Musings of a Working-Class White Boy

Christopher Worrall
14 min readJan 22, 2019

Hello,

And welcome to my first blog post.

In this introductory piece I will cover the following to whet your appetite before encouraging you to become a voracious reader of my future political musings:

Who am I? Why am I blogging? What am I going to be blogging about? Who am I writing for and what are my blogging goals?

Top Left | Late Teens | Top Right | Early Twenties | Bottom Left Mid Twenties (27)| Bottom Right Late Twenties (29)

WHO AM I?

My name is Christopher Worrall and I am a 30 year old male from London. By profession I am an Investment and Finance Manager for a Real Estate Private Equity Developer. Qualifications I hold include an MPhil in Real Estate Finance from the University of Cambridge, a First-Class honour’s degree in Project Management for Construction from UCL, and a HND in Construction from the College of North West London.

Outside of work some of my other interests include housing - Board member of a specialist housing association for vulnerable women and their families, economics, Everton FC, the Labour Party, community activism - Chair of my local Residents and Tenants Association in Bow, and the development of young working-class people.

Thank you card from tutoring on behalf of The Access Project. You can volunteer yourself from as little of one hour of your time per week to help kids from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their full potential by clicking here.

WHY AM I BLOGGING?

I have decided to start this blog to share my views with you on current affairs and politics from the perspective of a working-class white man having more or less successfully navigated the class struggle. As I sit here in my shared ownership flat in Bromley-by-Bow in East London I see UK politics polarising right before my eyes. The context in which I view the world is as a person who is forever grateful to the last Labour government for the opportunities it has provided me.

WHAT AM I BLOGGING ABOUT?

In my first blog I want to tell you about my personal journey of progression, primarily achieved because of such educational opportunity. Under the New Labour Experiment it was possible for a TN cap wearing, tattoo sporting, Escort GTi driving, sovereign ring wearing, two hoops in one ear, ‘Chav’, to fast track themselves onto a Masters degree in Real Estate Finance at the University of Cambridge. This is all despite having left high school at 16 with lower than average GCSE’s, rejected to study A levels at a local sixth form, and working menial jobs prior to returning to education.

I am of the belief this was a direct result of the conditions created by New Labour Experiment facilitating social mobility, and being fortunate enough to have food on the table and a roof over my head. All the while maintaining the strict recognition the last Labour government did indeed miss a trick or two.

Tony Blair had once said he wanted a meritocracy. Not a Darwinian survival of the fittest. He made the following statement when opening a new school in North London back in 2001 at the start of his second term:

“[Opening up economy and society to merit and talent] requires an active government ensuring a fair playing field, and investing in our people and in our public services to release the potential of all.”

At the time of this speech I was in my first year of high school. Safe to say at the end of my time bouncing from white, on to yellow, then red report, and back again, I had not done too well at school. It is widely known low performers at age 15 are more likely to drop out of education and less likely to attain better-paying and more-rewarding jobs. Upon leaving high school university seemed like it was never going to be an option for me, particularly having received this rejection letter from my application to study A levels:

Cheers Pam!

In November 2002 the New Labour Experiment established the Modern Apprenticeship Task Force, charged with putting in place measures to improve completion rates. In 2004 significant changes came to the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, some of which included removing the upper age limit. Later that year I would be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work as an apprentice mechanic, where I worked for two and a half years. However it was not to be. At 18 I ended up quitting one month before I obtained any qualifications, leaving as a semi skilled manual worker and yet another failed completion statistic.

Woops.

After resigning and a short stint on JSA I landed a job working in a bookies. Long before the public outcry of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, I sat on the front line watching many men throw their monthly salaries on machines in West Drayton, Hayes, and Southall. More often than not resorting to chasing their losses on a credit card. Many a time I would pass over the free crappy cup of coffee.

Not sure if my love for watching sport would sustain a career as a bookmaker I sought another move. Luckily one of the girls I knew had done well for herself in getting a job at a building society and was happy to make a recommendation. I got the job and started at the Harrow branch in August 2007.

Queues outside Northern Rock in Harrow 2007 in the first run on a bank in the UK in over 150 years.

Two quick successive promotions later I was a Mortgage Consultant in the middle of a recession, which truth be told wasn’t much fun. Many people were losing their jobs, their homes, and facing relationship and family breakdowns as a result. Facing this on the front line, with even my own father out of work, made me realise just how important the safety net a Labour government is in modern times. On the flip side I saw just how much money some people actually made, and realised many of them actually weren’t even that smart.

Evidence from the US, UK and other countries suggest that 50% of inequality is passed across generations, and that half of this inter-generational transmission occurs via education. Something Tony Blair taught me to recognise. Six years after leaving high school with lower than average GCSE’s I ventured back into the world of academia and on a vertiginous pathway to university via Further Education having undertaken a BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) as a mature student.

Education is the engine of social mobility. Education, from my experience is the greatest equaliser of all time. Education, after all, was what Tony Blair put at the heart of his first leadership campaign.

In my opinion he delivered on his promise.

