Laura Pidcock: 'You're probably working class even if you don't realise it'; North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock says Labour is the party of the working class - and that includes people who call themselves middle class.
Let's talk about class.
Often, after I have written a post about what is happening to working class people under this government, said the phrase "working class" in a TV interview or even described myself as working class, there will be a flurry of comments or emails from people asking me either to explain what I mean or asking me to stop using the phrase because it is "out of date".
Others explain how the Labour Party using "working class" isn't going to help win us those people who would never identify with the term.
I understand the motivations for people thinking and saying this, but I see it very differently: I think we need to talk about class more, not less.
Class is the single most important aspect of a person's identity because it shapes the way our lives are lived, including how long we live that life.
Does that mean that other ways of identifying don't matter? No, of course not. Skin colour, sex, sexual orientation, religious belief (and other aspects of a person's identity) are important, of course. They often contribute to worsening oppressions when mixed in with what class position people occupy in society.
But class, to me, is the simplest of concepts. It is about what wealth people have and how they got it, what people own and what power that wealth and assets allows someone to wield.
When I was first taught theories of class my dad used to explain it like this: "Laura, do I need to get up tomorrow? Do I have to get up and go to work?", I would reply with "yes", because I knew that if he didn't go to work, he would miss important things and the cumulative effect of this would be that, eventually he would lose his job.
He would follow up by saying "And what would happen if I lost my job?" I knew that, owing to having no savings, we would no longer be able to pay the mortgage.
If we weren't able to pay the mortgage, the bank would take the house back, and even though my mam and dad had been making that payment every month, on time, for years and years, it wouldn't take the bank very long before they would repossess the house. And my dad would conclude, "and that, Laura tells you what class we are: we have no savings, because we cannot save, we own nothing that could allow us not to work and therefore we are working class".
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I know this is a simple definition, but it works for me. I have never forgot that, and if we are honest this applies to most of us. The overwhelming majority of people that I represent are working class, because they have to work to live.
Of course, many people do not identify with being working class and that is not a coincidence. Thatcher's politics pushed the idea of a meritocracy, that you could work your way out of poverty and reach a "middle class" status, rejecting the solidarity and togetherness of being part of a working class community to a more individualised vision of society.
It is also a shame, because to be brutally honest, by identifying as middle class, people think they are safer within this system than they really are.
Higher earners, who have a holiday or two a year, who are able to pay their bills reasonably comfortably, may be lulled into a sense of security that they are shielded permanently from poverty.
Say, however, that person on that comfortable income becomes unwell and can no longer work, or makes a mistake at work and is fired, is made redundant or just has a hostile employer who has taken a disliking to them (employment rights enforcement is so weak in the UK today, that without being a member of a trade union, that individual can do little to retain their employment).
It only takes a few months out of work to start getting into trouble and to start relying on the support of others.
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What is the difference between this person and the person working as a cleaner on minimum wage?
Their monthly expendable income may be much higher than that of the minimum wage earner; they may be shielded in the worst times from the effects of their loss of income for a few more months, assuming they have been able to save, but the hard times would soon come.
Why is understanding this important?
If we fail to see how our class fundamentally determines our position and experience in society, we can be lulled into thinking that someone like Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage represent the interests of working people, without acknowledging the inherent conflict: that they chose political office to represent a different class, to represent those who live off wealth rather than work. You only need to look at Prime Minister Johnson's register of interests (people who have made donations to him) to see who it is that think they'll benefit from his time in office.
Being working class has unbelievable potential for change. Because we are the vast majority of people. Together, we have the power to fundamentally change society to benefit our interests. United, working people are an unbeatable force. Workers need to own the term, no matter how comfortable they think they are.
I won't apologise for having a class based political outlook. I am happy that the Labour Party too, now understands class politics and that going into a General Election, we will speak to our class - working class people, the majority of people and be unashamed about that.
Labour MP Laura Pidcock
Credit: Reuters Live Stream
North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock