White Trash in the UK: The revenge of the June 23, 2016 vote: Part I. Policies and the economy.

A central feature of the June 23, 2016 vote on whether or not to stay in the EU is that the poorer you were, the more you tended to vote Leave.[1]The so-called “nothing to lose” electorate voted heavily against membership: in descending order of income, white collar C1s lent to Leave by two points; two thirds of C2s voted to Leave, as did Ds. Unskilled workers, those dependent on state benefits, two thirds of council house and housing association tenants voted for Brexit. Poor voters, who had given up voting for years, turned out to give the largest ever democratic vote in UK history: 17.4 million to leave, as against 16.1 million to stay.[2]

In the flood of post-vote appraisals, a consensus soon crystallised that  mainstream political parties had failed for years to respond to deep-seated and long-standing problems.[3]The disagreements were over the reasons for this “peasants’ revolt” against the London-based élites of the country. We can cluster these differing explanations in four categories:

  • political parties had demonised the “nothing to lose” voters, the better to abandon them; [4]
  • Labour replaced class for identity politics, favouring immigrants over the native population;[5]
  • Utopian social engineering displaced the old, inherited ways, leaving natives defenceless in their own land; [6]
  • The vote of June 23 was a protest against neglect, not necessarily against the EU. [7]

One common distinction made has been the contrast between the strivers, and the skivers, the free riders on the back of the welfare state. Should policy be made for the strivers or should we be sympathetic to the skivers? The life of the skivers (people who refuse to work, and live.  off taxpayers) has been abundantly covered in a series of television documentaries, listed here and available on the internet: “Benefit Street”, “Benefits Britain”, “Life on the Dole”, “The Estate”, “Growing up Poor”, “Don’t cap my benefits”, “Benefits: 19 kids and counting”, “Shoplifters and Proud”.

How we got to where we are may be discussed in terms of policies since 1945; the culture wars that accompanied their evolution; and the subject of race, religion and immigration which became central to UK politics with the advent of a self-proclaimed “progressive” New Labour government in 1997. The common thread is that policy in the UK is a curious amalgam of utopian ideology and pragmatism, and the victory throughout is the law of unintended consequences.



The Labour party’s landslide victory in the 1945 general election marked a watershed for the United Kingdom. Hitherto,  British politics for centuries had been about limiting the power of the state. The civil war of the 1640s was fought between monarchy and parliament, and the 1688 Glorious Revolution was the long-lasting compromise, which laid the foundations for a constitutional monarchy, habeas corpus, a free press, trial by jury and the right of the electorate to sanction their lawmakers. The Glorious Revolution is the forebear of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, and of the Commonwealth of independent states, helped in to being by the Labour government. The landslide victory gave Labour the mandate to implement the party’s manifesto in favour of an ambitious programme of social reform. In the terse language of the manifesto, there would be no repeat of 1918, when after all the sacrifices of war, “the hard-nosed” men of business won the peace, and imposed their terms. After victory in the second war, the nation deserved better. “…it wants good food in plenty, useful work for all, and comfortable, labour – saving homes that take full advantage of the resources of modern science and productive industry. It wants a high and rising standard of living, security for all against a rainy day, an educational system that will give every boy and girl a chance to develop the best that is in them.” “There is no good reason, the manifesto commented, why Britain should not afford such programmes, but she will need full employment and the highest possible industrial efficiency in order to do so.”

As one historian of Labour’s plans has noted, while Great Britain faced a victorious Germany in 1940-41, “members of the British cultural élite had begun to busy themselves with design studies for a “New Jerusalem” to be built in Britain after the war was won. Selfish greed, the moral legacy of Victorian capitalism, would give way to Christian community, motivating men to work hard for the good of all. In this community the citizen would be cushioned against the stab of poverty by full employment, welfare grants and pensions-all provided by a beneficial state-from infancy to the end of earthly life. Universal free health care in elegant modern hospitals, and in health centres on the Swedish model would replace frim and run-down Victorian infirmaries and the ragged safety-netting of existing free medical services. The physical as well as the moral legacy of Victorian capitalism would be removed by slum clearance on the grand scale, and by transferring population from overcrowded conurbations to apartments standing in wide green spaces.” The “New Jerusalemers”, and the international moralisers of the inter-war years who had preached dis-armament in the face of the dictators, he adds, were drawn from the Labour and Liberal parties, from the small “l” liberal intelligentsia-“what may be called the “enlightened Establishment”. [8]

The enlightened British establishment is still with us. But Britain and the British have changed profoundly since 1945, as may be traced by examining public policies affecting demography, housing, welfare provision and the economy.


