What next for the working class? Open Discussion

What next for the working class in the Post-Thatcher Consensus?

It is a great irony that Margaret Thatcher, to whom the word ‘consensus’ was a slur, has inspired a consensus of sorts herself.

The relationship between the trade unions and the Labour party has reached breaking point. Except that it hasn’t. Neither Len MCluskey or Ed Miliband have anywhere else to go. The Labour party relies on the unions for funding, and the unions have no voice without this hold on the Labour party. They are bound to one another whether they like it or not.

The Post-Thatcher consensus is slowly pulling the party away from the unions, and yet this is something that Labour can never fully admit to for fear of alienating the rank and file. The social democrats have won the war but the left cling to the wreckage of their party for lack of a viable alternative. Just yesterday David Lammy gave a ringing endorsement to the legacy of Thatcherism:

“The traditional society of the 1950s was opened up with the social liberal revolution of the 1960s and the economic liberal revolution of the 1980s. Both have brought more women into the workplace, raising their skill levels and aspirations, with society increasingly seeing them not just as mothers but as workers in the workplace. That is incontestably a good thing.”

As long as Labour maintains its link to the Unions it will never be a One Nation party, whether Ed Miliband decides to see Drenge or not.

The Lib Dems are these days committed Thatcherites as well. Ryan Coetzee, Nick Clegg’s political adviser and the man who is responsible for the “Stronger Economy in a Fairer Society” line said on Twitter recently that “the aim of government policy should be to make it easier to start and grow a business.”

The fundamental divide within Labour leaves the working class vote wide open to any party that is willing to grasp the opportunity. What next, then, for the working classes in the Post-Thatcher Consensus? UKIP? The Tories? Lib Dems? The People’s Assembly? Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below.


  1. The number of people who regard themselves as ‘working class’ has surely been in rapid decline for many years now. The traditional industries (shipbuilding, coal mining, manufacturing) which created the working class are all but gone now. Membership of unions such as Unite is still strong though, simply because politicians (both Conservative and New Labour to an extent) have stacked the odds very much in favour of the employers and if you are in a poorly paid job without much security, belonging to a Union is not some kind of statement of revolutionary socialist politics but just bloody common sense. So my take on this discussion would be to go back to first principles and ask if the working class actually exists anymore, and if it does, let’s get a working definition of it before proceeding.

    Labour pulled away from the Unions decades ago (with Blair’s modernising agenda), and the sideshow in Falkirk (for sideshow it really is), is simply being used by the right for political capital. Miliband is playing right into their hands by coming across all tough on the matter, forgetting that it was the Union votes which largely won him the leadership ahead of his brother who was perceived as more to the right.

    Incidentally, Margaret Thatcher’s first selection as a parllamentary candidate came about because the Chairman of the Conservative Association rigged the election by taking votes from the winning man and giving them to her.


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