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‘The working class are twisted and it’s our job to untwist them!’

‘It is our responsibility as socialists to untwist the working class’, a somewhat bemused Cllr Stuart Craft was informed at an Oxford Trades Council meeting just before Christmas.

Stuart was fulfilling a long-standing invitation to address the Trades Council to explain his reasons for opposing the promotion of diversity, commonly known as multiculturalism. It may not come as a surprise to learn the evening did not end on a note of mutual admiration and respect.

The uncomfortable silence which greeted the IWCA representative’s speech was followed with half an hour of hystrical reaction. Appearing to foam at the mouth a little at what he considered Stuart’s audacity in quoting (and reclaiming) James Connolly, a delegate immediately denounced him for omitting to mention that “Connolly was actually a trade unionist and a socialist!”

This set the tone with the next delgate doing his best to ensure that genuine debate on the issue was avoided by raising the smokescreen: “Stuart Craft claims racism doesn’t exist” while a colleague, missing the point entirely, chipped in to claim: “This is a veiled attack on political correctness!”

However it was the Chair’s intervention that genuinely teetered on the edge of bizarre. He first produced an anecdote about a ‘black friend’ of his who was supposedly racially assaulted on Blackbird Leys “and not one white neighbour stepped in to help”. The probable inference here being that Blackbird Leys is a hotbed of racism, which in his mind helped explain why the IWCA rather than New Labour is the largest party on the estate.

After similar fare from the floor in which everyone in the room seemed to ‘have a friend’ who lives in Blackbird Leys’, the Chair summed up the feeling of the meeting as follows. “The working class is twisted and it is our job as socialists, to untwist them.” These sentiments received unnanimous support from the assembled delegates. It’s almost as if the 20th century had passed them by. Yet, unfortunately, this type of antipathy to the working class is not restricted to the cobwebbed committee of a provincial Trades Council.

In an interview with the Guardian on November 1 2007, playwright Jimmy McGovern was asked if he was ‘obsessed with the working class’, as if in writing about the lives that the majority of us in the country lead, he was guilty of focusing on some obscure minority. His reply was instructive.

“No. I would say that isn’t right – I’ve written about kings and queens. The first thing I did, apart from Brookside, was a play about Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet. But I do like writing about the British working class. I saw what the intellectual left really thought of the white working class: they hated us, despised us, so I wanted to write about that.”

And as the Oxford Trades Council have so ably demonstrated, not just the ‘intellectual left’ either.

*After the meeting the former President of Oxford Trades Council, Dona Velluti announced that she had decided to join the IWCA.

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