Monday, July 13, 2009

The Way We Were - "Education And The Working Class"

From the book "Education And The Working Class", by Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden - an inquiry into the then-issue (late 50s / early 60s) of the clever working class child going to grammar school. The fact that they'd get a good education, and that previously "middle-class" careers would be opened up to them, was a given. No, the question was - how would this affect their working-class identity ? People worried about that sort of thing in those days. Luxury !

I'm not knocking the authors - both working class grammar school kids themselves, their essential decency and sincerity is obvious. And it's a rattling good read.

But what would strike the modern reader is the different world they - and the working class - inhabited. Written just before the cultural revolution, it's a reminder of what has been lost.

Here's some of an early chapter on the town where they did their research (which is available online here). To anyone who knows Huddersfield as it is now - let's just say it's changed :

Huddersfield is a rich city. It claims to have more Rolls-Royces per head than any other - place on earth. Its unemployment problem is slight, and prosperity has flowed here in easy tides since the 1930s. It enjoys a protective variety of industries, being neither an engineering centre, nor a woollen city, nor a cotton town, nor a brewing capital. It is all these at once, and much more besides. Such distribution of work and wealth guards it from the lesser trade cycles that trouble neighbouring cities. It has its poor, its aged, its crippled, its sick, its unlucky; but these are not easily seen, and their presence, if not forgotten, is obscured by the general buoyancy.

The city has a population of 130,000. In 1800 it was just touching 7,000 - for Huddersfield is one of the new cities of England, the cities bred out of the industrial revolution. Its population spiral follows Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham. By 1820 that 7,000 had nearly doubled into 13,000; by 1840 it had almost doubled again to 25,000. By 1890 it had leapt to over 90,000. The railway had arrived; and after the great new railway station came the city's major public buildings - the new parish church, the post office of 1875, the town hall of 1879. The local historians trace all this back to the medieval hamlet, or the Roman station. They point to Brigantine settlements on the surrounding hillsides, or Saxon ruins along one of the far valleys. They drag up shields and coats of arms, and all the rich drapery of the medieval past. But Huddersfield as a society has no such history. The Romans and the Normans merely travelled over the same stretch of earth, and handed nothing down. Huddersfield begins with the industrial revolution.

It sucked in the population of the surrounding countryside, and with them something of their culture. But the `culture' of Huddersfield is the submerged culture of the industrial working class. It is now settled and stylized into a pattern of living, but it was bred in the long working hours of the mills, the rapid spread of overcrowded streets, the tangles of the master-man relationship, the personal cycle of poverty (childhood/marriage/ age) crossing the national waves of work or hunger. Such a style of living, and fashioned by such conditions, radiates today from the close centres of family life into that whole web of ties -kinship, friendship, the shared childhood or working life, the formal groupings of club, band, choir, union, chapel - all the many strands of 'neighbourhood' that reach out to attain 'community' (my emboldening - LT). The expectations, dues, refusals, irritations, rights and assurances that family and neighbourhood arouse and inherit play all through this report. For the working-class culture of Huddersfield (an area with over 70 working men's clubs) is by no means the same as the national middle-class culture, some of whose facets are reflected back by the wireless, the press, the very books in the public library. We are not concerned to choose or judge between the two cultures, merely to remark the difference. For it is a question of difference, and this report finds itself continually dipping into discussion or conflict where well-meaning people on both sides are fighting out battles between 'us' and 'them'.

Huddersfield has its prosperous middle class. Or, rather, it has two middle classes. The first is national, metropolitan in interest, mobile, privately educated. Such are the senior civil servants, doctors, executives, who stay a while and pass through the city; or who belong as natives here, but 'belong' elsewhere too. And then there is that other middle class, very local and rooted, of the self-made businessmen, works officials, schoolmasters clinging to their home town. Such a class is part of 'them' but in some situations can merge for a while with 'us'. This native, rather than national, middle class has been there from earliest days; drawing its money from the work of the men, but nonetheless close to them. There is a report by a hand-loom commissioner of 1839 that `. . . the men of Huddersfield were constantly in their mills and taking their meals at the same hours as their workpeople, but the clothiers of Gloucester were indulging in the habits and mixing with the gentle blood of the land'. It is just this native middle class we present here...