A principal driver of change has been population growth: in 1945, the UK population stood at 49.2 million, rising to 52 million by 1960, to 56 million by 1980, and  66 million by 2018.[9]Life expectancy rose a full 21 years for males between 1930 and 2010, and a near equivalent  20 years for women from 62.9 years in 1930 to 82.8 years by 2010. This enormous increase in life expectancy is due to health improvements for the young, such as childhood immunisation and health improvements for older people, notably heart treatment. Population increases reached their peak during the 1960s, the years of the baby boom; fertility rates fell off in the 1970s, and then picked up into the new century. The UK population is the largest ever.

A number of trends are worth noting.

  • The total fertility rate-the average number of children per woman- stood at 2.95 children per woman in the 1960s, and has fallen to 1.92 by 2017, below the replacement rate-required for births to balance out deaths-at 1.92 children per woman.
  • Total fertility rate of foreign born mothers in the UK stands in 2011 at 2.09 per woman, compared to a total fertility rate of 1.76 for UK born women.
  • The population aged 0-14 years has halved over the past century (from 31% in 1911 to 18% in 2011), while the over 65s have trebled (from 5 to 16%) over the same period.
  • Asa result of the ageing population the old age dependency ratio (OADR) is increasing. The OADR- the number of people over 65 years old for every 1,000 people aged between 16 and 64 years old – stood in mid-2016 at 285. This is broadly comparable to that of other European nations.

A number of observations may be made with regard to these trends.

The first is that the 2011 census reports that 87.2% of the British population is still overwhelmingly white; it is far from being “multicultural”.

Second, the heritage of rest the of the population is Indian  (2%);  Pakistani (1.8%; Black Caribbean 1.2%; Black African (1%); Bangla Deshi (0.6%); Chinese 0.4%.

Third, immigration has shot up from about 50,000 a year in the 1990s to a net figure of 200,000 per annum since 1998, when new Labour opened the door wide to immigration. By 2017, 14.3% of the UK population were born abroad, 3.7 million from the EU, and 5.5 million from non-EU sources.

Fourth, while immigration played a major role in the June 23, 2016 referendum, it is worth noting that over the years 2009-2013, on annual average, 195,800 people had been granted UK citizenship. The main countries of immigration were: India, Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Nepal, China, South Africa, Poland, and Somalia. Only Poland is a member of the EU.

Fifth, at the current rate, the UK population will be up by 10 million around 2035: 85% of the population growth since 2000 is due to immigration, and birth to foreign parents.

Finally, a cluster of significant factors may be listed: 90% of immigrants go to England, 5% to Scotland; immigration figures are understated, judged by the number of National Insurance numbers issued at over 600,000 per annum since 2004, largely accounted for by the flow in and out of the UK labour market from EU member states; EU migrants make up 6.8% of the UK workforce; and the UK workforce of just under 40 million is 34 million white, with 6 million from other ethnic groups. About 8.9 million of working age are inactive, the highest rate of inactivity being recorded by Pakistani and Bangla Deshi women.


A central feature of Labour’s 1945 manifesto was housing, one of the greatest tests “to put the nation first”, the manifesto declared. Prime Minister Attlee charged Aneurin Bevan with the task.  A New Towns Act in 1946, followed in 1947 by a Town and Country Planning Act, gave extensive powers including compulsory purchase and planning approval, to publicly financed corporations and local authorities. The state, not the market, would allocate scarce resources in the service of the nation. The vision for the new housing estates, in the words of Bevan, would be one where “the working man, the doctor and the clergyman will live in close proximity one to another”.

