‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Thursday, 4 April 2013

7 classes – does that mean 7 political parties?

The important thing about the new way of looking at social class (as launched by the BBC yesterday) may be that it finally kills off the last vestiges of the old one. The old upper, middle and working class stereotypes, which have dogged British society, may finally be put to rest. This could have important political implications.

It may well turn out to be advantageous that there are now seven classes instead of three and that some of the names (for example, emergent service workers which sounds like a cross between the emergency services and a cleaning product!) do not trip easily off the tongue. This will help to ensure that commentators and politicians do not resort to lazy-minded stereotyping of voters.

Under the new system, it should be much easier for people to move between classes, reviving, at least the perception of, social mobility. If people do not label themselves, or if they feel that they can readily swap labels, this may free many people from a blinkered way of seeing themselves, politics and society.

It may discourage political parties from developing divisive policies designed to win votes from one class at the expense of another. No one of the new classes probably contains enough voters to win an election. No more us and them politics – it would have to be us, them, them, them, them, them and them. This sounds like a recipe for more coalition thinking.

Voters were already becoming less loyal to any one political party. This new classification may accelerate that process. It might mean that we will end up with seven major political parties, but I don’t think that anyone should assume that it will be that simple.

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