Sun | Sep 23, 2018

As British election nears, class politics lingers

Published:Saturday | May 2, 2015 | 11:07 PM


London (AP) - A quarter of a century ago then British prime minister John Major spoke of forging a "classless" society, yet Britons appear peculiarly wedded to their tribal identities.

The nation will vote in a general election on Thursday and traditionally, it was a simple equation in general elections: the middle class broadly voted for the centre-right Conservative Party and the working class overwhelmingly supported centre-left Labour.

"Class is the basis of British party politics; all else is embellishment and detail," political scientist Peter Pulzer wrote in the late 1960s.

The picture in modern Britain is more nuanced, highlighted by former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher's successful attempt to woo traditional Labour voters and ex-Labour leader Tony Blair's reaching out to "Middle England".

Yet even in the 2015 election campaign the issues of class and privilege are never far away from the surface as politicians strive desperately to show they're in touch with the "ordinary" voter.

Anti-capitalist comedian Russell Brand last week lampooned Prime Minister David Cameron on Twitter over his membership of the elite Bullingdon Club when he was at the University of Oxford.

Cameron was roundly mocked again when he failed to remember the name of his favourite football team -- seen as a badge of working class identity.

In a YouTube interview with Brand the normally well-spoken Labour leader Ed Miliband -- derided recently for having two kitchens in his London home -- adopted a slangy accent that mirrored the comedian's Cockney tones, apparently an effort to appeal to young voters.