In fact, the rapid expansion of housing had been a major success story during the interwar years. The total housing stock in England and Wales was 7.6 million in 1911, rising to 8 million in 1921, to 9.4 million in 1931 and 11.3 million at the outbreak of war in 1939. In Prime Minister Lloyd George’s 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act, local governments were required to start building “homes for heroes” to replace slums. Housing specifications were set to a high standard, and government subsidies provided. For the first time, working people experienced indoor toilets, hot running water, gardens and electric lights. One of the major longer term effects of this policy was to confirm home ownership as an ideal, rising from 15% of people who owned their own home prior to 1914; to 32% by 1938, and 67% by 1996.

There was an urgency to Bevan’s housing drive. Over half a million homes had been destroyed during the war. Materials, builders and finance were in short supply. It took until the 1950s, and Conservative government, for house building to regain the pre-1939 rate. Both major parties competed for the popular vote in terms of quantity, sometimes at the expense of quality. Council houses, built by local authorities, were built on council estates, as often as not former farm land. From the 1950s, blocks of flats and three-or four storey blocks of maisonettes were built. By 1979, 42% of Britons lived in council houses or flats.

Over time, however, the dream turned sour. First, both parties subscribed to the idea of “slum clearance”, which  had the effect of breaking up the ties of kinship that had sustained families in what planners called “slums”, and relocated them to out-of-town housing estates, where-with the help of television-families turned inwards to their own households, or were dispersed and isolated from friends and neighbours.  [10]

Secondly, the rise of modernist architecture, the development of pre-fabrication methods, and the ambition of local governments to retain populations for tax purposes, allowed for a rapid increase in units. The peak decade for high rise building was the 1960s, to the point that by the end of the decade there was a surplus of dwellings. Tower blocks developed a plethora of architectural and social problems, and became deeply unpopular.[11]

Third, and from the start of Lloyd George’s plans for “homes for heroes”, housing became politicised. Liberals, then Labour, gave preference to local government in terms of their powers and finance available; the Conservatives preferred channeling funds to private builders. Labour championed public housing available to all, while Harold MacMillan saw council housing as a “stepping stone to home ownership”. [12]In 1951, Bevan’s vision of council housing as the provision of affordable homes for all, was changed to the concept of homes primarily for thje “needy”. In the longer run, this definition have discretion to public officials in defining what was “needy”, helping to convert council estates into problem areas characterized by crime and welfare dependency.

Matters came to a head in the 1970s, as Labour’s 1945 model for the country unraveled, the far left penetrated the Labour party, strikes proliferated, and local government housing became a stake in fierce competition between the main parties. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in his autobiography, from the perspective of a jaundiced Trotskyite on the way to becoming a political liberal, “Labour had become a status quo party, hostile to the union with Europe, suspicious of technological innovation, inward looking and envious”.[13]

The Thatcher government took an axe to the patronage that local government had acquired as managers of council estates, and launched the Right to Buy legislation, whereby council tenants were given the right to buy their council house at a discount. The policy was immensely popular. In 1988 , legislation encouraged the transfer of council housing to not-for-profit housing associations. These associations became providers of new public housing, as local authority building dwindled. By the decade of 2010, there were approximately 23 millions dwellings in Englandf, if which 63% were owner-occupied, 20% were privately rented, and 17% were public housing. [14]

Public housing became the social repository for the needy, rather than the cross-class living spaces, envisioned by Bevan. As Owen Jones points out, nearly 50% of social housing is located in the poorest fifth of neighbourshoods in the country. And as Lynsey Hanley argues in her book, Estates: An Intimate History,estates have become undesirable places for the underclass. It is this class that is targeted by the various “anti-social behavior” initiatives undertaken by the Blair governments. And it was largely from these estates that the surge in the Leave vote came on June 23, 2016. Not least, it was the working people of England-in Luton, Leeds, Blackburn,Sheffield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rotherham, Newcastle, Oxford, orthe East End of London-who lived uneasily alongside the new immigrants from the sub-continent and of Muslim faith.

The welfare state.

The story of health in the UK since 1945 is better than housing, but the welfare state has developed far beyond what its creators anticipated. Large fractions of the population have become dependent on benefits and services, which themselves require high taxation levels for which consent is lacking, and that the economy sustains with difficulty, and as often as not through debt.