UK Labour Party Annual Conference 1996, Tony Blair — “Education, Education, and Education”

The New Labour Experiment took an education system that was 35th in the world and made it into one that performed well above average. World-class school systems deliver high-quality education across the entire school system and Tony Blair recognised achieving greater equity in education is not just a social-justice imperative, but was vital for economic growth. This equity for me was available through hardship bursaries, maintenance grants, and the opportunity to study at at Further Education college. Whereby there was no stigma attached to giving education another go, and in fact openly encouraged.

A man called Alan Tuckett spent many years arguing education doesn’t end when you leave school. He was the Chief Executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and invented the concept of the ‘adult learner’. This is a man who wanted to involve those who were turned off education and understood you cannot get people to re-engage with education unless there was serious public investment.

Tuckett argues there was a ‘golden age’ in adult education after New Labour took office in 1997. Adult participation in education rose measurably with David Blunkett at the education department. Further education was then seen as an opportunity to climb the social mobility ladder.

We know 80% of disadvantaged students attend a Further Education (FE) college before the age of 24, and it is widely known the FE sector engages with less advantaged groups considerably more than the higher education sector does. FE is in no doubt critical for social mobility. Despite the evident need, the Tory government has gone onto make significant cuts. The FE sector was described by the Institute of Fiscal Studies as the ‘biggest loser’ in terms of such cuts to government funding.

Twenty years after New Labour took office we have since had 8 years of declining investment for ‘Post-16’ and FE students. Under the Tories and Coalition government these areas have been ruthlessly cut much more sharply than any other area of education. I feel that I can speak from a perspective of understanding where things have indeed actually worked, given such doors are now being closed, as well as where they perhaps have not. I appreciate that with a growth mindset the working-class and lower middle can and should be able to achieve much more than many would expect, if given the opportunity. Tony Blair’s belief people deserved another opportunity to study, even though they might have failed in the first instance, is what has led me here today.

Now I have not changed much from the kid sat facing the wall in class back in high school, neither have many of my friends, and nor should we. Whether we voted to leave or remain in the EU referendum; vote Labour, Conservative or UKIP, I am lucky enough to be able to share views with my friends from many different backgrounds. Many of whom may have very strong difference of opinion. Vociferously and without worry of offence or malaise, it is through this lens I appreciate the world as we see it. Never knowingly not had my position challenged.

This challenging of the narrative is inherent in my nuanced background. My father is a Liverpudlian, my mother a Geordie, both of whom children of World War 2 servicemen. My mother grew up in a metal prefabricated house and left school at 15 before training as a secretary and going onto study later on in life at night school, all whilst holding down a full time job. Her father worked down in the pits as a miner, where he once told me as a boy that back in his day the English had no bother with the likes of a Ukrainian, because they were all in the union standing side by side on the picket line - fighting for the same wage and better working conditions.

Sadly today the Eastern European construction worker is often seen as a scourge undercutting skilled local working-class ‘C2’ blue-collar workers, whom despite claiming to be workers of a higher quality, many still see them as a threat. New Labour have been demonised for opening the floodgates at a huge political cost on immigration. This in my opinion is a battle won by the right-wing rags. The New Labour Experiment made a vast underestimate in its predictions of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe, anticipating between 5,000 to 13,000, assuming others would open their labour markets too. Well, they didn’t. And the impact was over twenty times this upper end.

Nevertheless, statistics show that the share of immigrants in the workforce has little or no effect on native wages, EU migrants contribute more to the UK than they take out, and EU migrant workers contribute £2,300 more per year than the average British citizen. Perhaps Tony Blair did not get it too wrong after all.

Yet when things are bad people look for blame. While correlation does not mean causation, after the great financial crisis the welfare net was taken away, a housing crisis still persisted, and the white working-class still felt left behind at the expense of others. Authenticity of asylum seekers sadly brought into question, where they have been referred to by many as fit young healthy opportunist economic migrants.

Rational arguments come from many working-class people who may ask the valid question of ‘How can we house refugees when we cannot even look after our own homeless veterans?’. This is an argument that has since been weaponized as a threat to our cultural identity, suggesting it is now considered racist to express pride in Britain and express heartfelt patriotism. This alludes to the alternative fact that through political correctness we are incapable of even looking after our own.

This is of course absolute nonsense.

Despite this apparent belief, the majority of British people in fact attach a greater importance to skills than country of origin, which is why willy-nilly allegations of racism need to be avoided where possible in order to avoid reductionism. If people were to bear this in mind next time they lambaste someone concerned about immigration it may well result in the racism card being put back in their pocket. All in the interest of doing our utmost best to avoid shutting down much needed debate on the core fears of a large part of the British electorate.

In any case, I believe we can accommodate the genuine plight and concerns that many of the working-class have on such matters, through simple policy changes. Some of which I may outline in future posts.

The right-wing rags may have won the battle on immigration, but they certainly have not won the war.

