Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/556/6612

From The Socialist newspaper, 12 November 2008

TV review

Prescott: the class system and me

Reviewed by Andrew Price, Campaign for a New Workers Party national steering committee

On 27 October, BBC 2 viewers watched a programme fronted by former deputy prime minister John Prescott, purporting to explain the class system in contemporary Britain. Although making a few valid points, the programme failed to explain class and exposed Prescott's hypocrisy as a major figure in the 'modernisation' of the Labour Party.

Prescott's origins are undoubtedly working class, as he began his working life as a seafarer, playing a key role in what was then the National Union of Seamen (NUS). On TV he could have used the opportunity to explain how important trade unions are in representing working-class interests and how the organised working class needs to be politically represented.

Or he could have explained how a particularly ruthless set of employers led him as a young militant to play a key role in the national strike of the NUS in 1966.

No longer believes in trade unionism

Instead we heard none of this, because Prescott no longer believes in trade unionism as his resignation from the RMT (successor to the NUS) amply demonstrates. Instead Prescott chose to focus on trivia on what he thought the working class eats and drinks and how its members speak.

On more than one occasion he railed against private education and the huge correlation between the numbers in society who are privately educated and the percentage of such people occupying elite positions. Fair enough, but he needs to explain why this inequality persists after eleven years of a government in which he was a prominent member.

The system of British private education has a charitable status, meaning the schools can claim tax exemption. This in turn means that the working-class taxpayer subsidises the fees of those who want to pay 30,000 annually.

In the past there were debates in the Labour Party between those who favoured the outright abolition of private education and those who believed that such a policy would frighten middle-class voters. They argued for the expediency of ending private schools' charitable status.

Yet Prescott was a major supporter of the creation of New Labour. This has ended this debate totally, to the extent that his was the first Labour government that the bastions of educational privilege felt safe with.

Many trade unionists, especially those like me who are involved with education, will note the hypocrisy of Prescott's attack on private education.

His and Tony Blair's government privatised part of English secondary education through the development of academy schools. Similarly Prescott's posture as a champion of opportunity for working-class students could be taken more seriously had he not supported the introduction of fees and then top-up fees for university students.

Whatever facile remark Prescott or the BBC chooses to make, the British class system is not principally about fee-paying schools, Lords of the Manor or correct pronunciation. It is principally about an economic system, capitalism, that divides people on class lines between those who own wealth and the means of producing it and those who live by selling their labour power through work.

However much beer or tea he drinks or however much Prescott likes fish and chips, he cannot conceal the fact that under the government he served, the rich became considerably richer at the expense of the rest of us.

The reason why Prescott and his mates got away with this is that they succeeded in changing the class nature of the Labour Party, from one whose roots were in trade unionism and socialist values to an unashamedly pro-business party, which in Peter Mandelson's disgusting phrase "is intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".

At the end of the day Prescott's programme was of little use to those attempting to understand class today, but of some use to those fighting to bury New Labour and build a new working-class party.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 12 November 2008:


Socialist Party campaigns

Defend workers' jobs and pay

PCS union: Strike threat wins talks

Confined to one room

Fast news


Socialism 2008

Socialism 2008 - an inspiring weekend


War and occupation

Iraq, Afghanistan... End the occupations!


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

A political awakening propels Obama to victory

Why Labour won the Glenrothes by-election


Socialist Students

'Students in the Red' day of action

East Anglia region demands free education


Education

NUT leadership fails to call strike

Scotland: Victory for the Vale of Leven Four

The workload of a teacher


Socialist Party review

Prescott: the class system and me


 

Home   |   The Socialist 12 November 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Labour:

triangleThe Socialist's 2017 quiz

triangleTotnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangleLabour 'purge' furore really just democracy

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

triangleAnti-DOO lobby of Liverpool's transport committee

Education:

triangleBrighton victory

triangleUni market 'failure', two-year degrees - end cuts, scrap fees!

trianglePlans to launch no-cuts campaign at Kirklees College

triangleDemonstrations by uni students and staff greet Bath vice-chancellor resignation

Working-class:

triangleHow Blairism sank its claws into the Labour Party

triangleSocialist Party Congress 2017 reports

Schools:

triangleOpposition to new academy school being built on Leeds playing fields

triangleTeachers, students and parents demand an end to the schools funding crisis

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

13/12/17

The Socialist

The Socialist's 2017 quiz

6/12/17

Fire

The Socialist Inbox

6/12/17

Surrey

Comment: Socialism and truth about Zane

6/12/17

Labour Party

Blairite horror and Labour's divisions graphically exposed

30/11/17

Theatre

Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

22/11/17

Working class

Left comic's take on politics will have you in tears

22/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

15/11/17

The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox

15/11/17

Abortion

TV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act

15/11/17

Vietnam war

Comprehensive account of bloody conflict

8/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

8/11/17

Obituary

Obituary: Paul Randall, 1959-2017

8/11/17

Theatre

Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

1/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

25/10/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

triangle13 Dec Labour 'purge' furore really just democracy

EU parliament, Strasbourg

triangle13 Dec Brexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

triangle12 Dec Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

More ...

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2