Book review: ‘Chavs’ by Owen Jones is pure class

Owen Jones is a leftist Labour Party activist, and journalist.

Owen Jones debunks stereotypes in “Chavs”

“Chavs” was first published in 2011 following a Labour defeat and the formation of a government coalition between The Conservatives and The Liberal Democrats.

The book gives a refreshing insight into the demonisation of working class people to reductive stereotypes of layabout, troublemaking “chav” or “chavette,” and he does it really well, with a mountain of convincing evidence.

He also calls on all working people to unite and seek better conditions for us all, and not the *race to the bottom* of who can do the job for the least amount of money.

Working class stereotypes and the law

Income isn’t a protected characteristic, therefore if you are discriminated against for a low income, you do not have the same protections in law as someone with a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, marital status, or disability. 

Stereotypes in the press

Owen Jones compares the treatment by the press of Sharon Matthews with Madeline McCann, two international news stories of families whose children went missing

He argues that the Shannon Matthews case resulted in a whole “underclass” of people being stigmatised and tarred with the same brush as the working class mother who lied to the press. At that time, TV shows like Jeremy Kyle and Benefits Street set out to pillory and demonise the people who don’t work. Jeremy Kyle was later taken off air after a guest on the show took his own life.

On yer bike

The book contains a comprehensive history of the miners strike in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher’s defeat of the miners strike, and other Conservative policies, undermined the power of the unions in the UK, and their policies destroyed many good employment opportunities besides mining, for the working classes, such as manufacturing. He offers a great summary of what went down and how it still impacts British society today.

You’ve only got yourself to blame

Criticising working-class people is politically useful for a Conservative-led government determined to drive through cuts that will disproportionately hurt the same group. Some of the first programmes to face the axe after the 2010 general election included free school meals and help for the young unemployed

Owen Jones, Chavs

Today’s working classes often work in low-paid, temporary positions, making homeownership more difficult, plus there’s a significant lack of affordable social housing, or affordable private rental accommodation.

The pernicious idea you are responsible for your own success if you have aspirations for better should be challenged. Along the lines of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, a Conservative mantra, or, assuming working class people have no aspirations to begin with.

A doctrine of personal responsibility is applied to a whole range of social problems affecting certain working-class communities – whether it be poverty, unemployment or crime. In Broken Britain, the victims have only themselves to blame.

Owen Jones, Chavs

It removes the responsibility off the government to do something about the challenges good people face.

A new movement

Like many Labour Party members these days, Owen Jones has a lot of legitimate complaints about Tony Blair’s New Labour, that was even praised by Margaret Thatcher for a perceived shift to the right.

Now we need a new vision, to unite as workers and guardians of the Earth, a future of green jobs seems to be the way ahead.

Class politics with a green tinge.

Owen Jones, Chavs

I work in marketing but I haven’t worked for a while following illness. I recently phoned a care agency and offered my services. The helpful lady I spoke to explained the reasons for the low pay because it isn’t ‘skilled’ work, even though it involves driving to multiple appointments, and she said “well anyone can care can’t they?”

No, they really, really can’t.

Owen Jones calls for *all* working people to use our combined influence to pressure for better employment rights and for a new and fairer society.

Perhaps a new society based around people’s needs rather than private profit.

Owen Jones, Chavs

Here are some memes I made up for the 24-hour-Labour-party-people, if you’re interested. Credit to The Economist for the Red/White design- I’m not a designer!

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From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.

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