Notwithstanding the above, my parents met in Manchester whilst working in council housing management for a local authority, prior moving to London together in the late 1980’s to settle down. Economic migrants if you will. It is in such context I have an understanding of the North-South divide that stem from these northern roots, where to this day much of my family still reside.

I was born in Northwick Park Hospital, where shortly after my birth my parents were able to move from their council flat on Barnhill Road near the infamous Chalkhill Estate, into a flat in Wealdstone, and subsequently into a terraced house in Harrow.

School from an early age was very diverse in nature. This experience gave me a broad perspective on war, asylum seekers and immigration. Not many by the age of 13 could tell you the difference between Somalia and Somaliland, or Ethiopia and Eritrea, talk to you about Kosovo, the Tamil Tigers, the history behind India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, nor the terrors of Idi Amin.

I learnt through Tony Blair that intervention can be just and right, not just from the refugees themselves, but on moral grounds with proven outcomes. He believed the Rwandan genocide could have been prevented. 800,000 people dead, 300 an hour, for 100 days. Under New Labour the principles of just intervention were demonstrated in the ousting of Slobodan Milošević. An alleged war criminal tried for breaches of the Geneva and Hague Conventions. For destroying mosques, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity. Jeremy Corbyn may have become a war crime denier had Milošević not died before his trial concluded, given that he had penned his name to a motion making claims such crimes “never really existed”. As Dr Martin Luther King once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

Bodies exhumed from the Srebrenica massacre in 1996. Slobodan Milošević was later charged with carrying out the bloodiest killing in Europe since World War 2. Photo: Kevin Coombs/Reuters

Tony Blair made me realise that crimes against humanity can be very close to home, and we must ignore such things at our peril. Three doors down from where I lived in Harrow resided one of ‘The Harrow Gang’, namely Mohammed Naveer Bhatti. He was convicted of storing the plans and materials for committing mass murder on our streets in his parent’s house. A convicted Al-Qaeda terrorist, he was eventually sent down for 20 years in Belmarsh prison. I’ll never forget the moment I opened the door to a policeman from Special Branch in 2004, three years after the 9/11 bombings, who invited himself in to question my mum and I about the extremist’s family.

From this moment in my front room on, the suspicion, the fear, had begun to get to me. I found myself flirting with the ideology of the BNP. I was angry. Afraid. These fears were played on by visits to Harrow by the BNP who had begun to agitate through handing out leaflets down the town centre. They would stop and talk to young white working-class men like me at their stall. The Iraq war was in full swing. Tensions were rising. Shortly after the foiled terror attacked a few doors down, London was attacked again by way of the 7/7 bombings in 2005. It would be another two years until my neighbour Bhatti was eventually sent down for terrorism. On reading the news from the local paper in my kitchen I made an Islamophobic comment in front of my father, referring to the expulsion of Muslims from the UK and in the full belief I felt there was going to be a race war. Refrained, my dad decided not to shout at me. Instead he just questioned me.

He asked me how and where do you draw the line. Religion. Race. Would I kick out my Somalian Muslim friends from school out? No. Would I kick out my my dad’s Jamaican best friend - who I had called Uncle Arthur since a kid. No. One of my best friend’s dad who was from Eastern Europe? No. My Pakistani friend? No. The Kosovar Albanians on my football team. No. He made a quip about prejudice and the failings in my argument and walked off. Since that day I have seen the need to challenge such narrative, in the full belief people can and will change their minds.

By 2009 the EDL was causing riots in my hometown, protesting against the large mosque built opposite the workingmen’s club where I was a member, namely the Wealdstone Social. It was my mates dad’s sixtieth birthday and the DJ was delayed because he could get nowhere near due to the commotion. Coincidentally it was 8 years after the 9/11 bombings in 2001, which was what the march was ‘honouring’. I could have been one of those ignorant fools getting chased by those guarding the mosque. Instead, my mates and I were able to walk through the crowds unmolested to the social club for the party. Scoffing at the ignorant fascists.

Many friends I have met in my teens may not have been as lucky as I have been. To have had the opportunity to grow up with such a diverse range of people. Sadly this has somewhat left some of them with a more cynical outlook on people from different backgrounds, a xenophobia and disdain of refugees now fostered by such mainstream media.

Three year old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach - September 2015

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you have found my ‘musings’ of interest. And to answer my original question: I am writing this blog to primarily offer a similar yet different perspective not found in today’s mainstream media.

Future blogs will consist of political thought and policy discussion on economics, housing, society, and social mobility, as well as sharing experiences of unfairness and social injustice found in my local community.

I hope this blog will cover enough bases to keep politicians, policy-makers, community activists, friends, family, those on the left, those wanting to challenge the left, those curious of the left, entertained and educated.

My blogging goals insofar are to provide a platform to encourage discussion and lively debate on working-class issues, encourage other class warriors’ to take up the mantle of working-class political agitation, and to push social democratic policies capable of creating true economic prosperity #ForTheMany.

Thank you for making it this far down the page, hope you enjoyed the read, and trust you will look forward to the next instalment of my blog.

Yours Faithfully,

Chris

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