We will not here describe the details of the city's streets and homes; such as matter will emerge as the survey gathers way. But the city's confidence in terms of work, of money, of pleasure, can be caught in a rapid glance. It is the confidence of the new industrial town after twenty years without recession.


Unknown said...

I watched the play "Equus" last year. One line, spoken by two of the (middle-class) professionals struck me quite forcefully. They were talking about the boy's father and described him as "an old-type socialist - relentlessly self-improving".

That play was written at the beginning of the 1970s. The rot was already well entrenched even then.

Sgt Troy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bloke said...

"No, the question was - how would this affect their working-class identity ? People worried about that sort of thing in those days. Luxury"

I suspect it is entirely possible that the great and good may ponder this kind of question with regard to black inner city yoof, but I suspect the white working class are no longer of interest.



"an old-type socialist - relentlessly self-improving".

Reminds me of something else:

"That play was written at the beginning of the 1970s. The rot was already well entrenched even then."

Are you attacking the notion of progress?

I am not sure what you mean by this?

Surely, being relentlessly self improving is more of virtue that a vice?

What is the alternative if you from a background which does not provide much opportunity to apply your brain, and you have a brain to apply - life as a drama queen?

Have a read of this from Theodore Dalrymple:
"One of the terrible fates that can befall a human being is to be born intelligent or sensitive in an English slum. It is like a long, slow, exquisite torture devised by a sadistic deity from whose malevolent clutches escape is almost impossible..."

"Unfortunately, the culture of the slums is deeply unsatisfying to intelligent people in the long run. The tragedy is that, even though the average level of intelligence in the slums is probably lower than elsewhere, there are very many intelligent people who have the misfortune to be born in them. And we do everything possible to ensure that that is where they stay..."

"The diagnosis is boredom, a much underestimated factor in the explanation of undesirable human conduct. As soon as the word is mentioned, they pounce upon it, almost with relief: recognition of the problem is instant, though they had not thought of it before. Yes, they are bored—bored to the very depths of their being..."

"Life in the British slums demonstrates what happens when the population at large, and the authorities as well, lose all faith in a hierarchy of values. All kinds of pathology result: where knowledge is not preferable to ignorance and high culture to low, the intelligent and the sensitive suffer a complete loss of meaning. The intelligent self-destruct; the sensitive despair. And where decent sensitivity is not nurtured, encouraged, supported, or protected, brutality abounds. The absence of standards, as Ortega y Gasset remarked, is the beginning of barbarism: and modern Britain is well past the beginning."

I wouldn't describe the council states I grew up on as slums, as council estates go, they were pretty good, but when I read this article it really pressed my buttons.

I suppose I could be described as 'relentlessly self improving' but its not really trying to improve on anything, more just finding cures for boredom.

I don't understand what you are getting at. You seem to imply that someone who develops an interest, that is not typical of their social background, is somehow bad and wrong.

staybryte said...


I think the point was that - even in the 1970s when the play was written - the hugely desirable characteristic of self-improvement was already, sadly, seen as old hat?

Anonymous said...

I think the point was that - even in the 1970s when the play was written - the hugely desirable characteristic of self-improvement was already, sadly, seen as old hat?

Yep, thats what I thought too. We dont need no self-improvement, we are to edgy and hip for that.

Euro Referendum 2009 said...

No, I'll not weep.

Euro Referendum 2009 said...

Dalyrymple is wrong. The history of the working-class in the UK, and nearly everywhere else, has been a struggle for rights, education and better working conditions.

He is the son of a commie who despises the working-class as much as any commie did but for different reasons. The old commies hated for not being 'revolutionary' enough, that is for not descending into political barbarism.

What we have now is not deprivation but degradation which Dalrymple chronicles but he does not do politics. If you read him you would , more or less, believe it was ever thus which is a fucking lie.

Bloke said...


