BBC Question Time on 7 December focused mainly on Brexit. The panel included staunch ‘Vote Leave’ campaigner Bernard Jenkin. And the Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex aroused controversy with his comments on social class.
Hard or soft Brexit?
The discussion progressed through details of the UK’s departure from the EU. True to form, Jenkin advocated a ‘hard Brexit’ position throughout. He even resorted to repeating [24.41] ‘Vote Leave’ slogans:
We’re going to do very well outside the European Union. We’ll have our democracy back again. We will have control of our immigration. We’ll be… able to do those trade deals with other countries.
Playing to a pro-Brexit crowd, things seemed to be going well for Jenkin. But he was soon exposed. An audience member asked a question about the recent cross-party resignation of the national Social Mobility Commission. Members of the commission resigned en masse, stating that the current government is too obsessed with Brexit to help the poor.
These commissions… they’re a bit of a talking shop. They don’t actually do anything. They just discuss things.
When pressed further, he continued [42.29]:
I wish we’d just stop talking about class. Class isn’t important. It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from…
The privately educated Tory, son of Baron Jenkin of Roding, didn't want to talk about class… "It's easy for you to say we shouldn't talking about social class – you haven't experienced the oppression and hardship that lower classes have faced" #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/y0z8hsfh2i
— I was a JSA claimant (@imajsaclaimant) December 8, 2017
Stony silence met Jenkin’s remark. Then he was immediately put straight by the audience member who retorted [42.40]:
It’s easy for you to say we shouldn’t talk about social class because you haven’t had to experience the oppression and the hardship people that are in the lowest social classes have faced.
My jaw dropped at this from Tory MP Bernard Jenkin: "I wish we could stop talking about class, it doesn't matter where you come from". It has always mattered and class inequality is rising, not falling. #bbcqt
— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) December 7, 2017
Its almost as if coming from privilege gives you a disproportionate sense of entitlement, as demonstrated on #bbcqt
— Matt Wain (@TheMattWain) December 7, 2017
Bernard Jenkin, privately educated 1st son of Baron Jenkin of Roding, doesn't want to talk to the plebs about class – funny that… #BBCQT
— Anthony White (@whitecarz) December 7, 2017
A country that works for everyone?
When the present government assumed office, it was on the promise of creating “a country that works for everyone”. People even spoke of a kinder Conservatism. But the attitudes of those on the right of the Conservative Party, like Bernard Jenkin, show this is not the case. And these are the people who want a ‘hard Brexit’.
Without a massive change in direction, post-Brexit Britain will work for the 1% and no one else.
– Read more Canary articles about inequality here.
– Join us as we continue to hold the powerful to account.
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