantaged.’
Now, before those of you who take offence for a living start blathering on, this is not to say that ethnic minorities do not suffer from their own, very serious problems. Rather, it is to say that helping these groups should no longer be a convenient cover for ignoring the concerns and socio-economic problems of the white working class.
Mr Denham’s words are refreshing, and following on from James Purnell’s article the other day, one does wonder if we are beginning to see a the outlines of an internal conflict regarding the future social and ideological direction of the Labour Party. After all, telling a party with a fetish for the minority rights agenda, largely composed along lines of race or sexual orientation, that sometimes there are non-minority groups that are discriminated against too, might well just earn John Denham a cold shoulder or two the next time he troops the halls of Westminster.
Even so, it is a welcome recognition. It’ll be too late for Labour, not least because the problem is larger than a bit of policy tinkering, and is actually part of a wider attack on the normative thoughts, beliefs, culture and customs of the ‘working class’ – a cultural harassment which the illiberal social liberals that dominate the Labour Party have been particularly zealous about implementing. The Tories, for my money, have yet to truly find their voice on this issue, though I do think they recognise the problem. The fact that they are now being joined by some on the left is encouraging – and might well lead to a much needed reconfiguration of the way the issues are understood.