Oh, OK.

Fair enough.

Apologies to Wildgoose for going off on one.

The Lawrence Moss character in Abigail's Party (written in 1977 by Mike Leigh) comes to mind. He could have been written more sympathetically but instead is portrayed as someone to be mocked.'s_Party
"Laurence Moss - Estate agent Laurence is Beverly's husband, and the pair frequently argue. He aspires to the finer things in life: leather-bound Shakespeare (which he admits he never reads), prints of Van Gogh and Lowry paintings, and Beethoven, which he enforces on his guests at unfortunate moments. He seems powerless to compete with Beverly's more flamboyant persona, and consequentially overworks, as his wife points out on several occasions. He considers a brisk handshake to be correct practice after a dance."

Unknown said...

As you've now gathered, my point was that the idea of being "relentlessly self-improving" was seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant by the early 1970s.

I'm glad to say that I obviously come from an old-fashioned family...

Mark said...

'If you read him you would , more or less, believe it was ever thus which is a fucking lie.'

EuroReferendum's castigation of Dalrymple here is way off target. Rather like Laban,and Wildgoose, Dalrymple is fully aware of the virtues of the 'old-type socialists', and of the working class generally pre the cultural revolution.

I've read Dalrymple with great pleasure for over 2 decades, and even recall reading him under his first pseudonym- 'Edward Theberton'. He's taken more seriously in the US and the Netherlands, but in NuLab Britain is seen an an eccentric gadfly- which tells you all you need to know about the UK's current intellectual climate .

Carl Hodges said...

Theodore Dalrymple's new book is just out - Not With A Bang But A Whimper - the Politics and Culture of Decline

(Ignore the publication date which is mysteriously wrong - I bought my copy in Waterstones last week.)

Very highly recommended.

Euro Referendum 2009 is ever so slightly on the wrong track: To say Dalrymple 'does not do politics' is nonsense - two of the chapters deal explicitly with Brown and Blair, and most of the book is about liberalism vs conservatism.

To say that he 'despises the working class' is a gross lie; he has enormous sympathy for them, but feels (correctly in my view) that they have been let down by intellectuals and liberals.

Apart from anything else, who would voluntarily spend 20 years of his life tending to the working classes if he despised them?

Anonymous said...

Dalrymple is one of the most perceptive and interesting writers we have. An utterly beautiful prose style, allied to a determination to tell the truth, however unpopular it might make him.

Unlike, er, Sgt Troy.

Anonymous said...

'If you read him you would , more or less, believe it was ever thus which is a fucking lie.'

You couldn't be more wrong.

balloon said...

I grew up in Huddersfield in the late 60s early 70s. It certainly has changed.
A few months ago I visited the street where I grew up. It's near the town centre but despite that it used to be the sort of middle-class area the BBC used to feature in its gentle sit-coms [before BBC comedy decided Little Britain is what's funny]. Our neighbours were teachers, inc 2 headmasters, a doctor, a dentist, a senior cop, plus middle-managers of all types. Sundays were a cacophony of lawnmowers - every garden immaculate.
Now the population has been entirely replaced, and most of the gardens are nothing more than mini-jungles, abandoned to nature and rotting armchairs. What was an idyllic place to grow up now looks more like a slum. V depressing.
The nearby Greenhead Park where we used to play until all hours is now a no-go area for certain people, tho the council [ignoring the real problem] has just started a £5m renovation project. It will be one of the prettiest no-go areas ever.

The middle-classes in Huddersfield have fled to the outlying villages. Unfortunately the council has decided there needs to be 40,000 new houses built by 2026 to accomodate the 'increasing population'. There are currently 160,000, so thats a 25% increase and will wipe out the bits of countryside that are left. The villages will be consumed by urban sprawl, and the middle-classes will move on again. Leaving what?

Anonymous said...

