Welcome to the baffling world of political priorities in 2014.
Last month, the multi-millionaire welfare minister David Freud suggested that some disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage. He is still in his job. Last week, Bob Geldof implied that not only poverty but also disease can be solved by the performances of super-rich celebrities. Most of the coverage did not even mention that there were those who disagreed with his approach.
On Thursday, however, Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigned from the front bench after sending an ambiguous tweet with a photo of a house decked out in large English flags, with a white van in the drive. Her tweet has made the front page of several national newspapers.
On Friday, the Sun devoted Page 1 to covering Thornberry’s “sneers”, Pages 4-5 to an interview with the owner of the house in question and Page 8 to a scathing editorial attacking Labour’s “ugly, snobbish prejudices”. If you turn over to Page 11, you can read the latest full-page piece by Katie Hopkins, a Sun columnist who has made her name by attacking working class people. Earlier this year, she said that unemployed people should be obliged to wear uniforms in the street.
The Daily Mail blamed the tweet on a “condescending, arrogant” elite. This is a paper that demonises benefit recipients on an almost daily basis. David Cameron accused Thornberry of “sneering at people who work hard”. On Cameron’s watch, wages are so low that millions of people who work hard are relying on tax credits to top up their wages, while those unable to work due to disability find their livelihoods snatched away.
Attacking working class people in general, and the poorest in particular, has become a routine activity for many mainstream politicians and columnists in the UK. It seems to be acceptable to attack working class voters, destroy their services and remove their benefits. What appears to be unacceptable is to criticise working class people who may be nationalistic.
I wrote more about this situation for an article in Politics.co.uk, published yesterday. You can read it by clicking here. In addition, I recommend two articles by people who have articulated the issues far better than I have: the first by my Ekklesia colleague Savi Hensman and the second by Sarah Ditum at the New Statesman.