What Jade Goody and Brexit really have in common

Both were horribly demonised by the middle-class elites.

Neil Davenport


The latest unhinged Remainer claim is that reality-TV star Jade Goody, who died in 2009, ‘foretold’ the forces behind Brexit.

The prompt for such a claim was Channel 4’s new documentary series, Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain. As one reviewer wrote, ‘the seeds of Brexit didn’t begin with a bus, or Farage’, but with Jade Goody’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007. She was a one-woman embodiment of the ‘catastrophe’ to come, apparently. Her uncouth behaviour, shocking levels of ignorance and, of course, her ‘ugly, racist and ignorant’ outburst against her CBB housemate Shilpa Shetty, an Indian Bollywood star, revealed the kind of hate-fuelled racism that led to the Brexit vote — or so the reviewer claims.

It was bad enough back in 2007, when Goody’s behaviour was used to smear poorer sections of British society. Digging up her corpse in order to discredit Leave voters today is as desperate as it is nasty. It is also misleading. Goody’s behaviour was far less significant than the liberal broadsheet reaction to it. For in the latter’s snobbery and anti-racist posturing, there really was a foretaste of things to come — in particular of Remainer journalists’ and politicians’ disdainful reaction to Brexit voters.

Think back to Goody’s clash with Shetty. It stemmed from a banal row over Oxo cubes, which descended into a slanging match, during which Goody said some stupid things. She referred to Shetty as ‘Shilpa Poppadom’ and ‘Shilpa Fuckawallah’, and suggested Shetty should spend a few days in the slums of India to see what real life is like. This childish argument was seized on by liberal commentators, race quangos and politicians as proof of the existence of a dangerous, racist underclass in Britain. For the Guardian, Goody was representative of ‘ugly, thick white Britain’.

Nearly a decade later, in the aftermath of the EU referendum in June 2016, the same derogatory comments and language used to attack Goody were deployed against Brexit voters. Well-heeled columnists described Leavers as ‘thick’, ‘low-information voters’, creatures who, before Brexit, had been hiding under stones. The Brexit vote, we were told, was the outburst of xenophobic and racist attitudes found in underclass Britain. Just as Goody’s outburst was used to smear poorer communities in Britain, so Brexit has provided an opportunity to damn vast swathes of British society.

The response to Goody or the likes of Labour-voting pensioner Gillian Duffy (who clashed with Gordon Brown in Rochdale over immigration during the 2010 General Election) was to accuse them of being bigoted and racist. This move rested on a profound redefinition of racism. Racism was turned from a systematic, state-backed practice into a matter of individual etiquette and language. This didn’t only trivialise racism — it also turned it into the product of the least powerful in British society, whether a Jade Goody or a Labour-voting pensioner. It held non-powerful people responsible for racism, and in the process let the historical ruling-class progenitors of racism off the hook. And it did so at a time when actual racism was actually in decline.

But then, the putative anti-racism of the attacks on Goody and Duffy (and, later, Brexit voters) was never motivated by a genuine desire to tackle the problem of racism. Anti-racism merely provided a radical cover for the elite’s contempt for the ‘uneducated’ manual working classes. In 2007, the Guardian said Goody should have spent some of her fortune on ‘remedial education rather than boob jobs and liposuction’; perhaps then she wouldn’t have had such ‘hideous’ racist views. Strip away the right-on anti-racist lingo and what we had here was a naked assault on the lives and attitudes of the impoverished. In this, we saw how Guardianista anti-racism effectively legitimises class inequality. Goody’s poor racial etiquette was held up as proof of ‘thick, white Britain’. Thus it is her and her ilk’s stupidity that explains why they are at the bottom of society.

Even worse, radicals increasingly demanded that state authorities do something about the atavistic rabble through greater intervention, especially in family life. It was quite the turnaround. Radicals used to cite the life experiences of poorer communities as a compelling argument for changing society. In the 21st century, however, they started citing the attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles of poorer communities as a compelling argument for changing the behaviour of such people. This ideological assault on the great unwashed, which developed through the 2000s, informs and justifies today’s assault on Brexit voters.

It has also allowed the middle-class image of the deplorable racist, working-class Brexit voter to gain ascendancy on the Labour left. Indeed, it was this image that pushed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite his lifelong Euroscepticism, towards Remain. After all, how could the party of the switched-on and well-connected middle classes ever associate with a bunch of perceived losers and deplorables? And so Labour’s hostility to its former working-class support base has been played out through its opposition to Brexit. Like many other leftist groups, Labour now dresses up its allegiance to the status quo as an attempt to contain the threat of the ‘racist underclass’.

