Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

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


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:


trianglePeterborough & Huntingdon Socialist Party: Where is the Labour Party going?

triangleHackney Socialist Party: First World War and the labour movement

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Labour and Antisemitism

triangleThe fog of Brexit

triangleThe Socialist inbox


triangleMobilise mass student fightback

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleStudents unite and fight - free education now!

triangleSchool students in solitary: for full funding, not exclusion!


triangleHow Blairism sank its claws into the Labour Party

triangleSocialist Party Congress 2017 reports


triangle4m children in homes that can't afford fruit and veg

triangleExam factories, cuts and violence - Fight for our future!

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments



The Socialist inbox



How Irish strikers fought apartheid - and establishment anti-apartheid leadership


The Socialist

The Socialist inbox



When working class women dominated football



GDPR data laws: Punishing workers for human mistakes



The Socialist inbox


Care workers

A day in the life of a carer: "I am having trouble feeding my children on my wages"



Shop workers hungry for 10 an hour now and an end to zero-hour contracts


The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox



The Socialist Inbox



Union bureaucracies, soviets and workers' power



Ahed Tamimi - worldwide symbol of self-esteem in face of oppression



The Socialist inbox



Protests win temporary halt to refugee evictions in Glasgow



Obituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018