The side-lined culture
This is the first post in a series of blogs about Brexit by guest contributor Edd Graham-Hyde. (More about Edd below.) In this post, he offers an explanation about some of the socio-economic background issues that led to, and will continue after, Brexit.
Owen Jones wrote a fantastic book called Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, in which he identified how working class people have become victims of political posturing. Examples are many and varied; most striking to me was the way in which the media has huge influence over the way we view and talk about working class people. The connotations that are conjured when meeting someone that could be described as a 'chav' are often negative and we need to be careful with this.
An 'aspiration ladder' has been given to this demographic that has led to many rejecting the very notion of being identified as working class (W/C), as it is seen as undesirable (Jones, 2011) . Many declare themselves 'middle class' instead and this has led to the working class being considered an underclass of benefit scroungers, apathetic and criminal. News articles and user-edited media use a rhetoric that perpetuates these connotations (for example, these articles on the ILiveHere website and The Telegraph).
There has also been a furore of debate about how middle income earners (MIE) are often overlooked in terms of the welfare system and other agencies designed to support the impoverished (e.g. Student Loans). It certainly could be argued, although that is another blog entirely, that the new 'working class' are indeed this demographic.
We have seen a plethora of different policies that have hit the W/C and MIE demographics the hardest. The most prominent example of this would be the Spare Room Subsidy, also known as the 'Bedroom Tax' (see Shelter and HM Gov websites). This happened alongside tax breaks and other beneficial policies for the top earners such as increasing the inheritance tax threshold (see these Huffington Post and Guardian articles). Equally, we still have not seen a concerted effort from any government to ensure that tax avoidance and corporation tax are paid proportionately for what is earned.
All of the above has been implemented in the name of fiscal responsibility, economic stability or supporting hard-working Britain. At a time when economic stability is more of an urban myth than physical truth, is it inconceivable to suggest that there will be more policies being pushed through, in the aforementioned guises? I don't think so. Ultimately, regardless of opinion based politics, in which the merit of said policies can be debated, the evidence points towards new policies that will continue to sideline the W/C and MIE demographics.
There is clear disgruntlement among the so-called lower social grades of society. When it came to Brexit, both C2 and DE overwhelmingly voted leave, while AB voted remain. Interestingly, Ashcroft's poll showed that 58% of those that voted leave 'paid little to no attention' to politics (Ashcroft, 2016). I'm assuming, of course, but it would not be illogical to suggest that a significant number of those 58% are first time voters. If I'm right, then that begs the question as to what switched them on enough to vote in the first place.
Research suggests that there is a clear link between political disengagement and the socially disadvantaged; there is a perceived social class difference between the politicians and 'the masses'. Could it be there has been a passive aggressive revolution of the political establishment here? I guess time will tell.
Inevitably, the above is a back story for much of what is to follow in this series of blogs. The 'sideline' narrative will be one that filters through into our churches and challenges lie ahead in how to deal with sidelined demographics. This referendum not only saw the proverbial rug pulled out from underneath the political elite (all overwhelmingly in favour of remain!) but also saw young pitted against old (New Statesman); educationally achieved against vocationally achieved (FT Blog); and the north against the south (Business Insider); among other divides. We need to be incredibly careful, and more knowledgeable about sidelined demographics (and communities), in order to ensure that everyone has a home where they know they belong in our churches. My aim with further blogs is to highlight the issues for your consideration.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, the views and opinions of the guest do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.
Edd is a fully qualified RE teacher and currently teaches A-level Sociology and Politics; he is also currently lecturing ad-hoc at the University of Central Lancashire while completing his PhD in socially fringed groups and religious narratives with a focus on social policy. He is part of the Christ Church Blackpool church plant and is an advocate for planting more churches by the beach!
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