Do we live in a classless society?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=3023

WHEN Conservative Ken ‘Big Beast’ Clarke said on Question Time two weeks ago that we, in the UK live in a “classless society”, I nearly choked on my Horlicks (don’t drink the stuff, but I’m building up a picture here…).

Unless he’s talking about the scenes on your local high street on a Saturday night, or the declarations from our greedy investment bankers that they’ll leave if their bonuses are curbed, I’m lost.

“We don’t have the complicated class system of old” he continued. Ahh, so he’s talking about class-class.

One of the first things that came to mind when he said this was the Frost Report sketch with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett; “I look down on you because I am upper-class,”… “I am working class… and I know my place.”

A comedy sketch, yes, but a pretty accurate picture of British society at that time. There was the aristocracy, the professionals and manual workers. Right or wrong, everybody knew their place.

His remarks were prompted by a speech made by John Denham, the communities secretary and Labour MP for Southampton as Labour try to address the inequalities created largely by themselves over the last 10 years.

In it, he said that: “socio-economic status affects life chances regardless of race or ethnic background, the and the fact that minority ethnic families are twice as likely to be poor is not likely to be a reflection of simply their race.”

The speech is likely to be dismissed as a bid to tempt white voters lured by the British National Party’s nationalistic and simplistic platform, but is actually a huge admission that people’s socio-economic status, their class, is affecting them more than ever.

In 1999 Tony Blair set the Labour Party the task of halving child poverty by 2010, but a report published this week by Save the Children says the number of children living in homes in “severe poverty” in this category rose 260,000 to 1.7m from 2004 to 2008.

Save the Children’s director of UK programmes Fergus Drake said to the BBC: “It’s shocking that at a time when the UK was experiencing unprecedented levels of wealth the number of children living in severe poverty – we’re talking about children going without a winter coat, a bed and other day-to-day essentials – actually increased.”

Therefore, it’s equally worrying that a seasoned politician like Ken Clarke, who is likely to be a member of the next cabinet, is so ignorant to poverty, inequality and the lack of social mobility.

Yes, it may be a classless society if your last name is ‘Big Beast’ Clarke, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Although it isn’t really surprising from a party who, up until David ‘Progressive’ Cameron rocked up, were the party of protecting the elite.

The gap between the rich and poor is still widening, but a lot of politicians are batting for the same team. Poorer people are less likely to vote, because they are less likely to be informed and then have even less of a voice then they already have in society.

‘Demos’ is Greek for people while ‘Kratos’ means power. Power to the people.

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