Monday, 31 March 2014

Working Class: Working Proud!

The "article" - a desperate piece of writing in The Telegraph by Alex Proud, Time we stopped worshipping the working class. - On the  reasons why middle class people deny their working class backgrounds, and why the writer is proud to be middle class is yet another attack by the right wing media to demonise the working classes.

The article was emblazoned by a photo of  "Working Class Hero" Frank Gallagher of the TV programme "Shameless" as the writer proceeded to criticise those who were formally working class but have now made it big by becoming a celebrity or film director. What was ironic was that Mr Proud decided to defend his own working class roots by giving us a story of his fathers working class credentials before going on to lambast others who do this!

It is a common thread of the right wing press throughout this Coalitions tenure in Government since 2010 to seek to mock, shame and downright degrade anyone who is or was working class. We have seen the ridicule of people on "Benefit Street"being openly paraded on television as a kind of middle class sport, their lives and backgrounds raked over to provide ammunition for people who were lucky enough to have had a better start in life, a private education which led on to a good career. We have seen people like the talented and now successful Jack Monroe being hissed at by Edwina Currie on a Channel 5 debate on Benefits ,and mocked about her grandparents class and what Jack's own roots were - like it mattered! A woman who survived on benefits with her small son and blogged about getting by on £10 per week food, created exciting recipes and hauled herself off the breadline when a publishing company decided to turn her recipes into a book, should be lauded - not condemned by an out of touch, has been ex- Tory MP who incidentally thinks there are no need for Foodbanks either.

It is indeed difficult to get working class success stories into the media. Why? Because the right wing press don't want to know. To them working class people are  (to use their rhetoric) the "unemployed scroungers who don't want to work". Hence Mr Proud's Shameless photo on his article. But those of us who are working class, but don't have access to having their own column or feature in the national press, have everyday stories of the ordinary everyday work we do that may not have our names in lights outside a West End theatre but without whom our country would not survive a day and I am talking of : factory workers on zero hours contracts, carers on £59 per week caring for disabled relatives 24/7, nurses, train drivers, bus drivers, teachers, unemployed struggling to find work. Working class, working proud people who do their job which benefits these smug middle class writers like Alex Proud who deign to write about their life experiences.

And to those working class people who make it big? You often find when their salary raises them above ordinary people's wages they decide to also benefit those around them less fortunate. They may become MPs who strive to fight for the rights of their working class constituents and promote the cause of unions in the workplace like Ian Lavery, Grahame Morris and Ian Mearns. Or they be showbiz people who however rich, decide to speak out on the suffering of the poor during austerity like Fiona Phillips on ITV Breakfast or Paul O'Grady comedian and chat show host. There is nothing to poke fun at, nothing to ridicule when someone from a working class background becomes successful, yet people like Alex Proud seems to think there is.

Mr Proud says in his article " .. In general I'm sure it was harder for you" (making it big coming from a working class background) but he doesn't want to hear about it. Why not? Shouldn't the people who have become successful shout from the rooftops they have done so from a working class background? Couldn't they be the person who inspires a teenager in school to take a similar path? I know as a working class woman of middle age I am impressed , admire and look up to those who have succeeded in their path to a political career, striving to protect and care for the most vulnerable of their constituents ,and  sometimes having to ignore their own party line to stand up for what they believe is the right thing to do.

Alex Proud also asks "Is growing up poor really that bad?". I would say No, growing up poor and becoming working poor may not be "that bad" in some respects, but how relentless that poverty can be and how grinding .Growing up poor gives children a sense of shame, guilt even that they do not have the money to take part in activities like their peers, or afford the clothes and modern day gadgets middle class children take for granted. Growing up poor can have the advantage that nothing is taken for granted and possessions are treasured. But then most poor children become poor adults. The never ending cycle of poverty affects their life chances. After having my home repossessed  in 1991 when interests rates rocketed to 15%, no one values space as much as I do after spending just shy of 3 years in a 1 room B+B  with a husband and 2 small children before being allocated a council house. Poor? I was virtually destitute at the time and experiences like mine and those of other working class people, need to be aired in our newspapers and on television in a rebuttal of articles like Mr Proud's.

So I applaud and trumpet the achievements of all working class people. Those in ordinary everyday jobs, and those who have made it big. The only "Shameless" people are those like Mr Proud who seek to denigrate us. We're working class, we're working proud.