I, too, saw the rot set in in the '60s. The post-war slum clearances saw the underclasses scurry like rats out of the city centres, where had previously provided some sort of "containment", to be housed in the vast new suburban soon-to-be-slum council estates, public housing having previously been reserved for "deserving" cases. The NHS then kept these vermin and their spawn alive when they would otherwise have perished. The final nail in the (our) coffin was the shift in public attitudes, led and promoted by the soi-disant "liberal" media elite that it was "unfair", nay, "WRONG" to criticize indiscriminate bastardy,and that once these "poor" unwed mothers had a cuncil house and a few quid a week they could concentrate on giving their bastards a loving upbringing. What a f*cking joke!

Anonymous said...

I have never read anything by Dalyrymple that was sympathetic to the working-class other than noticing that older people are baffled by the dramatic changes in UK Society over the last thirty odd years.

He also sympathises with young women who are trapped in violent relationships. ( And is brilliant on the mentality of criminals)

If he had any knowledge of the kind of solid working-class culture that Laban's article refers to then I have not read it.

I agree with Sgt Troy, I sense nothing but contempt for ordinary people in Dalyrymple.

He appears to be very familiar with the 'underclass' but not with people who object to two million on Invalidity Benefit or the importation of criminals from all over the world.

He is well worth reading but his politics ain't my politics. He sees nothing but passivity and confusion whereas I, like other people who read Laban, see policy.

I will read his book on 'the culture' and If I am wrong I will change my mind.


Carl Hodges said...

I'm not sure I absolutely follow the logic of your comment Richard (last anon). That might be down to me, but to take the following, for instance:

"He appears to be very familiar with the 'underclass' but not with people who object to two million on Invalidity Benefit..."

Are you saying that he is unfamiliar with bogus claims for incapacity benefit? Or that he is unfamiliar with the fact that there are people who believe many such claims to be bogus?

Either way, you're wrong (and I can't see how you could imagine that, as a doctor, he wouldn't be familiar with both?).

To quote from 'Not With A Bang' (any typos are mine):

"The problem of unemployment in Britain illustrates perfectly the methods that Blair's government used to obscure the truth. The world generally believes that, thanks to Labour's prudent policies, Britain now enjoys low unemployment; indeed, Blair often lectured other leaders on the subject. The low rate was not strictly a lie: those counted officially as unemployed were for a long time relatively few, though with the collapse of Britain’s virtual economy it has become impossible once again to disguise mass unemployment.

"Unfortunately those counted as ‘sick’ are many; and if you add the numbers of unemployed and sick together, the figure remains remarkably constant in recent years, oscillating around 3.5 million, though the proportion of sick to unemployed has risen rapidly.

"Approximately 2.7 million people are receiving disability benefits in Britain, 8 or 9 percent of the workforce, highly concentrated in the areas of former unemployment; more people are claiming that psychiatric disorders prevent them from working than are claiming that work is unavailable.

"In the former coal-mining town of Merthyr Tydfil, about a quarter of the adult population is on disability. Britain is thus the sick man of Europe, though all objective indicators suggest that people are living longer and healthier lives than ever.

"Three groups profit from this statistical legerdemain: first, the unemployed themselves, because disability benefits are about 60 percent higher than unemployment benefits, and, once one is receiving them, one does not have to pretend to be looking for work; second, the doctors who make the bogus diagnoses, because by doing so they remove a possible cause of conflict with their patients and, given the assault rate on British doctors, this is important to them; and finally the government, which can claim to have reduced unemployment.

"But such obfuscation is destructive of human personality. The unemployed have to pretend something untrue – namely, that they are sick; the medical profession winds up humiliated and dispirited by taking part in fraud; and the government avoids, for a time, real economic problems.

"Thus the whole of society finds itself corrupted and infantilised by its inability to talk straight; and that Blair could speak with conviction of the low unemployment rate, and believe that he was telling the truth, is to me worse than if he had been a dastardly cynic, more Talleyrand than Walter Mitty."

Re knowledge of solid working class culture, he grew up in it in the east end!

And it's absolutely not the case to say he 'sees only passivity and confusion': he sees a systematic attempt by intellectuals - those who 'express themselves more to flaunt the magnanimity of their intentions than to propagate truth' - to undermine the culture and society of this country.