The  roots of the British welfare state may be traced to reports by prominent members of the dissenting churches, indicating that up to one third of the population in the country’s large industrial cities were living below subsistence. Initial reforms were introduced under the Liberal government of 1906-1914, extended piecemeal during the inter-war years, and received widespread popular support as the state acquired near total control over the lives of citizens during the second world war. Full employment was to be ensured through Keynesian economic policies, free secondary education, and the introduction of family allowances; the Beveridge Report of 1942 recommended a flat rate insurance scheme which would finance health care, unemployment and retirement benefits. While these ideas hailed from the diminished ranks of the Liberal party, the beneficiary proved to be the Labour party, which  campaigned on the promise of providing for the people of the United Kingdom “from the cradle to the grave”- a slightly different proposition from which risk was transferred from individuals and families, to the broad shoulders of the state.

Health was the cornerstone of Labour’s welfare state. In the landslide victory of 1945, Clement Attlee appointed Aneurin Bevan Minister of Health, in addition to his remit for housing.“The best health services, the manifesto declared,  should be available free for all. Money must no longer be the passport to the best treatment.” Bevan launched the NHS on July 5, 1948, with three core principles at its heart: that it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinal need, not on ability to pay.

Its  structure, though, was the result of a tremendous policy battle, fought out between a Bevan determined to lay the foundations for his service, and the medical profession which was positively hostile to the dismantlement of the previous system of localized charitable and private provision. The deal entailed Bevan ceding significant powers to the medical profession in terms of the running of the service. The result was a tripartite structure: hospitals acquired responsibility for the running of the new service, as the medical profession had demanded; primary care was provided by general practitioners; local authorities, previously the prime providers, were left in charge of residual public health and other duties. By contrast to previous standards of British social administration, and to European health systems, the NHS was from inception highly centralized.

With the widening of the state’s responsibilities, expenditures rose sharply. In addition to the central services of education, health, unemployment benefits, sickness allowances, and a state pension, the welfare state begat up to 50 different benefits (disability allowance, pension credits, rent rebates, jobseekers allowance, incapacity benefit, housing benefit.. alongside redistributive taxation, and the regulation of business, food, and housing. The rhetoric of Clement Attlee’s Labour was firmly towards investment and exports, but the longer term evolution of the UK’s budget structure has been away from investment, and firmly in the direction of consumption.

The trend may be seen by comparing the budget structure of 1950 and 2010. Defense at the outbreak of the Korean war was over 10% gdp; education was 4.2% gdp; welfare was 3%; health care was 2.6%, and pensions were 2%. By 2010, defense was just over 2% gdp, health care and state pensions were at 7.6% gdp;  welfare accounted for 7.2% gdp, and education received 5.8% gdp. The size of the claimant population may be gauged by the over 16 million in receipt of a Christmas allowance, the 12.8 million recipients of a basic state pension, or the 12.2 million in receipt of a winter fuel allowance. [15]

Two consequences flow from this budget structure: the first is that spending on infrastructure has been consistently below the UK’s G7 competitors;[16]the second is that the UK is prone to run government deficits, given that politicians are incentivized by regular elections to promise jam today, and put off repayments for tomorrow. Following the 2008 crash, government debt has moved back up from below 30% gdp to 85% gdp, with interest payments at 2.5 times that of expenditure on transport.

With such an expansive and growing public spend on welfare-with health at its heart-, the NHS unsurprisingly has been politicised from the start.  Martin Gorsky, in a review of the NHS’ historiography, encapsulates the debate in the following manner:[17]“Almost from the outset the NHS has acted as a lightening conductor for ideological fissure, for some an incarnation of social solidarity and distributional justice, for others the epitome of inflexible bureaucracy and paternalism.” “The state’s role in medical care, the author continues,  has shifted from an expression of social solidarity and public service to a means of satisfying the preferences of increasingly ‘autonomous’ patients”- a development fiercely contested by those who consider that Bevan’s original model “de-commodified the medical labour process, placing an ethos of service above that of profit”.

