The New Working Class

2 minutes estimated reading time

The New Working Class by Claire Ainsley is unashamedly wonkish in nature. Ainsley comes from the left of the political establishment. She is an executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. She had previously worked for Unite and as a government advisor.

Ainsley posits that the Labour Party is out of touch of who the working class are and what they care about. Deindustrialisaton and immigration has changed the nature of what working class means. They might have lower middle class incomes working in the services sector. Traditional blue collar roles declined to represent about 14 percent of the British population.

Ainsley’s The New Working Class is a testimony to how out of touch policy makers and advisers with the society that they claim to represent. This also makes wonder about the usefulness, and or, the attention paid to polling and research done by political parties in the UK. The Conservatives understanding of hard-working families shows at least some understanding at a high level of who the new working class are.

What struck me about the book is that much of the ‘new’ working class isn’t actually that new at all. The struggle to make ends meet is one that Orwell would have recognised the best part of a century earlier. The challenge of unemployment is one that haunted much of the 1970s and 1980s.

Family is still important and while society is secular, working class communities have been more socially conservative. That doesn’t mean that they hate gays or immigrants, they take a common sense approach to fairness but they will be concerned about family. The rate of change in society and the desire for working opportunities has been more of a driver over immigration than outright racism back to the rise of Enoch Powell.

I had thought I would gain new consumer insights in the same way that I have had in the past, reading books by like likes of American pollster Mark Penn, but this wasn’t the case with Ms Ainsley’s book. Ms Ainsley has clearly written for a different audience. Instead of the ‘new new’ insight, her work is a 101 guide for politicos to the society that the profess to live in and represent. That scared the hell out of me. More on the book here. You can find more book reviews here.