To say he has nothing but contempt for ordinary people is to miss the point by approximately the width of his compiled writings.

His whole point is that years of showing compassion - as in, the ersatz, bogus cant spewed out by Blair and Brown etc - for people has simply infantilised them. It's tuime for the truth, is his rallying cry. His 'contempt' is reserved for those wrecking the schools, leaving criminals to run riot, taxing us to death... not the poor who have to live with the results.

Anonymous said...


I actually grew up in the East-End and still live here now.

The extended quote from Dalrymple is very good , but he still doesn't explain how we got there. The key is the destruction of the Labour Movement in the mid 80s.

The necessary economic reforms should not have been allowed to caused the social disintegration we see all around us.

As for the Dalrymple and Invalidity Benefit claimants he must have come across patients who were really ill who could not understand why the government was allowing so many bogus claims.

Many people knew that this was more than a bit of fraud but was in fact creating an 'underclass' who would be passive politically and violent socially. Those are the people he seems never to have met.

The Sunday Times, which was then edited by Andrew Neil, positively celebrated the arrival of the 'underclass'. I believe they had 'specials' devoted to it.

As far as I know, his journalism only, he does not believe that the societally destructive politics of the last 25-30 years could have been stopped in it's tracks.

Does he make this pint in any of his books?

I will read both of them, the front covers put me off, but if he still believes there is something called the 'poor' in the UK then I am sure they will be entertaining, and harrowing in parts, but politically inadequate.


Anonymous said...

I did not realise that Dalrymple had attracted so much attention on the net. This guy, see link, has a lot to say about him and why he is so popular in the USA.

I have ordered his books on drugs. I think he is spot on there.


Anonymous said...

"The extended quote from Dalrymple is very good , but he still doesn't explain how we got there. The key is the destruction of the Labour Movement in the mid 80s."

I think Dalrymple would claim that it was the destruction of the family more than anything which led us to where we are now. This he sees as going back to the rise of Communism (and of intellectuals and writers such as Ibsen).

Anonymous said...

The destruction of the family unit is
obviously critical but even then you have to ask, why did it happen?

I am a family man and I love it.

I don't know but Mark Steyn's column 'the New Right, er the Left' has a chilling final sentence.

Is it cultural suicide?

Big bob

Anonymous said...

I think most of the comments here are wrong, and I speak from the perspective who of someone who has lived within a family that has moved gracefully from working class to middle class over three generations.

My grandfather was a coal miner. He was also a very intelligent and capable man. What was an intelligent man doing risking his life digging coal all day? Quite simply he was earning a living. He had nothing better to do. The opportunities for advancement were very small. The middle-class was very small.

My grandfather never went to secondary school. There was little free provision in those days for working class people. There simply was no point in educating working class people - they would have nothing to do with their new found knowledge.

My grandfather was a labour man and a union man. He fought in WWI. He was an avid reader and taught himself about gardening by reading books from the local library. Libraries had originally been set up by working men themselves as places where intelligent working class people could swap books and educate themselves on the cheap. My grandfathers home was a council semi with a surprisingly large garden.At the time of his death my grandfather owned a handful of tools.

My fathers life was very different. He joined the armed forces where he learnt about radar and motors and generators. In the post-war world there were significantly more new opportunities for people with intelligence to both learn new skills in secondary school and in college and to employ them to their benefit in their jobs. By the sixties my father had left the armed forces and was working as an electronics engineer. About this time most working class people still lived in council houses. They were more or less placed where the council told them to go. There was certainly an underclass but the underclass was buried within the working class on these huge council estates. The working class tended to police the underclass as they knew exactly who they were and what they were capable of doing. This started to change during the seventies due to housing shortages. The councils couldn't keep up with demand from a growing population. Waiting lists were long. If you didn't take a council house offered to you you went to the end of the list - so you took the council house offered to you even if it was next to a recently released psychopath. Young couples felt let down by the government. At the same time the builders, seeing the rising demand, started knocking up cheap houses. These were sold privately and working people, their new skills in demand, started buying them in numbewrs for the first time. They were determined to take control of where they lived, and determined to eventually own their own property and thus be less dependent on government. They were becoming natural Tory voters.