The outrage over Goody’s CBB outburst over a decade ago laid the groundwork for the demonisation of Brexit voters. It showed how those with power and influence were willing to present racist attitudes as the preserve of a vile underclass in British society. And it served notice that members of poorer communities should be considered lesser rather than equal citizens – low-information and ill-informed types who, 12 years later, would need to have their votes overturned by their respectable ‘betters’.

In the overblown response to a petty slanging match on Celebrity Big Brother, we foresaw how broadsheet journalists, quangos and politicians view, not just one individual, but millions of British voters.

Neil Davenport is a writer based in London.

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Anthony Sebok

16th August 2019 at 7:03 pm

“Middle-class elites” is an oxymoron. The middle class is not, by definition, an elite. This essay confuses critique with elitism.

Let’s play a game. Which of these statements make no sense?

“I hate it when the middle class give us lectures about the honesty and thrift — in England, politicians and newspapers have no right to talk about morality.” (Except for Thatcher, and Murdoch, and . . . .”

“I think the people in this country have had enough of experts.” (Except for those of us who have Oxbridge or City pedigrees.)

“I can’t stand those people from country X — they come here and do work harder than I do and their kids do better in school than my kids — they must be inferior to me!” (Said about Jews in Vienna in the early 20th C, about Asians in the US and Australia in the late 20th C . . . and Polish plumbers and Hungarian nurses in London in 2015 . . . .)

All three statements are nonsense for the same reason — they reflect the peculiar attitude that just because someone else has pointed out that you are bad at something, your response should be not to reflect on your error, but to attack the person who pointed out the error.

Hana Jinks

16th August 2019 at 2:56 pm

(I know at least four people that would pay a tenner to watch livestreams of Fey-Squad meetings, and there could well be dozens of others. Why isn’t this revenue stream being exploited? Of particular interest at this point would be marvelling at how the same people that think Trump is racist come to terms with actual, free-speech. And independent thought. And soeech that offends. Even tho it’s part of ur manifesto.

Hana Jinks

16th August 2019 at 2:58 pm

Just delete it if you don’t like it.

Leftists. Slimy, sanctimonious lefrists.

Amelia Cantor

16th August 2019 at 10:25 am

Still stalking me, I see, you sad little creature.

You’ve admitted you are racist.

Yes. I’m white and I’m racist. Being honest, I can admit the truth. Now, are you going to admit that you’re stupid? Don’t think so…

Are you too uncouth?

Do you mean: “Are you uncouth(,) too?”

If so, my honest answer is: No.

Anyhoo, how’s the nonce apology thing going racist?

Sigh. “Racist” is a vocative. You need a comma before it. Like this:

“Anyhoo, how’s the nonce apology thing going, racist?”

It’s not “going” at all, as you are well aware. But continue with your lies. The alternative (being honest) is no doubt too horrific to contemplate.

Hana Jinks

16th August 2019 at 2:48 pm

But you look about 5’3″.

Jules Hardiman

15th August 2019 at 7:08 pm

I think I am missing something here, Goody went through the state education system for over a decade and came out the other end barely able to function, but all those lovely clever middle class teachers seem unable to do the one job we ask of them.
Its not like we expect all pupils to end up as Nobel prize winners, but maybe the ability to read and write would be a start.
Why them do they think their opinions are so much more valid than mine, if I was as bad at my job as they seem to be I would have been sacked years ago

Neil McCaughan

15th August 2019 at 4:46 pm

I’m always amused by the assumption that lower middle class metropolitan remaintards are any better educated than those awful leave voters in Sunderland. I seen seen three years worth of pitifully ignorant and commonly sub-literate tosh spewed by the preening numbskulls of the remoan persuasion – enough to confirm that most are rather dim, terribly smug, and always do and say what the BBC tells them. Mr Cantor being a prime example.

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 5:32 pm

Sub-literate tosh is probably generous, but preening numbskulls couldn’t be more accurate.

William Murphy

15th August 2019 at 2:51 pm

It is not just the supposedly dim and primitive white working class that The Great And The Good despise. Look at the reaction to Muslim parents in a poor area of Birmingham who objected to their children getting lessons on LGBT matters. These parents were “a mob”….


they were “bigots”


and, needless to say, “driven by ignorance and by homophobia.”


As these protests have spread to Manchester, Nottingham and east London, and enjoy support from conservative Christians and the Charedi community, a fair percentage of the UK population of various colours and cultures are in the Grauniad’s bad books.