The nub of the debate over the NHS, and of successive efforts at reform, has been over the contention that the service has suffered from cumulative underfunding throughout its existence. The target of this criticism is the Conservatives, who kept NHS spending under wraps in the 1950s, while the catalogue of reforms to promote the “internal market” in the 1980s all stemmed from the decision to squeeze inputs.[18]An alternative narrative focuses on the relationship between funding and productivity: more funding of the NHS does not necessarily lead to greater productivity (a notoriously problematic concept to measure with regard to health services).[19]

How may the NHS’ performance be judged on its seventieth anniversary? Definitely, as recorded, citizens are living much longer, and public health has by all accounts considerably improved. Income is no barrier to treatment. But there are evident challenges. In 1948, when the NHS was set up, international trade and exchanges were minimal; in 2018, the world economy is highly integrated. In considerable part due to the NHS, the population lives much longer. But an ageing population costs more, as do drugs and social care; the NHS faces giant corporate providers from the pharmaceutical or medical instrument industries; health expenditure has grown at  3-4% per annum since 1948, in excess of the economy’s secular growth rates; the service has an appetite for funding, answered by New Labour’s (1997-2010) raising annual average growth in expenditure to 7% per annum. The investment yielded rising staff numbers, PFI-driven infrastructure growth, falling waiting times and improved disease-specific mortality rates. But the 2008 global crash resulted in a return to Conservative government, a sharp reduction in health care expenditure,and the burdening of hospital finances due to poorly negotiated PFI contracts. The inter-action of recession and British politics fed through to the June 23, 2016 referendum result to Leave the EU.

The economy.

1945 was not a “Stunde Nul” (zero hour), as it was taken to be in Germany. The UK exited victorious from the world war in 1945 as the second world industrial power. Japan and Germany had been laid waste, while Joseph Stalin knowingly concealed the enormous losses in men and materiél from the war in order to conceal just how weakened the Soviet Union was. [20]

Here is Will Hutton on the UK’s “unsung years of economic success” between 1930 and 1950.Sterling’s devaluation in 1931, enabled the Bank of England to peg the bank rate at 2% for the two decades. Commonwealth markets were protected; governments lent long-term to the staple cotton, shipbuilding and steel industries. Alongside them, a cluster of new companies sprung up, “driving Britain to global leadership in radar, artificial rubber, nylon, magnetron valves, early computers and jet engines..” This success, Hutton argues, was the product of a“publicly-led ecosystem, embracing scientific research, education and supportive business/finance relationships”.

But the UK also exited from the war massively in debt to the United States. By the end of the conflict, the UK’s debt amounted to 230% gdp. Ninety per cent of the Marshall Aid received by the UK went on debt repayment, whereas in Germany the funds went directly into investment. In 1953, the allies decided at the London Conference to sharply reduce German war debts, which gave a further fillip to the German economy, running since 1948 on free market principles under the direction of Ludwig Erhardt. There was plenty to reconstruct at home; western markets were opened to German goods as part of the cold war strategy to ensure that the new Federal Republic was bound by multiple strands into the western alliance; and 12 million Germans, fleeing from the Soviet sphere of influence, swelled the workforce. By contrast, the UK agreed to repay the US in 50 annual tranches, starting in 1950. The final debt was settled in 2006.

Seen in this light, the UK’s economic performance was respectable. Manufacturing, accounting for 48% of gdp in 1950, grew at an average annual rate of 3.1% over the next two decades. In historical terms this was high. But many other advanced countries performed better. Comparison generated a bulging literature on why the UK was “falling behind”. Plenty of reasons were cited: low productivity, overmanning, under-investment, inter-union rivalries, poor management,  the lack of competition in labour and product markets; nationalization of large swathes of industry, featherbedding of failing companies, toleration of militant trade unions, inflationary growth policies. The lesson common to all was that foreigners did things better.[21]

Amid all the axe-grinding, it was incontrovertible that the UK lost market share. In 1950, the UK held 38% of world market share in shipbuilding; it dropped to 16% in 1960; and was down at 3.6% by 1975. The same pattern occurred in steel: 15% of world market share in 1950; 8% in 1960; and 5.2% in 1971. The same occurred in textiles, machine tools and notably in automobiles. [22]With the UK’s propensity to import on the rise, and regular balance of payments crises occasioned by runs on the pound sterling, the UK became locked into a cycle of low growth when compared to many of the other advanced economies. This was the context in which Prime Minister Edward Heath, backed by Roy Jenkins from Labour, took the UK into the then EEC. Membership would unleash, it was hoped, the cold winds of competition on the cobwebbed British manufacturing sector.