Anonymous said...

By the time of Margaret Thatcher she had realised the nature of the change in society. She was a shop-keepers daughter and had seen it at first hand. She offered the council houses to those that wanted to buy them. Those working people that bought their council houses sold them at a huge profit and moved on.

By the eighties the working class had change beyond recognition. It had split into two parts. The old manual labour working class and the new skilled labour working class. However, the attitudes of the new skilled labour didn't fit with the attitudes of the manual labourers. They were more like the middle class, but generally with a lack of interest in opera, theatre and horse-riding. They were re-labelled the lower-middle-class. They were very likely to be Thatcherite Tory voters as their early experiences with council housing and their new found self-reliance on skills very much in demand had led them to turn away from community action within unions and political parties.

By the 1990s some within the Labour party had begun to realise that socialism would never again appeal in large enough numbers of UK voters to win power. They had to look more like Tories to win an election. However, trying to achieve this within a party that believed at its core in socialism as a route towards communism this was always going to prove difficult, and in the long-term likely to cause schism within the party.

Meanwhile the children of the new lower-middle-class were moving on again. They went to university, learned even more advanced skills and in many cases started their own business. Many went to public school as the independent sector grew enormously to accomodate their aspirations. The next generation of the lower-middle-class started to meld more fully with the upper-middle-class.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the old manual labour working class was shrinking. It was now split from the more capable people within its ranks that had protected it from the worst decisions of national government. They had physically moved on to greener pastures leaving the manual labourers trapped in areas with low house prices and poor employment prosects. Throughout the period their continued to be jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled people but the national government had no interest in finding ways of filling these jobs with people from the old working class. The political parties' focus was on the lower middle-class. The remaining working class had no-one from their own ranks articulate enough to speak on their behalf. Those that claimed to speak for them came from outside their community and life experience and often simply manipulated the working class to suit their own political ends. Unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in the south of England were filled with immigrants from developing and third-world countries, while the British working class were left high and dry in the north and labelled as too disabled to work. They found they had no choice but to vote Labour even though Labour clearly had no interest in them.

With the council estates now far smaller, the working class had been forced to move into private housing leaving the underclass to take the remaining council houses. With long-term unemployment in some areas at extraordinary levels the pressures on family life were immense. Families didn't stay together and single-mums with no income found themselves unable to cope. They slipped into long-term depression with their children left to fend for themselves, living as feral youth with no guidance on how best to be an adult. Fathers, no longer with wives, found it easier to slip off never to be seen again. Immigrants from dysfunctional societies and with no money and limited employment opportunities in the longer term, added to the mix. The middle-classes, often horrified by the underclass, demand the easy fix. More police, longer gaol sentences, hanging, forced work schemes and stringet limitations on divorce. Curing the symptoms and not the disease. The real solution is even easier - give these people HOPE. Because while the rest of us refuse to find a way to give the underclass and the remaining working class a reason to carry on living and working the BNP are doing the job for us. They promise better employment prospects and better housing and give concrete proposals that anyone can understand of how this is to be done. That is why their popularity is growing on the council estates of Britains employment black-spots.

North Northwester said...

From your paedophile ex-Mayor piece, you wonder why the BBC doesn't carry the story.

"The former Labour councillor on Calderdale Council "

Hmm. I wonder...?

North Northwester said...

Anonymous 10:15 AM.

Great post. Why don't you blog it somewhere; it's spot on and charts our social history brilliantly.

My mother's family and her in-laws' families followed much the same upward momentum.

I disagree slightly that 'the middle class' is quite so monolithic as you seem to imply, and I sure don't want to hang folk for being poor... but as for 'HOPE'?

Not so easy.

Hope involves ambition, and sometimes you have to provide nasty choices so people will generate ambition to look for something better.

You'll have to break the cycle of welfare dependency first [ beggars can't be choosers and claimants are beggars wiv' attitude] and that will seem cruel.

