How Labour should handle class

An approach that links policy to class is distinct from toff bashing

John Prescott and Eric Pickles had an amusing dust-up on the Today programme this morning over the hot topic of class. The highlight being Pickles's joke that Prescott's croquet game was like "looking into the last page of Animal Farm."

The exchange soon degenerated into a row over Lord Ashcroft (or 'Lord Ashdown' according to Prescott) and his tax status but not before both had agreed that the next election won't be fought on class.

I've long thought that a strategy based on class would be wrong in principle and practice for Labour. Crewe and Nantwich marked the humiliating and long overdue death of this strategy. But an approach that points out the correlation between Tory policy and class interests (not least on inheritance tax) seems to me to be distinct from crude toff-bashing.

As for Gordon Brown's quip that the Tories' inheritance tax policy seemed to have been "dreamt up on the playing fields of Eton" that was most notable for its absurdist thrust.

Despite this I still think a forensic, policy-based critique will serve Labour best. Ministers should embarrass Cameron by pointing out the disparity between his Rawlsian declaration that the "the right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich" and his grossly regressive pledge to slash inheritance tax.

This contradiction is also a reminder of Cameron's insincerity on several fronts. When asked for their impression of Cameron voters still tell pollsters the story about Cameron cycling to work while his chauffeur drives behind with his shoes.

If Labour can fuse those various strands into one they may finally have an effective critique of Cameron's brand of conservatism.


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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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“Trembling, shaking / Oh, my heart is aching”: the EU out campaign song will give you chills

But not in a good way.

You know the story. Some old guys with vague dreams of empire want Britain to leave the European Union. They’ve been kicking up such a big fuss over the past few years that the government is letting the public decide.

And what is it that sways a largely politically indifferent electorate? Strikes hope in their hearts for a mildly less bureaucratic yet dangerously human rights-free future? An anthem, of course!

Originally by Carly You’re so Vain Simon, this is the song the Leave.EU campaign (Nigel Farage’s chosen group) has chosen. It is performed by the singer Antonia Suñer, for whom freedom from the technofederalists couldn’t come any suñer.

Here are the lyrics, of which your mole has done a close reading. But essentially it’s just nature imagery with fascist undertones and some heartburn.

"Let the river run

"Let all the dreamers

"Wake the nation.

"Come, the new Jerusalem."

Don’t use a river metaphor in anything political, unless you actively want to evoke Enoch Powell. Also, Jerusalem? That’s a bit... strong, isn’t it? Heavy connotations of being a little bit too Englandy.

"Silver cities rise,

"The morning lights,

"The streets that meet them,

"And sirens call them on

"With a song."

Sirens and streets. Doesn’t sound like a wholly un-authoritarian view of the UK’s EU-free future to me.

"It’s asking for the taking,

"Trembling, shaking,

"Oh, my heart is aching."

A reference to the elderly nature of many of the UK’s eurosceptics, perhaps?

"We’re coming to the edge,

"Running on the water,

"Coming through the fog,

"Your sons and daughters."

I feel like this is something to do with the hosepipe ban.

"We the great and small,

"Stand on a star,

"And blaze a trail of desire,

"Through the dark’ning dawn."

Everyone will have to speak this kind of English in the new Jerusalem, m'lady, oft with shorten’d words which will leave you feeling cringéd.

"It’s asking for the taking.

"Come run with me now,

"The sky is the colour of blue,

"You’ve never even seen,

"In the eyes of your lover."

I think this means: no one has ever loved anyone with the same colour eyes as the EU flag.

I'm a mole, innit.