The expectation proved false. As soon as the UK joined the EEC, all advanced industrial economies were struck in varied ways by “stagflation”-high levels of inflation along with high levels of unemployment. Manufacturing continued to stagnate in the UK, growing at 0.4% annually between 1973 and 2007; [23]by contrast, Germany’s annual growth in manufacturing output steamed on at a steady pace of 2.1% gdp. The one bright spot for the UK was the rapid rise over the 1980s in annual productivity rates at 2.9%, accompanied by a surge in investment rates. Given the slow growth in output and the rapid rise in productivity, the jobs in manufacturing dropped from over 7 million in the 1970s, or 25% of all jobs to  2.7 million jobs, or 8% of total employment in 2016. Even so, total manufacturing output stood at twice the output of 1958, and exports in manufacturing in 2016 were at a record high. [24]

They were dwarfed by the UK’s global earnings from the export of services. By the early 2000s, the UK’s foreign debt was down to 29% gdp. London ranked as the world’s prime financial market location; the UK had a thriving entrepreneurial culture; it ranked among the world’s top ten most business friendly territories; 80% of employment was in the broad category of services The main source of income from the export of services was global, not European. The UK, too, hosted about 1.24 trillion Euros of inward direct investment, about half from other members of the EU.[25] The  flip side of London’s global success, and the UK’s transformation into a primarily service economy, is twofold:

  • the economy proved to be highly vulnerable to the financial crash of 2008, which accelerated an explosion of debt due to a combination of generous welfare funding and bank bailouts;
  • the South East of England had per capita income 160-180% above the EU average, and was home to 27% of the UK population.[26]By contrast, citizens in the rest of the UK had per capita income well below the EU average.

Interim conclusions.

In what ways has this policy record contributed to the widespread sense in the UK that the poorer you were, the less you had to lose-the “white trash” phenomenon, so-called because the poorest parts of the population clearly felt that they counted for nothing, and that the June 23 2016 referendum to Remain or Leave presented once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to  register their discontent. The argument in favour of the poor having the vote is spelt out in Amatyr Sen’s book, Development in Freedom, Oxford University Press, 1998. Without the vote, the poor can never make their concerns heard in the halls of the governors, the student of famines argues. I recommend that readers of the FT, who in the comment columns label Leave voters as ignorant, racist ignoramuses, take the time to read, learn and inwardly digest this book.

There are a number of points to be made about Britain’s “white trash”-its poorer citizens. First, and as indicated, the UK came out of the war as the second industrial country in the world, with a plethora of high technologies, an extensive industrial base with the potential from relatively low levels of efficiency compared to the US. Nationalisation of large swathes of industry was a disaster: it helped preserved inefficiencies, went along with the failure of successive governments to bring labour relations under the law, and led to large scale loss of global market shares from the 1950s on. Owen Jones’ view in his book, Chavs, that the Thatcher governments created an underclass, parked in social housing on estates, is simply misleading. The rot started in the 1940s.

Second, the enlightened British establishment has consistently sought to create a “New Jerusalem” in Britain’s green and pleasant land. The means employed was by social engineering, but without thinking through the implications. Nationalisation did not turn out the panacea that its authors expected; nor did marketisation of the economy in the 1980s, chosen as a desperate method to escape the stagnation resulting from the decay of 1945 Labour’s hopes. The economy did growth faster than ever before into the 1960s, but the welfare state grew faster, as did government’s propensity to deficit spending, inflation and devaluation. After the departure of Prime Minister Thatcher, governments turned back to a kinder, gentler capitalism, measured in terms of the explosion of dependents on government benefits, which mushroomed as politicians competed to be nice .