And someone - the State I think - will have to provide work for the remaining working class.

My savage Right-wing view is to slam the door on immigration and to cut child-related benefits, allowances and tax allowances to the second or third child, tie them to a mother's National Insurance number end them altogether ten years after the birth of her first child.
No exceptions and no replacements after children's death.
Let the working class do the jobs saved [ and not destroyed by high welfare-related taxation.]

Maybe some workfare for all healthy single individuals if they don't find shelf-stacking jobs after three months.

Anonymous said...

And someone - the State I think - will have to provide work for the remaining working class.

The Broken Windows fallacy tells us that this in nonsense. To pay people to perform nonsense work assumes two things

a. That the work they will do cannot be productive - if it were someone would have hired them to do it already
b. That we take taxes off people to pay for this work. Since the people paying taxes will be doing productive work we will be taking value from productive work to non-productive work. You will have destroyed value. In all probability you will have destroyed more jobs to fund the non jobs

Once created, these made up jobs will never be ended. Since no value was expected of them except to mop up the unemployed they will remain as such and as unemployment climbs they will expand.

The irony is we are already there. What are most social workers, equality offices, compliance managers et al? These are made up jobs to keep unemployment low. On addition Government forces companies to comply with nonsense legislation just to employ the bureaucrats who fill in the forms.

Anonymous the 1st said...

As the previous "anonymous" that wrote the rather long piece before, I agree with everything you say, Northwester.

The point I make about "hanging" is only that many of the members of the underclass are not actually criminal by nature and a resolution of their actual problems would reduce the level of criminality. Some members throughout the whole of society are criminals of course - and some may even deserve to be hanged. I merely suggest that nobody wants to live the life of the underclass unless they are of unsound mind (many are of unsound mind of course). For those that are of reasonably sound mind we need to give them an altrernative - and as you suggest actually pushing them rather hard into the world of work is a first step towards this. The underclass is at its most numerous where unemployment is at its greatest. Does that mean that the underclass congregates where it is least likely to find work? I doubt it. I think all the evidence is that given suitable work opportunities people will choose to leave the underclass.

The second anonymous poster made a fair point about job creation schemes but at its heart is a basic untruth. Almost all work is unproductive except the production of food. We make stuff that nobody actually NEEDs. We make stuff for fun or to make life "easier" then work like hell to create all this stuff. It's a pointless circle we have created as one big job creation scheme to keep us all occupied. There is every reason to believe there are plenty of unskilled jobs to do within that man-made cycle we have created. Somebody could clean my windows for a reasonable price. Someone could paint the bridges over the M4a less depressing colour.

One more point - the trap for most unemployed is that the cost of living is far too high to make a job worthwhile. It costs £40,000 to build a 4-bed Barrat home and takes about 1 man year to build. If it is situated in the south of England it will cost you £250,000 to buy and another £250,000 for the 25 year loan. This is because we need houses in the south but every excuse is used to restrict the planning permission to build them, thus forcing up the price of the land on which houses are situated. Most second-hand 4-bed family homes should cost about £20,000 is supply slightly exceeded demand. We work our whole lives to pay the landowners for our tiny plots - things haven't changed much since the Norman conquest. Still, the people of Britain will get their land back eventually, so there is hope.

Mark said...

Anonymous 10.14-

'About this time most working class people still lived in council houses. They were more or less placed where the council told them to go. There was certainly an underclass but the underclass was buried within the working class on these huge council estates. The working class tended to police the underclass as they knew exactly who they were and what they were capable of doing. This started to change during the seventies due to housing shortages.'

Your description of council estate life in the sixties is accurate- in particular the bit about the 'respectable' working class policing the underclass (via stigma and social pressure at least as much resort to the criminal law).
However your description of how things went downhill in the seventies and after doesn't hold water.
By the late seventies (pre Thatcher!)a number of factors were in play which malevolently fed off each other- and they have been reinforcing each other ever since under the noses of successive governments, regardless of their political stripe .