Linda Payne

15th August 2019 at 1:55 pm

Actually you will find the most antipathy towards Jade Goody types are the working class themselves; I grew up near an estate that had a bad reputation and there was certainly an us and them attitude even from our side of the council estate. Most WC are very proud but it tips into snobbery because in all fairness those we look down on we know not of at all

Ven Oods

15th August 2019 at 1:39 pm

“Gillian Duffy (who clashed with Gordon Brown in Rochdale over immigration during the 2010 General Election)”

It always amazed that Pa Broon missed such an open goal, given that her outburst queried where “all these Eastern Europeans are comin’ from, then?”.
Even I could have fielded that one, and I’m rubbish at Geography.

Jim Lawrie

15th August 2019 at 1:33 pm

Ms Goody objected to someone looking down their nose at her.
So inured in that mindset was Ms Shetty that she did it automatically. The surprise for her was being challenged, and she did her best to act out the part of bewildered innocent. Fortunately for her the media were the same as her, closed ranks and backed her to the hilt.

gershwin gentile

15th August 2019 at 1:28 pm

Jade Goody, wasn’t she the poor cow who suffered a NPD welfare queen of a mother, who was used by the middle class media? Who went on to be a bit of a bitch on telly? (I mean, she didn’t say that Hitler supported Zionism, or anything like that, she just did what lots of women do, be bitchy to women who are more successful than them).

Then the middle class media (who didn’t really like her in the first place, used her some more by turning against her, that Jade Goody?

I’m failing to see how the largely WORKING class (note NOT welfare class) being called thicko racists for voting to leave the EU, is in anyway like Jade Goody (inane bint who got cancer through doing too much speed).

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 12:04 pm

I liked Jade. And Shilpa. Poppadom chat isn’t any more raaayyyccissst than pie chat. The insane levt killed her.

Shaun Fleming

15th August 2019 at 9:55 am

so whats new?
The medias and political class contempt for the working class is a long running story, put best by Orwell in ‘England your England’.
Although any guardinista casting their gaze over such a word as the E word would probably result in a fainting fit.
This hatred for the lower orders to out it in its bluntest form is one that has been poorly hidden over the years be it middle class sneering at football fans or yes CBB followers has shown. Now its out in the open, fully exposed as the elites world view.
Then parties such as Labour who, about to transform completely into the new Lib Dems will face an uphill struggle to convince the working class that they are indeed on their side.

Amelia Cantor

15th August 2019 at 9:42 am

Her uncouth behaviour, shocking levels of ignorance and, of course, her ‘ugly, racist and ignorant’ outburst against her CBB housemate Shilpa Shetty, an Indian Bollywood star, revealed the kind of hate-fuelled racism that led to the Brexit vote — or so the reviewer claims.

The claim is correct. Goody was uncouth, was ignorant, and was a racist bully. And she would also have voted for Brexit, we can be confident. I wish, in fact, that she had been prominent in the campaign for Brexit. She might have woken more Brexit supporters up to the ugliness of what they were supporting.

Then again, Neil Farage didn’t do that, so I conclude that there are indeed millions of people who are too uncouth, ignorant, and racist to be reached by reason or appeals to decency.

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 10:15 am

Do you notice how poorly your bit is received in the real world as opposed to leftist circle-jerk’s?

John Hall

15th August 2019 at 12:20 pm

AC has no self-awareness. (Assuming she’s real, even a she…)

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 12:39 pm

Dude is a dude, and emanates from the orifice.

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 6:27 pm


4-6 : Ameliorate Cant is Mandy Mohel.

11-8 : Ameliorate Cant is an account shared by the Fey-Squad.

1000-1 : Any other result.

gershwin gentile

15th August 2019 at 1:34 pm

“Then again, Neil Farage didn’t do that, so I conclude that there are indeed millions of people who are too uncouth, ignorant, and racist to be reached by reason or appeals to decency.”

Go outside, take deep breath of fresh air, eat some fruit. Then go and look up the word REASON. You’ve admitted you are racist. Are you too uncouth? You sure are ignorant.

Anyhoo, how’s the nonce apology thing going racist?

Ed Turnbull

15th August 2019 at 2:41 pm

Amelia, please, have some consideration for the late Mz Goody. She was, after all, an oppressed wombyn of colour (she was orange, and orange is a colour; isn’t it?) who didn’t have the advantage of having been born and raised in Islington of Hampstead. She was a fine example to all other disadvanted wombyn that if you use whatever talents you were gifted by Nature (yes, even swearing, boozing and getting your baps out), and work hard, you can achieve success.

Also, be careful with your use of descriptors – in writing “was uncouth, was ignorant, and was a racist bully” you’ve just described Diane Abbott! And we must avoid denigrating wombyn politicians of colour, mustn’t we?

