The prevailing mythology, aimed at taking the teeth out of the Labour Party is that class is dead. Evidently we're all classless now even if many of us don't know it. Society is more fragmented and pluralistic,jobs more diverse,class feelings dead. All that counts is economic differences of wealth and income and those who describe themselves as working or middle class are stuck in the past when both Labour and the Conservatives pose as one nation parties.
Reality is different.You'd have to be blind or David Cameron to think that a society which has become less and less equal and generated such extremes of wealth and poverty is one nation and classless. The simplest division is the best.There are in fact three broad classes namely:-
The toppers, A small arborial group at the top of every tree This includes the famous one percent plus the top professionals, executives and politicians all characterised by wealth and or incomes much greater than they need,by power an d in some cases privilege
The stake holders who have through job, property education and income a stake in society,large in some cases, small in others
The Deprived. Those at the bottom who struggle financially from day to day and week to weak, who have no real stake,live in rented property and, when employed low paid casual employment with no security.
The boundaries between the three are blurred but the differences are clear Stakeholders have control over their own destinies, the deprived very little.The toppers can leave the country and take their money with them The stakeholders enjoy a better and more settled life and the deprived sit on the fringe of everything.The toppers are few, the stakeholders far more numerous and the deprived perhaps as numerous as a fifth or a third of society.They're poor,most relatively ,some absolutely.
That's the new sociology Q.E.D
The great change of recent decades has been that the differences, once eroding have grown sharper the distances greater , the deprived more numerous and rising out of depravation more difficult.Globalisation threatens the jobs of the deprived with immigration outshoreing and mechanisation.This means that we are no longer one nation felling and acting together but groups pulled apart mainly by the fact that the stakeholders who once felt confident and secure now feel threatened and interpret the deprived as a threat, different people from them who have failed through their own inadequacies. Indeed some even see them as to be blamed for their state because they've lost the will to work and become conditioned to a life of idleness by benefits and welfare. Idleness is a choice not an imposition So cutting benefits is an altruistic gesture to he,p them.
Which is Labour's problem. It has the support of the deprived but they are also more demoralised less political and less likely to either organise or vote because they don't see politics as a way of alleviating their condition. Labour can reach to the stakeholders but only by appealing to a diminishing sense of altruism and concern and its efforts to do this are hampered by the identification many stakeholders have come to feel with the Toppers.
It's an illusion for there is a wide gap of wealth and power between them but many have come to see the prospect of more progressive taxation and higher top rates as a threat to them ,a competitive exchange rate as a threat to their holidays and their accumulation of possessions ,a big building programme as a threat to their house prices and help for the deprived as a tax on them.
That's Labour's problem. The new society makes it far harder for the party to reach up than it is for the Tories to reach down It's harder to sell policies of national regeneration and equality (as distinct from fighting poverty)because they inconvenience the stakeholders.Much easier to sell populist policies like rising house prices,an overvalued pound and cuts in benefits and public spending which impose the pain on someone else even if they perpetuate the long decline.