Poverty tsar Frank Field: white, working class need own citizenship ceremonies

 

People from white, working-class backgrounds have become so disenfranchised and unsure of their identities that they should take citizenship ceremonies alongside immigrants arriving in the country, the government’s poverty tsar, Frank Field, has said.

Speaking at a conference yesterday, the Labour MP for Birkenhead said that English society has “lost confidence in what it is” and needs to “relearn the rules” by which it used to live.

“There are dangers for that group which used to run the Labour Party, now is almost forgotten by it; the working class,” he told an audience of academics yesterday.

There are growing concerns about the fate of white working classes as a result of immigration and the potential for some to seek solace in the far right. In March, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to limit the number of unskilled people able to enter Britain to protect unskilled jobs and apologised for the previous Labour government getting it “wrong” on immigration.

Mr Field added: “In my lifetime, we’ve moved from a Labour Party which was working class-dominated. Some trendy London middle class went along with it but [were] subjected, at least publicly, to the moral economy of the working class.

“We’ve moved to a stage where what was that minority is in a governing position, which imposes upon the working class its moral economy… there is a real crisis of representation.”

He added: “I argue not to have these wonderful citizenship ceremonies just for people who want to come here, I think the poor working class in Birkenhead needs them. We need to relearn what these rules are because they are not taught by the intermediary organisations which [were] very strong.”

Mr Field, who caused a stir when he accepted a place in David Cameron’s government, was speaking at a symposium called “Diversity and the White Working Class: white flight, anti-immigration politics and integration” hosted by Birkbeck, University of London and the think-tank Demos.

Dr Rebecca Taylor, of Manchester University said that white working-class people have been put into two categories: the “chav” and the “beleaguered native”. The former is defined as the “characterisation, indeed caricaturing, and writing off of sections of the population – often white, often living on council estates and nearly always poor”.

She added the phrase “produces an image of a white working class that is socially undesirable and culturally inept. “And often, the ‘chav’ is set up as ‘too white’, failing to keep up with (post) modern Britain, implicitly in opposition to the culturally sophisticated multicultural savvy middle classes.”

Dr Taylor said that the latter is seen as a “tribe in danger of extinction, one which needs protecting from new diversity”. She added: “In 2006 [Margaret Hodge] caused an uproar when she commented that eight out of 10 white working-class voters in her constituency may be tempted to vote for the BNP because ‘no one else is listening’ to their concerns over unemployment, high house prices, and the housing of asylum seekers in the area.”

And Dr Gareth Harris, of Birkbeck at the University of London, said that there is a strong link between the white working class and support for the far right. He said that, at the party’s height, “the profile of a BNP voter was: male; middle-aged – between 35 and 49; of a low level of educational achievement; and working class.

“I am not trying to homogenise this beast of the white working-class vote there, they were more likely to be skilled and on the way to becoming home owners, not the most marginalised sectors… there is a relationship between support for the far right and being working class. But a lot of the opposition has also come from the working class,” he said.

He added: “Support for the far right [is] not just a response to changes in the demographic makeup of the UK but strongly coupled with a profound sense of distrust of the mainstream political process. People are becoming more and more disengaged and I think this is very dangerous,” he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future