Jerry Owen

15th August 2019 at 4:50 pm

Ed Turnbull
Nice one .. totally wasted on the resident amoeba though !

Amelia Cantor

16th August 2019 at 10:32 am

Also, be careful with your use of descriptors – in writing “was uncouth, was ignorant, and was a racist bully” you’ve just described Diane Abbott! And we must avoid denigrating wombyn politicians of colour, mustn’t we?

Is that what passes for logic and honesty in the rightard community? Apparently so. I wasn’t describing Diane Abbott at all, except in your fevered little imagination. Fortunately, your fevered little imagination doesn’t control reality.

Jim Lawrie

15th August 2019 at 3:26 pm

“I conclude that there are indeed millions of people who are too uncouth, ignorant, and racist to be reached by reason or appeals to decency.” Is that the first stirrings of self awareness Amelia?

Amelia Cantor

16th August 2019 at 10:26 am

I am fully self-aware, thank you. It is inadequate rightards such as yourself who frantically block out reality, lest your fragile male egos crumble under the horrific realization of your own worthlessness.

Jerry Owen

15th August 2019 at 4:49 pm

Amelia Cantor
Neil Farage.. what a totally uneducated little amoeba brained half wit you are !

Amelia Cantor

16th August 2019 at 10:28 am

Neil Farage.. what a totally uneducated little amoeba brained half wit you are !

He is, isn’t he?

Once again a rightard takes unerring aim and shoots himself in the foot. (Top tip: In future, Jezza, you might want to think more carefully about how you word things.)

Hana Jinks

16th August 2019 at 2:05 pm

Ameliorate Cant.

So you won’t be taking the 1000s, then?

Stephen J

15th August 2019 at 8:24 am

I don’t think that the use of Goody was anything of the kind, they were just using her to sell soap powder.

Oh no, the attitude of radicals towards the conservative working class has never been any different.

Labour supporters have no more affinity with the average labouring person than Jacob Rees-Mogg.

If it was, it is relatively easy to improve people’s lives and opportunities.

Just abolish some of the impoverishing taxes that they seem to delight in burdening us with. Death ta, as just one example… must be one of the most ruinous attacks on the lives of ordinary folk.

John Millson

15th August 2019 at 7:57 am

How many more times? The 2016 referendum was not a working class ‘revolution’. If anything it was a lower-middle class revolt by the type who would despise Jade Goody, or at least, appear to do so.
So many leave voters could be accused of a lack of reflection, selfishness and xenophobia, for sure.

Christopher Tyson

15th August 2019 at 7:55 am

The liberal middle classes behind the camera and counting the money have done very well out of Big Brother. If you are BME there are plenty of opportunities for you if you play your victim role, Channel 4 news are always pleased to see you if you are an ex-gang member of if you have some grievance, but not if you say ‘you know what Cathy and Krishnan? I could do your job’. The recent vitriolic attacks on the BME representation of Boris Johnson’s cabinet illustrate the attitude of the left to the wrong sort of BMEs. When Big Brother started I thought ‘why would I want to watch that’ it reminded me of the psychiatric wards where I spent (too much ) time as an inmate, trying unsuccessfully to convince middle class liberal psychiatrist that I was not really mental at all. Picked up a biography in the charity shop the other day of a guy called Mike Skinner aka The streets, a surprisingly good read, there’s an anecdote about his dad being section and the shrinks calling his mum to discuss ‘some of the things that he had be saying’ he claimed ‘that his son was a pop star and had been on Top of the Pops’, Skinner’s mum said ‘actually that bit is true’. Unfortunately for me the best black philosopher of my generation, there was no one to vouch for me, middle class liberals do no know what an intelligent working class person looks like, or maybe they are scared.

Jim Lawrie

15th August 2019 at 10:58 am

My experience is that middle class liberals do recognise an intelligent working class person, Should that person not kowtow to their norms and submit as their project, they will belittle, denigrate and mock at every opportunity the working class traits in that person. Taking the boy out of the slum is something they all feel qualified to do, and for which the boy better show his gratitude.

Philip Humphrey

15th August 2019 at 7:48 am

I think that’s pretty well spot on. It was ultra-leftist Channel 4 that brought Big Brother to our screens, and after a successful and reasonably watchable first series, they progressively made the show nastier, deliberately choosing contestants with issues and setting them up in conflict with one another, also liberally supplying them with booze. Other Channel 4 shows such as Coach Trip have also used similar tactics, choosing contestants with problems and setting up conflict. Channel 4 eventually made Big Brother so nasty that viewing fell and they got rid of the show, but by then the damage had been done.

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