White Van Man and working class representation.

As a former member of the Liberal Democrats, I should be used to disappointment. But the grim inevitability of the sequence of events following Emily Thornberry’s tweet rumbled on with such predictability that it was hard not to despair. From the reaction to the initial tweet it was obvious that Thornberry was going to be forced to resign. It was suspected that she had mocked the simple patriotism of our noble working classes, and so off with her head. Miliband’s outrage duly followed, and before you can say ‘sliding poll ratings’, Thornberry had gone and White Van Dan had published his “Danifesto”, all thanks to that shining beacon of working class debate, The Sun. It probably won’t be long before we see White Van Dan following the lead of that similar pillar of working class intellectualism, Joe The Plumber, and standing for public office on a conservative ticket.

The central problem here is not just that White Van Dan’s views are repellent, but that the people who should be his most vocal detractors are silent. After all, he wants to bring back corporal punishment, to close the borders, and holds other such beliefs that, were they to be held by an upper or middle class person, would rightly be examined, debated, and attacked. Instead, because he conforms to a rather crude stereotype of the working class, people feel a need to protect him, by letting him speak unopposed and even by attacking the snobbishness of people who dare oppose him. But this is not a man speaking for himself with the full attention of peers ready to engage in political debate. That would require an equal exchange of views.  He is not being listened to by Labour, only nervously humoured, as if he’s wandered in off the streets and joined a middle class dinner table.

This is astonishingly patronising, not just to White Van Dan himself, but also to working class people as a whole. The only reason Dan has been allowed to speak, let alone speak unchallenged, to a national audience is that there was the fear on Labour’s part that Thornberry had somehow maligned the entirety of the working classes.  Indeed, he’s not even been allowed to speak unaided. He’s been paraded by the tabloids, had his cause discussed by the conservative right, and even been driven to harass Emily Thornberry at her house.  It not only gives the impression that the wider press are using a working class person for their own political ends, but also that the majority of political types don’t have enough experience with working class people to feel confident enough to challenge his views. There is, in other words, the sneaking fear that we’d better not challenge him because the working classes might actually agree with him.

It was this fear that lead to what, even by Ed Miliband’s standards, was the frankly ludicrous position of Miliband being asked as the leader of the opposition what emotion he felt when he saw a white van, and his even more ridiculous answer.

If the political classes fear this is what the working classes are like, then they’re even less likely to challenge these voices in future. In fact, they’re likely to chase their votes with policies designed around this conception of what the working class wants. It’ll be the same populist and xenophobic stuff we’ve seen above and, when we criticise it, we’ll be depicted as out of touch, because this – don’t you know? – is what the working classes want. The current attitude to White Van Dan then is not only patronising in its collectivisation of the working classes, but intrinsically erasing of other voices. While white, brash, males are still the deferred-to voice of the working class, everything non-white and non-male in the working class experience will continue to be triply erased; by class, by gender, by race.

This will not do, but it is all but inevitable when the only working class people politicians meet are those who shout the loudest. But the solution is simple enough; we need more working class voices, we need them to be as ubiquitous as middle and upper class voices in the political sphere. Most importantly, we need as wide an array of experiences within those voices as possible.

Only when working class people are common in national matters will we find that they have a plurality of views and come from a variety of backgrounds. It is only then that we will always feel confident enough to speak up, without being afraid that we’re damning an entire class by dismissing the view of one man.

nb: this was originally due to be published elsewhere, but a mix up meant that this did not occur, hence the delay in appearing here. 

16 thoughts on “White Van Man and working class representation.

  1. you should of come to burnley before writing this then youd know what working class life is about instead of commenting on something you dont know about just like all them partys. journos an politicians as bad as each other. farage might not be workin class but at least he cares about us.

    • Burnley isn’t the only bastion of the working class; indeed, if you’d read the article, you’d understand that one of the key points is that the working class can’t be reduced to a single entity. Therefore, Burnley’s problems and perspectives are different from those of other communities we might label as “working class”.

      I’d also fire John Prescott as your proofreader. It may help you.

  2. Get this tripe off the burnley express we have had enough of politicos an journalists tellin us what is best for our country. the workin class know what is best an we have spoken so what are you talkin about needin more working voices?? you heard our voices in clacton and rochdale when we voted ukip – thats what we want – thats what the british people want and who is gonna stop us next year? milibands a joke cameron is out of touch and clegg is a puppy to cameron so give us a real leader who cares about what WE have to say. the ones who work 50 hour weeks on five pounds an hour an cant afford tables let a lone food to put on em. you want the real views of working class lads round here then come and meet the people in burnley before goin to the burnley express with drivel

  3. With all due respect to the author, have you ever actually been to Burnley? I appreciate the points you make but fail to understand how this is relevant to my town in particular.

  4. Mr Waterfield,

    As per your earlier agreement with our head of content, Margaret Parsons, we went ahead and included your blog in our local news section, as part of a story involving working class representation and the disparage between privately educated, middle class journalists and the working classes they seek to inform and educate. I hope this clears up any confusion.

    Chris Daggett
    Editor, Burnley Express

      • As it is now out of office hours I will email you tomorrow afternoon. Until then if you have any questions please contact Margaret Parsons at 01282 478155 and she will be happy to talk about any further articles you have for the site.

        Chris Daggett
        Editor, Burnley Express

  5. how is this relevant to Burnley? how about you come here before gobbin off about the workin class and meet some of us. you never know you might see we are normal people and you dont need to write a essay about how we are poor little people trodden on by the rich. we can look after ourselves an we will next may. UKIP for PM 2015 say it with me. viva revolusion!

  6. what exactly was wrong with his danifesto? clear example of the upper classes turnin noses up at the demands of the working class whose sweat and blood made britain great. churchill will be turnin in his grave.

  7. Mr Waterfield,

    there appears to have been a mistake on our end. Apologies. As no agreement was reached we have no removed your blog from our website. I apologise profusely for the error.


  8. To the author of this piece on Burnley,

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    Alternatively you could look at this question more in terms of “Do You Even Burnley?”.

    What the bleedin’ ‘ell did you just fucking say about me, you little classist? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in my local cub scouts, and I’ve been involved in numerous scrumping raids on the local orchard, and I have over 300 confirmed apples. I am trained in rugby union and I’m the top mars bar frier in the entire village. You are nothing to me but just another posho. I will wipe you the fuck out with angry blog comments the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my effin’ words. You think you can get away with saying that boulderdash to me over the Internet? Think again, sunshine. As we speak I am gathering my secret stash of pies from across the entire county and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, you southern fairy. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your blog. You’re fucking rekt, boyo. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can out drink you by over seven hundred units, and that’s just with my mouth. Not only am I extensively trained in tying knotst, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the local Scouts brigade and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the village, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” piece in the local paper was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your bleedin’ tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn plonker. I will poop fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re off your rocker, nob’ead.


    Señor Snacks

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