Burnley illustrates that there are still “Two Nations” in Britain.

The Blame culture in Burnley

If we look at the key determinants of social advantage and disadvantage we can see why the inhabitants of towns like Burnley struggle. These are:





When Disraeli described Britain. In his novel “Sybil” in 1845 he said this:

“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws . . . . THE RICH AND THE POOR.”

As David Aaronovitch says in today’s “The Times” poverty is the problem because it leads to institutionalised disadvantage. Race also plays a part with young Asians in many cases achieving better academic results than poor whites. Perhaps this leads to scapegoating and racism – a blame culture in which the disadvantaged whites’ target is those in parts of the more educationally successful Asian community.

But let’s not ignore the determinant of “Class” either. Disraeli’s “Two Nations” were, and still are, created by class differences. Disraeli was writing long before the 20th century’s growth of the middle class. The classes he identified were on the one hand the rich ruling class , often (but not exclusively) aristocrats. These were being augmented in the “Haves” category by Victorian entrepreneurs – the beneficiaries through their own efforts of the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, the “Have Nots”, were the dirt poor working classes exploited after they had been lured to the Manufacturing towns of which Burnley was typical.

The shocking, but true, thing in my previous paragraph is my statement that class creates the “Two Nations” today as much as it did in 1845. Today the division is between the middle classes, with their better education, better healthcare and significantly better opportunities, and the rest. Class and wealth are, of course, firmly correlated. The postcodes with the more expensive houses have the better schools – it’s as simple as that. And race and class are correlated as well. The discrimination against blacks that is driving the “Black Lives Matter” movement is in part because the overwhelmingly white middle classes are in charge. And they tend to hire in their own image.

When Tony Blair said that his three priorities were “Education, Education, Education” he was no doubt as sincere as he was right. The Asians of Burnley know this and many work the system and encourage the children. The poor white children of poor white parents do this rather less. And the system struggles to intervene.

The Welfare State is sometimes accused of creating an entitlement society which can lead to the passive idea that it is somebody else’s (usually the state’s) role to solve problems. If this is perceived not to happen the blame culture cuts in. Where wealth or class actively seeks to pursue advantage those who remain passive get left behind. And stay poor. It is then that they seek someone to blame. “Immigrants”. “Muslims”. “Foreigners”. The “European SuperState”. “Centrists”. “Neo-Liberals”. “Remainers” .

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