For a over a decade now, 'class' has been something of a swearword in British politics. The government seldom talks about class, preferring terms such as 'hardworking families' and â€˜social exclusion'. Some commentators have argued that this has been part of a broader strategy to woo middle class voters and occupy the political centre, which has come at the cost of alienating core working-class voters.
Recently, however, class has been making its way back onto the political and public agenda. This is because the white working class have legitimate issues and grievances which must be discussed and debated. But there is a danger that a muted and repressed debate on class could be counterproductive and harmful.
This is why Runnymede asked eight prominent thinkers on race, class and inequality to reflect on the state of class in 21st century Britain, and its relationship with race equality. The running theme throughout the volume - entitled Who Cares about the White Working Class? - is that the plight of the white working class is constructed - by the media, politicians and anti-immigrant groups - as either the fault of immigrants and minority ethnic groups, or the cultural deficit of the underclass itself, or both, while leaving the hierarchical and highly stratified nature of Britain out of the equation. It is Runnymede's hope that the papers will shed some light on the relationship between class and race equality. Our aim is to initiate a dialogue to ensure that a re-emergence of class onto the political agenda will not feed divisions, but promote equality for all.