Firstly, the number of 'underclass' households has clearly been increasing in absolute terms (I believe this was first hinted at by Keith Joseph in a notorious speech he made in 1974). It seems probable that higher benefit levels, and the relaxation of eligibility criteria, that came in in 1966 when 'National Assistance' was replaced by 'Supplementary Benefit', was initially a factor here. The disappearance of any stigma attaching to illegitimacy has also meant that desperate, ill equipped single mothers no longer feel obliged to give up their babies for adoption to 'respectable' childless couples.Furthermore, the practice,in the 80s and after, of encouraging some claimants to migrate (permanently) to disability benefits from unemployment benefits, has also probably contributed to the growing 'underclass' total.

Secondly, the 'mix' of households on Council estates has been transformed by legislation initiated by all the main parties.The Right to Buy introduced by Thatcher in 1980 gave the aspirant working class the wherewithall to quit the estates on which they grew up. The Housing Act passed by the Lib/Lab pact in 1977 (giving priority to 'homeless families')meant that 'underclass' households tended to be overrepresented when the denuded housing stock was re-let. Labour's 1976 Race Relations Act meanwhile, which introduced the dubious concept of 'indirect discrimination', meant that 'local connection' criteria in the allocation of council housing was tarred with the 'racist' brush,therefore it had to be abandoned. (With negative consequent effects on 'social cohesion' and social capital).

BTW from my own experience I can tell you there was, if anything, a glut of 'social housing' in the late 70s/early 80s, and not a shortage as you state (a shortage of desirable houses there may have been- but that was the consequence of higher expectations!). I and many of my graduate friends at the time obtained tenancies in 'hard to let' social housing- as did the members of the girl band Bananarama, who, when they recorded their first hit,were living in a 'hard to let' council flat, in Bloomsbury of all places!

Anonymous the 1st said...


In my experience most young girls that have babies at school do so for the following reasons:-

1] They are unloved at home due to a dysfunctional family life and hope to find love in the arms of a boyfriend. They mistake lust for love and this leads in the end towards early childbirth

2] They hate their own mother so much they will do anything to get away. The welfare state together with childbirth is the key to escape.

In the end early parenthood is usualyl caused by dysfunctional family life.

I live in Swindon. It is just as working class as any city in the north but it has almost full employment due to two car factories in the town. Consequently we have only a relatively small underclass with associated problems. As I said before the underclass exists in numbers where unemployment is greatest.

There was a housing shortage right up until 1970. This was partly due to the baby boom post-war and partly due to the pre-fabs built after the war coming to the end of their serviceable life. It is well documented and you can find references to it on the net. The shortage came to an end round about the mid 70s. By this time large numbers of private house had been built - recognisable by their large picture windows and front-to-back lounges which were the fashion at the time.

North Northwester said...

"To pay people to perform nonsense work assumes two things

a. That the work they will do cannot be productive - if it were someone would have hired them to do it already
b. That we take taxes off people to pay for this work. Since the people paying taxes will be doing productive work we will be taking value from productive work to non-productive work. You will have destroyed value. In all probability you will have destroyed more jobs to fund the non jobs."

I don't mean nonsense jobs, but a great deal of clearing work can be done and, frankly, I was thinking of 'selling' their contracts for dole plus expenses after say three months' idleness to job agencies.

You'd have to abandon the Minimum wage in these cases and annoy the unions, but those are both pluses, as far as I'm concerned. There are plenty of lousy jobs done by immigrants and claimants on the sly just now, and these are the jobs that the agencies could place them in.

In the meantime, the rest of the economy; less burdened by the crime and disruption that the devil finds for the under class's idle hands, and after a half generation when the working class has learned to make long-term plans based on the absence of workless dole,the situation would look brighter.

And ther'd be a smaller class of State-funded chav-herds like me.

And idleness is, I think, a bigger destroyer of value than this particular kind of redistribution which is at base a public hygiene and a public order measure rather than one of top-down socialism.

Dinner calls; I'd love to stay as this is a great argument, but Mrs Northwester is cook not to be ignored.

Get me started on benefits mothers one day, why don't you?