On The Political Class

I read an Suzanne Moore article which trickled down my Twitter feed, it was the title that intrigued:

I have not been poor for a long time. When you have been, you never forget

The author seemed to be getting carried away with herself, making sweeping generalisations such as:

“…a pointless debate ensues about “poverty” among a political and media class that has no idea of average earnings, never mind the cost of four toilet rolls.”

A broad-brush caricature if ever there was one. But it reminded me of something else with a thought-provoking title (“Why I’m me and not you”) by Stackee, about how Liberal Democrats in particular are, apparently, ill-equipped to tackle poverty.

…I’ve always said the Lib Dems are the Labour party of the middle class – and that is a compliment, honestly. A party formed of those who want to correct injustices, but have never really lived through them. Who see what they had as something everyone should have; who had no place in the Conservatives because of these beliefs, but also none in Labour as they’d be deemed ‘too posh’.

This is nothing less than a form of political bigotry.

The common theme in these articles appears to be a supposition that The Political Class have not experienced poverty or injustice, so it cannot possibly conceive of the depth and breadth of what it means to be poor in the UK, and is therefore not sufficiently motivated to tackle poverty.

This is like saying a man has no concept of what a woman can feel, and therefore is not qualified to legislate laws that affect women. It ignores the possibility of political activists who have experienced social mobility. It denies the experience of those of us who grew up in deprived areas, who made the most of what education we could get, rode our luck, and took steps to move closer to a comfortable lifestyle.

I’ve written before about how I was raised in a single-parent household. I was brought up by an immigrant to the UK, who had no UK qualifications to her name, but though her life was full of experiences that no woman should have to endure she worked hard, always impressed the importance of education on me, and made sacrifices to make sure I had the basics.

It’s only looking back, aware that I was raised in what has now become one of the most economically deprived areas of the UK, that I realise how good I had it. And yes, of course I want children to have at least what I had because I know that it’s at least a fighting chance in life. I’m not ashamed to believe that.

Liberal Democrat members come from all avenues of life and they collectively represent a wide range of demographics. I know that across the UK there are Liberal Democrat CouncillorsMPsMEPs and activists tackling the real problems in their communities at all levels of government.

Suzanne Moore states:

This not just stagnation on a monetary level, but on a moral one. It is an utter failure to face, head on, what is happening, even though Greece and now Spain are on our doorstep.

But it’s because of what is happening in Greece and Spain – both now at the mercy of financial markets charging them a high rate to borrow money – that we can prove that the UK cannot afford to carry on borrowing even more than we already owe, that would be the real failure.

In Government the Liberal Democrats have lifted hundreds of thousands out of Income Tax altogether, they have restored the link between earnings an pensions, and through the pupil premium they are spending billions on the education of children who need the most help. To say that there is a moral stagnation – on the part of the Liberal Democrats at least – is demonstrably wrong.

Though I can’t say I’m particularly impressed that our Political Class – in all parties – contains a disproportionate number of very wealthy individuals, we should be wary of the idea that people who are part of a particular political grouping have no idea about what life is like on or near the bread line, and lack the empathy or will to tackle poverty.

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