What exactly does Ed Miliband think it means to be a ‘working person’?

There is no one type of ‘working person', and it’s an indictment of our politics that such an obvious point has to be made.

There is no one type of ‘working person’, and it’s an indictment of our politics that such an obvious point has to be made

A Labour politician tweets a picture of a house with three England flags and a white van in the driveway. The Labour leader sacks said politician and takes to The Mirror to declare, rather desperately, that Labour is still ‘the party of working people’.

Unfortunately for Miliband, the fact that he thought this was a proportionate and normal reaction to Emily Thornberry’s tweet merely highlights what he wanted to conceal.

It shows his profound disconnection from those who might once have been described as working class (an expression that is now eschewed in favour of ‘working people’, presumably because of its socialist connotations).

Miliband could simply have said that he disagreed with the (inferred) criticism contained in Thornberry’s tweet and that people should be able to fly the English flag with pride and without reproach.

Instead he felt that the tweet was an attack on the values and practices of ‘working people’. All of them.

“The Labour Party was founded as the party of working people,” he wrote. “We are the party of working people. And we will always remain the party of working people. That is why I was furious at the tweet by Emily Thornberry…”

It certainly seems to be more common to see England flags in poorer areas than in more affluent ones. But outside a major international sporting event, observation would suggest that only a small minority of people choose to fly the St George Cross.

It is not only patronising to suggest that all working people have similar values (are all working people the same to you, Ed?!), it betrays the type of sweeping generalisation that can only be made from a position of ignorance.

Dan Ware, the owner of the house in question, is no more typical of ‘working people’ than Emily Thornberry is of millionaire homeowners. There will be many so-called working people who are not nationalistic and who wouldn’t fly an England flag, especially during a by-election where the candidate tipped to win has spoken favourably about repatriation of migrants.

There are millions of people in this category of ‘working people’, people with different jobs, backgrounds and cultures. There is no one type of ‘working person’ or uniform working class culture, and it’s an indictment of our politics that such an obvious point has to be made.

Annie Powell is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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20 Responses to “What exactly does Ed Miliband think it means to be a ‘working person’?”

  1. madasafish

    “It certainly seems to be more common to see England flags in poorer areas than in more affluent ones”

    I walk past a house every day which flies the flag of Saint George on a 10 meter high flagpole(!).

    The owner is likely to be as rich as Ed Miliband…

  2. swat

    The fact is that everyone that produces a product whether tangib;le or iintellectual or otherwise is a worker. you don’t have to be just a plumber or a construction worker to be a worker. People who write are workers so are people who attend meetings one after another or people who serve behind the bar or clean offices. Just because you dint get your hands dirty doesn’t mean you’re not a worker. You don’t have to produce widgets just to be a worker, something the Unions need to comprehend. Taxi drivers are workers and so are farmers and so are receptionists.

  3. GhostofJimMorrison

    If Ed hadn’t gone on the defensive in the Mirror he would have been accused of abandoning the working classes. It was right the snob Thornberry went. Let’s leave it at that and move on.

  4. David Brede

    Surely the problem is that ordinary people do show their loyalty to their country. Ed clearly gets that but Emily thought it was strange. I wonder what she would make of a red dragon outside a Welsh families house?

    It is time to visibly reconnect with our roots. Go to the workplaces, get to the community centres and show what we really care about.

  5. Norfolk29

    Are you sure you are not taking this incident too seriously? The Guardian is also full of the rants of intellectuals who should know better. I have friends who divide those who fly one English Flag from their car during the world cup from those who fly two as “someone in need of something better to do” and “someone in desperate need of something better to do”. I have removed the expletives. In my opinion the main reason people fly the flag is to reinforce their own sense of identity because of fear that this is under threat. And it is under threat from low wages, bad housing, lack of school places, lack of local libraries and the general Americanisation of working conditions in the UK, especially for those who are involved in low skill trades. Our politicians are totally responsible for this, starting with Thatcher and continuing ever since, through Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron. Another 20 years of this and the riots in Ferguson, St. Louis will be as common in the UK as they are in America. It is called Globalisation and they waive their hands in the air and protest that there is nothing they can do. What they mean is that there is nothing they will do as it would require them to start to stand up to the banks and big business and they are afraid of them, for good reason.

  6. sarntcrip

    For the record, the following list are the policies Labour have announced for 2015 so far. Under absolutely no definition could this list be thought of as right wing. None. Is it perfect? Of course not. Do I wish they would go further? Of course I do. Will they stick to every one if they win in 2015? None of us can possibly know. Sadly, you still can’t get crystal balls on Amazon.

    But the list represents the progressive Labour party we’ve had for decades. Doubt them, push them, hold them to account, but if you want the Tories out and you live in a marginal seat, voting for anyone but Labour will get you exactly what you most fear. 5 more years of Cameron.

