By JR on Wednesday, November 30, 2011
White working class people believe they are the last in line for state handouts, welfare help and council housing, a report by a respected research group said yesterday. It said that many think if they complain they will be silenced with the charge of racism.
The inquiry by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that many white people in poorer districts use ‘racialised language that would be unacceptable to many reading this report.’ But it found that such rough language is regarded as normal by the people who use it, that they regard themselves as tolerant and welcoming, and that they hate being labelled as racist.
The Rowntree report also said that, contrary to the fears of many politicians and left-wing commentators, white working class people do not turn to far-right politics or organisations like the British National Party. Instead, it said there was ‘active distaste’ for racial extremism and the far right, and people were outraged that their views were taken as indicating they supported racist parties.
The report, produced by Professor Harris Beider of Coventry University was based on interviews with residents of three working class districts and findings from focus groups drawn from people who lived there. People with lower incomes from Aston in Birmingham, Canley in Coventry, and Somers Town in North London, took part in the project.
Professor Beider said: ‘The way that people from working class white backgrounds are portrayed is often negative, which doesn’t reflect the reality of the pride most people hold in their community, nor their strong work ethic, and collective values.
‘It is important to confound negative stereotypes and understand that people in these communities feel their voices are not listened to, and that they have no stake in their community. They want to be valued, heard and connected to government.’
The inquiry comes in the wake of wide concerns over the past five years over the resentment felt in by white people in poorer parts of the country.
Former Labour minister Margaret Hodge said in 2007 that her white constituents in Barking in East London felt they had little chance of getting council or housing association homes because newly-arrived migrants were given priority in the queues.
However fears that disaffection would lead to large-scale support from the BNP or other far-right extremists in places like East London or Stoke-on-Trent were proved groundless when the BNP collapsed in the 2010 general election.
The report from Rowntree – whose chief executive Julia Unwin was an adviser to Gordon Brown during his premiership – said that the allocation of social housing should be seen to be fair. This would ‘counter widespread perceptions of queue jumping or preferential treatment for certain groups.’
Since the 1970s council and housing association homes have been awarded not on the basis of waiting lists compiled largely from the names of local people, but on the basis of a points system in which ‘need’ is important. Families who are newly-arrived in a district can often score highly in terms of points if they are jobless or can say they have inadequate housing.
The report said that terms like ‘community cohesion’, coined after the 2005 London bombings when Labour ministers decided to abandon the left-wing doctrine of multiculturalism, mean little to working class white people.
Instead equality programmes are associated with political correctness or attempts by selected groups to siphon away state money. One project in Birmingham was described by a white resident as ‘run by Asians for Asians’.
White working class people, the report said, ‘are proud of their working class identity and the values it stands for – working hard, looking after each other, pride in the community.’
The report said white working class people deeply resented being painted as political extremists. ‘The association of the white working class with the far right follows an established (and false) narrative going back to the rise of Oswald Moseley in the East End of London,’ it said.
‘Since this point, the white working-class has been labelled as hostile to race and immigration: teddy boys in the 1950s; dockers in the 1960s; skinheads in the 1970s; and the rise of the BNP since 2000.’