Monday, 5 May 2014

Curing the working classes of their sins is now official Labour policy


It has been a very long time since the Labour Party I see across the chamber in Bradford had a working class majority. Gradually - to the point of exclusion now - the Party has become home to an assorted collection of mostly middle class worrywarts. Most of these are public sector employees of one sort or another, certainly the links to private enterprise, small business and entrepreneurship are vanishingly small (although it's interesting to note that a third or more of Bradford's Labour Councillors are private landlords).

This takeover of the Labour Party by people whose day jobs are to patronise the working classes means that the policy agenda throws up stuff like this:

Ed Miliband plans to impose tough restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol, junk food and tobacco if he wins power, it was claimed.

The Labour leader’s plan would end the £300million sports sponsorship by drinks firms and impose minimum alcohol pricing to try cut down on the damaging effects of heavy drinking on people’s health.

The blueprint, revealed in documents leaked to the Mail on Sunday, also proposes new laws to limit the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food aimed at children, and a ban on advertising unhealthy products on TV before the 9pm watershed. 

This is the authentic voice of the nannying fussbucket, a sort of health fascism that sees the lifestyle choices of the working classes as sins. People are not to be allowed choice about products that their masters deem to be unhealthy or socially problematic. The four great vices of the working man - drinking, smoking, fast women and slow horses - are to be discouraged, banned, limited and controlled for the good of those men.

This is the logic of Titus Salt - alcohol, gambling and such were denied to his workforce (all wreathed in a fog of non-conformist Christianity) while Titus could serve fine wines at dinner and attend the races without fear of retribution. This is the damnation of the pauper revisited, a return to those 19th Century campaigns for assorted prohibitions and behavioural controls.

The Labour Party was created to promote an economic message, a message of liberation and freedom for the working classes. It's true the party always had a 'know-everything' tendency best typified by the racist, anti-Semitic, eugenicist Fabian Movement of the Webbs, G B Shaw and H G Wells. But this was swamped by more practical men and women from real working class backgrounds who saw improving the lot of workers as the essential mission of the party.

All this has gone now but for little angry echoes. Today the Labour Party is the party of the middle class public sector worker, its ranks filled with social workers, teachers, community workers and so forth - plus a smattering of social science and arts academics. And its policies reflect the prejudices of these people and their unwavering belief in Douglas Jay's dictum that the man in Whitehall (or the town hall or the ivory towers of ex-polytechnic academe) really does know best what is good for the working classes.

So in an age of austerity Labour want to control the little pleasures of the ordinary men and women it claims to care about. Labour want to make those little pleasures more expensive, harder to obtain or, in some cases, impossible to get at all (unless you're on the sort of wage that MPs or top social workers can command). All because these self-appointed experts with their pseudo-science believe they can cure the working classes of their sins.


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