    -An £8 minimum wage

    -Fight for a living wage
    -Repeal Health and Social Care act
    -Repeal the Gagging law
    -Repeal the bedroom tax.
    -An end to inaccessible WCA centres
    -200,000 new homes pa by 2020
    -A mansion tax
    -A freeze on energy bills
    -Guaranteed jobs or training for young people out of work for a year or longer
    -A clampdown on exploitative landlords & more stable, secure rental contracts
    -25 hours of free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds
    -A clampdown on exploitative zero-hours contracts.
    -Integration of health and social care
    -Maximum 48 hour wait to see a GP
    -Mental health training for all NHS staff
    -A reformed WCA overseen by sick and disabled people
    -Penalties for every mistake Maximus make
    -ESA claimants out of the work prog
    -Reverse the 45p tax rate back to 50p

  7. GhostofJimMorrison

    There is no one type of ‘working person’

    True, but one could also say the same for Muslims, Asian, homosexuals etc etc, but the ‘left’ would rather box up all said ‘minority groups’ into one and treat them accordingly.

  8. CGR

    Labour is the party of benefit scrougers and immigrants !!!

  9. CGR

    Thornberry and her sort of trendy-lefty, Guardian reading snobs would really hate to be considered ‘working-class’.

  10. David Brede

    Maybe, but most Labour people are not of that ilk so it is time we all made more of closing the gap between us and our core supporters and showing that we care and are willing to do something about it.

  11. Wyrdtimes

    “There will be many so-called working people who are not nationalistic and who wouldn’t fly an England flag, especially during a by-election where the candidate tipped to win has spoken favourably about repatriation of migrants.”

    I don’t see your concerned connection between the Cross of St George – the flag of England – and a by-election where immigration or anything else is discussed. Unless you’ve been brainwashed by the UKish media that continually associates the CoSTG with racism.

    Presumably the author would have no concerns if the flag had been a Union Flag? The Union Flag. Flag of empire. Flag of the BNP. Flag of the BUF. Flag of Liberty GB. Flag of British Freedom, of the Conservatives, UKIP, Labour and the LibDems.

    The Cross of St George is spotless in comparison to your Union Flag. Expect to see more of them as the English continue to wake up to the establishments contempt of the English.

  12. Englishoak

    It was about the flags. We all know it. I’m an “ethnic minority” (and I hate that phrase with a passion), but it’s my flag as well & if it disgusts Labour so much then they don’t deserve my vote & won’t be getting it either.

  13. damon

    In 2006, Joseph Harker of the Guardian said that seeing white van man with a flag on his vehicle left him feeling anxious. And he wrote of them being ”white, male, tattooed, pot bellied 35 to 55 year olds” and said that these were the types that were always going on about immigration and ”losing control of our country”.
    That sounded pretty prejudiced to me, but he got away with it.

  14. oatcakecorral

    On the subject of flags I’m old enough to recall the 1966 World Cup. I was 11. I was living on a Council estate in Stoke. I don’t remember any St George flags flying during the finals and if you look at Wembley at the final I think its the Union flag that is prominent and not a St George flag in sight

    I think the St George flag flying dates from the 90s and probably the 96 Euro. Why? I suppose there are many possible reasons. The rise of nationalism, Europe, a loss of confidence?

  15. madasafish

    Easily done.
    Ensure your socialist millionaires pay a lot more tax so they are no longer millionaires before they impose any more taxes on those of us who are not.
    The Tories don’t pretend. The Labour Party does. It’s called hypocrisy.

    And then UKIP comes along and you are stuffed.

  16. David Brede

    Otherwise know as hard working people who often are paid poverty wages by their employers and need a state top up – a subsidy to capitalist business.

  17. Tom Sanders

    He means he thinks you are like him

  18. hackney man times

    A list of policies that the labour should implement
    1 change the accounting practice re funds created via Qe
    allow the government to invest in income generating investment eg railways roads broadband and the energy sector repaid at the rate of deprecation such money creation need not be added to the national dept its about time the ordinary folks/plebs were to reap the benifit from the money creation process
    2 Establish a national mortgage fund bond funded via Qe interest rate set at 1% term time 40 years again no need for such a fund to add to the national dept as each bond will be attached to a real asset with a fixed value throughout the term of its existants bond holders would no longer have to worry about shifts in interest rates and the extended period of repayments would lead to lower mortgage/bonds payments and more disposable income to be spent or saved such a system of home finance would for one provide an assured method of finance de coupled from the madness which is our current
    sector open to all backed by all of us and over time will force the banks to seek out nurture and promote investment in the real productive economy

  19. Michelle

    I was going to RT this but its so mired in a anti-Miliband cynicism. A white van tends to be used for work and why not stand for one working person along with the all working people (whoever they may be). Besides, this constant discussion about the working people’s identities is great for the country.

  20. Annie

    I think you may be guilty of stereotyping ‘the left’ in exactly the way you seek to criticise….

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