Bollocks to Aspiration

I unleashed a rant on twitter earlier, so am now attempting to constructively funnel my rage into a blogpost.

I stupidly caught a clip of Cameron’s closing speech to the Tory party conference in Birmingham. He said something along the lines of “We are criticised for being the party of the wealthy, but we are the party for people aspiring to be wealthy.” Or something along those lines, don’t quote me.

Well I’d like to give a big middle finger to Eton-educated Cameron for that comment. It’s actually very true what he says, and in my opinion explains the phenomenon of working class Tory voters – not so much Turkey’s voting for Christmas, but voting to be the chef who does the cooking.

Anyway, what particularly angered me about this is, is that this is exactly the demographic that the New Labour cabal are aiming for. This “aspiration” discourse started with Blair and New Labour, and it’s disgusting.

Of course there are people out there who aspire to be wealthy. Good luck to them, especially those who have come from abject poverty. But not all of us aspire to that. The huge majority of us have aspirations which may not seem as sexy as being rich, but are important and hugely challenging all the same. Working a steady job to provide for the family comfortably. Buying our own home. Saving enough money to travel the world. We all have our own aspirations, which don’t just involve accumulating wealth. Why should we be punished for having these goals? For some people, going to university will be the hardest challenge in their life, with huge obstacles to overcome. Graduation will be the crowning moment of their life. Pity Labour and Conservatives couldn’t give a flying monkey’s about it, and look down on them as lacking “aspiration”.

Aspiration is intricately linked with “social mobility” ie – getting out of the working class. Back in the days of Old Labour, being working class was something to be proud of, not to run away from. Working in a factory or mine defined your identity, community, what football team you followed, playing in a brass band. In fact my Grandad worked as a milkman purely so he could play for their football team. I also remember a story an old friend told me, who was a shop-steward in the Cowley car factory in Oxford. It employed nearly 40,000 people – and in the 70s was a place of massive union militancy. He remembers pickets outside the factory waving their union cards at scabs walking into the factory. It was such a powerful image that has stuck in my mind. The pride and confidence that came in being working class. Car workers in Cowley earnt double what teachers did!

Then along came Thatcher with her assault on the working class. Not just physically, making millions redundant, but also ideologically. She HATED working class people. People who were happy to live a simple life with their family in their community. People who worked every day, making a contribution to society every day. She hated them. Why were they content with this? Why weren’t they all trying to make their millions?

As I said before, I have no problem with people who want to escape the boundaries of their social class and what to climb the class ladder. But that should not be shoved down everyone’s throats. When Thatcher shut down the mines, she didn’t just close the pits – she ended the communities built around them, the brass bands, the unions, the very foundations of millions of people.

And the worst part of it all is Labour have gone along with it, and there is no voice for working class people anymore. A voice that is proud to be working class. That doesn’t want everyone to be middle class, but wants everyone to have a decent standard of living and equal opportunities to do the things the other classes can.

My Mum’s Dad grew up in a mining town in County Durham, he was a carpenter, and crafted entire wagons for bin collectors. He was also very religious. The church paid for him to go to a university in Oxford to do PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). When he completed his degree he came back to Durham…….and worked on the carpentry again. His aspiration was to be a pious follower of God and an educated man. What exactly is wrong with either of these things? Should he have been punished for this humble aspiration? Similarly my Dad’s Mum was from the poorest of the poor in Southern Italy. They literally had nothing, her parents died when she was young, she lost a brother in the First World War, lived under fascism, then civil war. She had enough. She immigrated to England, not speaking a word of the language.

She worked every day of her life til retirement. When she had my Dad, her and my Grandad brought Dad up whilst doing two jobs…..each. They were happy as Larry as a family, brought Dad up in comfort, he was able to go to university, and got a good job at the end of it. She came from literally Italian peasantry to having a son earning good money in computing. She never ever “aspired” to be middle class, just to work hard to provide for her family and give her kid a good shot in life. Society didn’t punish either of them for this – in fact British society back then actively encouraged it. They didn’t have to pay a penny for my parent’s education, they all got free healthcare and dentistry, proper state pensions so they didn’t have to worry about old age, affordable council houses being built faster than people needed them. I’m not saying it was perfect, but the post WWII years were the closest we’ve ever come to a fair society in Britain.

Sadly those days are over, courtesy of our good friends Blair and Cameron (and their predecessors of course).

I think those above examples of my grandparents far outweigh any “aspiration” a Eton-Oxbridge educated, privileged, aristocratic oink like Cameron ever had. They are spoon fed from a silver spoon that they are all born leaders, their aspiration is fed to them like an oxygen mask. They haven’t had to fight for anything. And yet they dare lecture people like my Nana about aspiration? People like my grandfolks are now being *punished* by Cameron and Blair and the other oinks, for not having the right sort of aspiration i.e. being stinking rich.

My two pence, for what it is worth (probably 2p exactly), is that we need to start back at the basics. We need a Government that actually respects the working class, for doing the jobs that keep this country going, that keep the economy going. We don’t need social “mobility” we need social “equality” – so that the carpenter can get his university degree and the Italian immigrant can live in comfort.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Bollocks to Aspiration

  1. Chris Scrivener

    Two things: how do you know as a FACT that Thatcher hated the working class? That’s your interpretation. Mine, for what it’s worth, is that she hated organised & militant labour activism, but that’s a different thing.
    And why is it intellectually valid to criticise someone on the basis of which school they attended? It’s not as if Cameron had any choice in the matter. It’s a cheap shot that detracts from your other comments,

    • 1) Chris it’s not an academic essay so I don’t have a bibliography to back up my belief that Thatcher hated the working class – in fairness I’m basing it on her actions, which appear to correlate to that belief.
      2) Again, I’m not claiming to be an intellectual, it’s just my views on a blog. Having said that I’m not criticising Cameron’s privilege per se, I’m criticising his audacity to lecture those who haven’t have his extreme upbringing on how they should live their lives and what ‘values’ they should ‘aspire’ to.

  2. cath mcgee

    Fantastic piece of writing. Will share this far and wide

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