‘using an isolated act of barbarism to demonise our working-class communities’

I should declare an interest here in that Brislington is currently the area of Bristol I live in. (I am leaving Bristol for good next weekend anyone who wants a brew I’ll be at the Cockney Rejects gig Friday and Chris’/Captain Hotknives one at The Sugar Loaves on Saturday). But yes Brislington like all the other parts of Bristol, London and Stroud I have lived in is a mixed bag in all regards and using this tragic murder to make sweeping condemnations is absurd. What a shame that it has taken David Skelton, a Tory to point this self-evident fact out:

”Over the past few days, we’ve heard more details about the unspeakable murder of a disabled Iranian man in Bristol. Some commentators, such as Dan Hodges, have used the circumstances around the terrible crime to besmirch Britain’s working-class communities. His Telegraph blog post says that the killing of Bijan Ebrahimi “has exposed the other side of working-class Britain. The intolerance. The suspicion of distinctiveness. The naked hatred of anything, and anyone, that dares not conform”.

It’s a cheap shot – and a cheap shot that is backed up by no evidence.

The blog post is happy to brandish the wildly inaccurate stereotype that working-class communities are somehow hives of bigotry, or have a “rancid” and “regressive” culture, as Hodges puts it. That’s simply not true and there’s plenty of evidence to prove it. Inter-racial relationships are much more common in working-class areas and working-class people are much more likely to live and work with people of a different race than people living in middle-class areas

True, there are understandable concerns about uncontrolled immigration in these communities, linked to the impact on wages, jobs and housing rather than any kind of prejudice, but that is a concern that is spread across class groups.

There’s also no evidence of this “naked hatred” when it comes to homosexuality. A 2011 poll for BritainThinks found that 76 per cent of working-class people believed that gay people should have exactly the same rights as heterosexuals. That figure was only 70 per cent for middle-class voters. Successive polls also showed strong support for equal marriage among working-class voters, with an Ipsos Mori survey showing that the strongest level of support for gay marriage was among the skilled working-class.

With the tossing around of unfair and inaccurate stereotypes about working-class life is it any wonder that many working-class voters have become disengaged from politics and feel unrepresented in the media? Only 57 per cent of unskilled working-class voters voting in 2010, compared to 76 per cent of middle-class voters.

Some commentators are all too eager to take gruesome and disturbing crimes such as this one or the Shannon Matthews case (which horrified the entire community) to unfairly tar everybody living in working-class areas with the same brush. And the lack of working-class voices in the media means this is more often dystopian anthropology than anything based on experience or the facts on the ground. You get the feeling that these commentators wouldn’t react in the same way to a murder in the leafier parts of Hampstead.

This was a thoroughly shocking, disturbing and barbaric crime. If you listen to interviews with people who live in the area, they’re as shocked by it as everybody else. People are outraged by this murder, regardless of their social class. One local resident said that, “it [the murder] was disgusting. The whole community is in shock.”

It’s simply wrong to use an isolated act of barbarism to demonise our working-class communities.

Grim crimes happen in upper-class, middle-class and working-class areas and examples of intolerance aren’t unique to one class. What’s clear is that the vast majority of working-class people are decent, tolerant and utterly horrified by this atrocity and others like it. Dan Hodges is ignoring this in pursuit of controversy – his slander of working-class Britain is both offensive and misguided.”

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