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Friday, February 24, 2006

No class

I rarely agree with Blairite blogger Stephen Pollard, but he recently noted that "The Grauniad never fails to disappoint. I've just caught up with yesterday's Society section. It's a must-read every week, as its editors are clearly entirely unaware that it reads like an Onion of the Guardian" (16 February 2006). (For the uninitiated, he means the Onion satirical publication and not an actual onion.)

Some of the things that get through the Society section say more about the prejudices of the writers than anything else. This was confirmed to me, especially in the print edition, by a recent feature on working men's clubs. The question of how to ditch the old racist image was posed; bemused club members reply as follows:
"It's the middle-class whites," Brown says. "They are a different race entirely. A lot of them come from up north. They go to college and start telling the white working class how to treat different races, when we're born and bred in a mixed environment. They don't mix with other races, and are patronising to black people, who can fight for themselves. We've got Filipinos in tonight having a function. With them, it's share and share alike." Regulars are invited to have any leftovers.
Chris Giff, 58, who came to London from Ireland in 1980 and has been trustee of the Bethnal Green Working Men's club for five years and a member for 25, says: "There's no bullshit or racism." But he fears that working men's clubs get a bad press. "There is an assumption that they are racist," he says.

Are they still beating their wives too?

In part, journalists are free-wheeling in their assumptions about the white working class because of prejudice. But it also reflects the decline of the working class as a force to be reckoned with (along with a relative decline in the racism that is supposedly such a problem). It's just not 1973 anymore, guv.

This week's obituaries included Betty Heathfield, a high-profile figure in the 1984-5 Miner's Strike and Cold War historian Theodore Draper, who cut his teeth in the US labour movement but eventually switched sides, unlike his brother Hal. As such figures retreat into the distance, it's clear that the world is changing. Even the 'enemy within' can be rehabilitated on BBC 4 in the recent Lefties.

(News on Sunday failed because it was a badly written paper, by the way. For book links, click here and here.)


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