Third, we have referred to a number of top down policies, which as is the wont of top down policies, had unintended consequences. Centralisation of powers and policy initiatives has been a characteristic of the UK since the wars taught that the state, being able to successfully run a war, perhaps would succeed also in creating a more just society. Take for instance, “slum clearance”. Working class families, which sustained each other in the “slums” were dispersed in new estates or high rise buildings, thereby dissolving the old social networks. Bevan’s hostility to preserving a strong local government role in medicine ensured that the NHS would be more centralised than those in other western European countries.  Definitely, the NHS’ funding via tax contributions rather than by social insurance contributions ensured basic health access to the poorest in the land, and it is also true that the labour market in the UK has not been distorted by placing the cost of funding public health costs on labour, thereby driving up the cost of labour. But the cost has been politicisation of a vital public policy, and the tendency for blame to be placed on central government, rather than to disperse praise and blame across a more de-centralised polity.

Fourth, centralisation has led to a two-tier economy and society: to simplify, rich London, and poorer restUK. Policy, on housing, on health, on immigration, on the economy, carries on, and voters vote for this or that party,  but things seem not to change. 1945 Labour was a class based party: its leaders largely came from working families, who wanted to create a more just society. Post-war Conservatives shared many of these views, but tended to aspire to a revival of the older, de-centralised British constitution. But Labour in the 1970s dropped class politics for identity politics, and in 1998 opened the gates wide to immigration, mainly from the sub-continent and later from eastern Europe. This was an extremely foolish step: as pointed out, 87% of the UK population is native, white British. In this open door policy on immigration, Labour was abetted by the Conservative governments of 2010-18, who talked control of immigration but in effect presided over unprecedented inflows.

All of the above factors-state/market efforts to provide an efficient economy to support the welfare state; “New Jerusalem” thinking that turned sour in the face of uncomfortable realities; over-centralisation; the espousal of mass immigration the better to provide an ever expanding cheap workforce, or the better to pursue “identity” politics( ie race politics by another name)-all these contributed to the growth of deep resentment among Britain’s “white trash”. There can be no doubt that they voted in their droves on June 23, 2016 in order to enjoy the moment of giving “the establishment”/London/the toffs/the enlightened liberal leadership of the UK, one gigantic kick up the backside. These policy results are a necessary, but not sufficient explanation. Top down social engineering also fundamentally changed the UK’s culture. Part II, and Part III  will be on the UK’s culture wars.

[1]Lord Ashcroft, How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday, Friday 24 June, 2016.

[2]Michael Ashcroft, Kevin Culwich, Well, you did ask…Why the UK voted to Leave, Biteback, 2016.

[3]Robert Ford, Matthew Goodwin, Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain, Routledge, 2014.

[4] Owen Jones, Chavs : The Demonisation of the Working Class, Verso, 2016.

[5]David Abbott, Dark Albion : A Requiem for the English, Sparrow Books, 2013.

[6]Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Britain : from Lady Chatterley to Tony Blair, Quartet Books,1999 ; The Abolition of Liberty : The Decline of order and Justice in England,Atlantic Books, 2003.

[7]Will Hutton, Andrew Adonis, Saving Britain: How we must change to prosper in Europe, Abacus, 2018.

[8]Corelli Barnett, The Audit of War: The Illusion & Reality of Britain as a Great Nation, Macmillan, 1990. p.11.

[9]Office of National Stattistics (ONS) UK Population Estimates 1851-2014, September 2014 ; UK 2011 Census ; ONS, Overview of the UK population, July 2017.

[10]Michael Young, Peter Wilmott, Family and Kinship in East London, first published in 1954.

[11]John J. Parkinson-Bailey Manchester: an Architectural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2000 pp.194-195.

[12]Hanley, Lynsey Estates : an intimate history (New ed.). Granta,  2012 , p.92.

[13]Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22 : A Memoir, Atlantic Books, 2011, p.202.

[14]Department for Communities and Local Government, Dwelling Stock Eestimates, 2014.

[15]Andrew Hood, Agnes Norris Keiller, A Survey of the UK Benefit System, IFS 2016.

