Recent posts have caused me to be inundated with emails and unprintable comments about working-class representation. Or, rather, the lack of it.
Many of the stories about what are now little or nothing more than occupying powers (New Labour, in its narrower and broader senses) on council estates, in former pit villages, and so forth have been truly harrowing even to me, and I have heard very many such stories before. I have also just heard Polly Toynbee refer very dismissively to one of the most horrific categories while in conversation with Michael Gove and a BBC presenter, “as if that could happen to you or I!” No, Polly. It certainly couldn’t. So that’s all right, then. Isn’t it?
In addition to this, I am throwing open the debate on electing the judiciary for fixed terms (or at least, at the more senior levels, appointing judges for fixed terms and subject to parliamentary approval), about electing local prosecutors and police chiefs for fixed terms, and about guaranteeing equal numbers of AB, C1C2, and DE people on each jury and each bench of magistrates unless the defendant exercised a statutory right to insist on an all-AB, an all-C1C2, or an all-DE jury or bench.
This would involve abolishing stipendiary magistrates sitting alone, as should be done anyway. And it would be entirely compatible with restoring some sort of minimum qualification for jurors, since, contrary to what the upper middle classes tend to think, their incomes and lifestyle are not the norm, they are not the only people who pay tax, and they are not the only people who are householders.
The family courts must also be reformed most urgently, both because of what recent communications have convinced me is the endemic and organised kidnap of working-class children in order to hand them over to New Labour stalwarts whose glittering passages cannot be interrupted by pregnancy or childbirth, and because of their related use (in the absence of a legal presumption of equal parenting) to banish men of every class from the upbringing of children, reducing them to sperm banks and cash machines as personal vindictiveness is harnessed to everything that the salariat learned at Betty Friedan’s knee.
I have received many predictable, but no less pertinent, complaints about New Deal (how the poor are compelled to work for fifty pence per hour, and to give up vast amounts of time that could be spent looking for work) and about Sure Start (how rich women get their baby-sitters paid for by poor men, and thus by those men’s children and those children’s mothers).
Instead, the profits from the utilities and the banks should reimburse employers’ National Insurance contributions for employees aged 25 or under, aged 55 or over, or previously unemployed for 18 months or more (up to the length of that unemployment). And the mothers of small children should be paid a living wage (though not, of course, an extravagant salary) to look after them as the full-time job that that is.
I have long advocated the use of trade union money, not to fund New Labour, but instead, at least in part, to develop and deliver a recognised qualification for “non-graduates” with life and work experience who aspire to become MPs. If that could be done in partnership with local government, then so much the better. Certainly, central government’s withdrawal of funding from many institutions and courses provides a perfect opportunity for local government to step into the breach and reassert its historic role in tertiary education.
School governing bodies are what I know most about among bodies of that kind (hospital boards and so forth), and the absence of the working classes from them is actually frightening. In two stints on that of a primary school serving the very mixed country town where I live, and in two on that of a comprehensive school which happens to be here but which serves a much larger and overwhelmingly C2DE catchment area, I was privileged to serve with very many first-rate people.
But the fact remains that, apart from the County Councillor (at a push) and the odd parent governor, the composition was of the unassailable, mostly AB middle-classness that only the Labour Party and the churches (Anglican in the primary case, Catholic in the secondary case) can pull off with a straight face.
I should take a very great deal of persuading that things were any different in relation to the ostensibly public accountability of health, social services, housing, policing, or anything else. I have suggested how local government could better fulfil its responsibilities in this regard, at least once its proper powers were restored. Involved voluntary bodies (such as churches) should also consider this question most urgently.
The whole idea of the EU is founded on that of an elite culture excluding the heirs of the pitman poets and painters, the brass and silver bands, the Miners’ Lodge Libraries, the Workers’ Educational Association, and all the rest of that civilised and civilising world destroyed by the most philistine Prime Minister until Tony Blair. The EU’s institutions range from the sham-democratic to those overtly expressive of contempt for the popular will.
At the very least, we must restore the supremacy of British over EU law, require that the latter be passed by both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or the other, and mandate British Ministers to adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.
Anything tending to downplay Britishness in favour of any of its constituent parts always increases yet further the wealth and power of those best able to present themselves as embodying the soul of one part or another: the public schools, Oxbridge, the English Bar, and the upper echelons of the Church of England; the Scottish Bar and academocracy, which latter includes the upper echelons of the Church of Scotland; the Welsh-speaking elite; Ian Paisley or Martin Maguiness; and indeed the Irish-speaking elite within the professions in the Irish Republic. At the very least, the Parliament of the United Kingdom must routinely enact legislation across all policy areas applicable throughout the United Kingdom, as the devolution legislation presupposes.
(The class oppression inherent in the definition of the ecclesiastical, legal and educational systems as the untouchable essence of Scottishness, though with no corresponding suggestion about their English equivalents, is startling evident from the lack of any right to trial by jury in Scots Law, although that would be perfectly simple to remedy by statute. As would be any lack of a right of appeal to the Supreme Court, if there must be such a thing, once its justices were appointed for fixed terms and subject to parliamentary approval.)
And any erosion of the status of the monarchy would be, and is, greatly to the detriment of the working class. Whether on the Franco-American executive or the far more common ceremonial model, the office of an elected Head of State would invariably be occupied by a member of the metropolitan upper middle class, and the creation of that office would constitute that class’s supreme triumph over all others. In practice, those wishing to usurp either the residual powers or the ceremonial functions of the monarchy always come from that quarter.
Furthermore, working-class people are more likely to have family connections to those Commonwealth countries retaining the monarchy, especially to Australia and New Zealand, to Canada in (above all) the case of the Scots, and to those in the Caribbean. Whereas the partial or, potentially, total subversion of the Crown would and does express the Chiantishire and Cape Cod crowd’s closer affinity with (rich and ruling-class) Continental Europe and the (rich and ruling-class) United States.