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

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.

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