[16]House of Commons Library, Infrastructure Policies and Investment, https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06594#fullreport

[17]Martin Gorsky, The British NHS 1948-2008: A Review of the Historiography, Social History of Medicine, Vol 21, Issue 3, December 1, 2008. Pp.437-460.

[18]Charles Webster The National Health Service: A Political History. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2002

[19]John Appleby, Government Funding of the UK National Health Service: What Does the Historical Record Reveal? Journal of Health Services Research and Policy. 1999;4:79–89.


[20]On the subject of Stalin’s concealment, the writings of David Holloway,Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939–1956, Yale University Press, 1994.


[21]The classic in this style was Andrew Schonfield, Modern Capitalism: The Changing Balance of Public and Private Power,Oxford University press, 1966.Shonfield’s argument that planning allows public authority to control and direct private enterprise without taking ownership of it as the socialists proposed made him one of the better-known advocates of a mixed economy. He was foreign editor of the Financial Times,a Labour party sympathiser,  and director of studies and director of Chatham House.

[22]Figures cited in Geoffrey Owen, From Empire to Europe : The Decline and Revival of British Industry Since the Second World War, HarperCollins, 1999.

[23]Michael Kitson, Jonathan Michie, The Deindustrial Revolution : The Rise and Fall of UK Manufacturing. 1870-2007. Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge Working Paper No. 459

[24]PWC, The Future of UK Manufacturing : Reports of its death greatly exagerated, April 2009 ; Chris Rhodes, House of Commons, Briefing paper No 10942, 2 January 2018. Manufacturing: Statistics and Policy.

[25]CEP BREXIT ANALYSIS No. 3 The impact of Brexit on foreign investment in the UK, April 2016.

[26][26][26]Simon Tilford, Brexit Britain: the poor man of Western Europe?Centre for European Reform, 2016.

About Jonathan Story, Professor Emeritus, INSEAD

Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD in 1974, he worked in Brussels and Washington, where he obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has held the Marusi Chair of Global Business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Schoold of Business, Fordham University, New York. He is preparing a monograph on China’s impact on the world political economy, and another on a proposal for a contextual approach to business studies. He has a chapter forthcoming on the Euro crisis. His latest book is China UnCovered: What you need to know to do business in China, (FT/ Pearson’s, 2010) (www.chinauncovered.net) His previous books include “China: The Race to Market” (FT/Pearsons, 2003), The Frontiers of Fortune, (Pitman’s, 1999); and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe : The Battle of the Systems,(MIT Press, 1998) on monetary union and financial markets in the EU, and co-authored with Ingo Walter of NYU. His books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. He is also a co-author in the Oxford Handbook on Business and Government(2010), and has contributed numerous chapters in books and articles in professional journals. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, and has been four times winner of the European Case Clearing House “Best Case of the Year” award. His latest cases detail hotel investments in Egypt and Argentina, as well as a women’s garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and a Chinese auto parts producer. He teaches courses on international business and the global political economy. At the INSEAD campus, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, he has taught European and world politics, markets, and business in the MBA, and PhD programs. He has taught on INSEAD’s flagship Advanced Management Programme for the last three decades, as well as on other Executive Development and Company Specific courses. Jonathan Story works with governments, international organisations and multinational corporations. He is married with four children, and, now, thirteen grandchildren. Besides English, he is fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, reads Portuguese and is learning Russian. He has a bass voice, and gives concerts, including Afro-American spirituals, Russian folk, classical opera and oratorio.
This entry was posted in United Kingdom, World politics, business and economics, World war and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to White Trash in the UK: The revenge of the June 23, 2016 vote: Part I. Policies and the economy.

  1. philipparees says:

    Brilliant erudite and informed analysis! Why are you not running the country? Perhaps singing is more rewarding?


  2. Thanks, Philippa. I should have entitled it Part I. Part II will be about cultural changes. all the best


  3. Jim K says:

    Absolutely riveting and scholarly analysis of who we are plus why and how……..please publish parts one and two in book form so I can saturation bomb my opponents on social media….


  4. Many thanks. Have to find out about publishing.


  5. Pingback: Brexit and the British Constitution: Part V. Modernisation or Vandalism? | Writing about history, politics & economics

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