Why white working-class boys are so lost

Brendan O’Neill joins Chris Snowdon and Tom Slater for the latest episode of Last Orders.

Topics Politics UK

Why is the underachievement of white working-class boys ignored? Will Boris Johnson’s obesity strategy make a blind bit of difference to our waistlines? Will mask-wearing become the ‘new normal’? Brendan O’Neill joins Chris Snowdon and Tom Slater to discuss all this and more on the latest episode of Last Orders.

Picture by: Getty.

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Richard BRADY

8th August 2020 at 8:58 am

Boris is no liberterian but a feckless,weak and vacillating disappointment…

Brandy Cluster

2nd August 2020 at 11:14 pm

Don’t forget “toxic masculinity”. Pity anybody who has sons these days – white sons, that is.

Brandy Cluster

2nd August 2020 at 11:13 pm

A half-blind cat could have seen that this would happen to the white working class; propaganda has been used to beat white people for two generations now. Better-educated people have ways around it – making money! – but the working class cannot. As you sew….

Ian Murray

4th August 2020 at 8:58 pm

Always someone else to blame isn’t there?

John Reic

2nd August 2020 at 6:08 pm

And the yuppification of London saw Edmonton Turkish and black people move out barking and also Victims, so White Working class moved from London as they were turfed out demographically and the area they went to the London as Thor areas didn’t have the houses shops and Brixton had waitrose coffee bars vegetarian restaurants out,

the economy union jobs and well good the industry of society goods
voting for what they’ve done
And the working class culture resulted in these gammons having daughters and those gammon daughter Karen’s ought to keep their mouth shut up
For the sake of diversity when they’re raped by Muslims,

John Reic

2nd August 2020 at 6:07 pm

If Labour do lose the next election it’ll have to ask itself to win in 2029 will it need to repeal the equality act
At the moment Labour would sooner be in permanent opposition than scrap the equality act

John Reic

2nd August 2020 at 5:50 pm

Labour was happy to go with the flow, the white working class were racist , as in its drive to get Middle class votes , it would appeal to some , and it reckoned the working class after having this insult put on them, had nowhere else to go, This Extended in Ed Milibands time as Miliband had rationalised the working class tory who wanted Brexit was racist wouldn’t vote labour(Assuming if they were EU sceptic they still wouldn’t be bothered about the offer of A referendum, so didn’t put it in the manifesto) and there would be a spilt in the Tory vote by going to Ukip And Ex young Middle class Libdems dismayed at the Coalition would vote Labour he figured those Libdems into Identity politics would be impressed by Extending the IOPC to replace IPCC (police complaints to have positive discrimination ,) the Ed stone refusing to pose with the Sun newspaper football competition , appointing Doreen Lawrence as a Peeress, In fact some of the Libdems who came over to Labour were supportive Emily Thornberrys snobbery towards the St Georges flag arguing the flag was used by racists therefore was racist,
With Ed miliband following the New labour or later Corbynite view of not getting the Working class vote thinking there was a progressive majority As Asian ex Libdems wouldn’t dare vote Tory but in Both Dagenham And Ilford North in 2015 they did (despite this we actually got Labour seats there and although the vote fell in 2017 in Dagenham due to a now 2 horse race the percentage went up) So Labour would always Let the dwindling working class vote it already had,

, Angela Rayner commented White boys are falling behind ,yet was criticised in as much as I admire Jenna David this was seen as a pointless thing to go up but was also repeated by Ava Vidall ,

Yet the feeling call the white working class racist as we can ignore minorites being racist or Anti-Semitism let alone the facts there’s probably more middle class white racists than Working class ones also has a dangerous affect of making the white working class see they don’t get anything be in grants form Lefty mayors or Unions who want to know where the money comes from, plus ,their council housing going so they’re moved to the coast like Clacton Essex
and the Demographics of those left behind in the areas that’ll never be the same when the oldens move out. To not Let the white working class in the areas of Waitrose or wine bars that have been yuppified as its’ seen as the stay behind “Well they don’t exist then do they” yet the Middle class voters in the areas get what they want,

In fairness to The Liberal left feeling that if a working class tory who voted Labour a generation ago felt labour too Liberal it wasn’t worth chasing, when David blunkett was Home Secretary and wrote for the sun with A Almost fascistic view he’d occasionally meet a bloke day you’re great Like your views “the peoples Home Secretary” I’d never vote labour of course” But trying to be too authoritarian that must of put off liberal labour voters and its had never gained labour votes in return,
The beginning of the end of the labour relationship with the working class went back to Ken livingstone pointing out that the Labour movement with the macho trade union methodist working men’s club, route to get their preferred candidates as union bosses working with block votes their way up the ranks to be the ones in charge, even though Barbara castle against AWS it normally meant White Working class Mn would get in, as such unions weren’t in favour of the race relations or equal pay acts and Callaghan as Home Secretary made the police extempt from race relations, to the point when the SDP quit and the GLC were trying to get their token black members to call the SDP racist, as they had White working class Men who may be racist in it, they also had the point, Labour also Thought the Middle class who came back from the SDP and started again to vote labour 30 years ago as it was in their best interest as the Labour party gave public sector workers better pensions and the Labour Party then thinking it had the black and Gay vote was that it didn’t need the working class vote as it was already there and ignored the Working Class vote for so long that it went away

Ian Murray

2nd August 2020 at 9:26 am

It’s all very well blaming teachers but parents have responsibility too.

An open question. Do white working class parents value education as much as parents of other socio-economic and racial groups? The answer, sadly, is often ‘no’.

Jim Lawrie

2nd August 2020 at 4:20 pm

Teachers are paid to teach them to read and write. The failure of the education system is not the fault of working class parents.
Arguments like yours are routinely deployed against the idea of education vouchers – working class parents are deemed incapable of making such choices, or not interested. Best leave it to the middle class do gooders.

Given choice, working class parents in the USA reject State Schools. Hence the long waiting lists for Charter Schools. The entire education establishment has been against non State education for about 60 years https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY2x7syNRok
If working class parents value not education, how come so many of us went to University and College in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s?

Ian Murray

2nd August 2020 at 4:47 pm

A low percentage of working class children went to university in the 1960s-1980s.

And from experience I can tell you that there is far more concern shown about their children’s educational progress from middle class parents than from working class – who often will not even set foot in the school.

Many working class white parents regards schools as places of alien middle class culture with which they do not identify.

Maybe time for some of you Spiked people to face facts.

David McAdam

1st August 2020 at 8:27 pm

I attended primary and secondary schools in the 60s. The emphasis for boys then was not exclusively on progressing to university. Coal, steel, construction, car manufacturing and agriculture etc and public services were the main industries in the area hence our education was in part geared towards employment in any of these sectors. Although I excelled in art, English and history and my art teacher urged me to set my sights on going to art college. Exams then were a do or die approach. No modular studying at home with the marks added to the final result, an approach that suited boys but not girls. The resultant gap wherein the girls lagged behind was addressed in a way that has completely reversed the situation. Where art college was concerned, my parents decided that I ought to learn a trade instead and therefore enlisted me for technical college. Most of my male peers followed the same route. Now retired, I’ve no regrets about the path my parents chose for me and later chose myself. I feel sorry for today’s generation of boys that have been betrayed by an education system that worked well before it was tinkered with albeit with some good intentions.

a watson

1st August 2020 at 11:48 am

In London, besides socially cleansing the white working class from whole areas and introducing tens of thousands of immigrant families, the Labour councils actively encourage prejudice against the white working class British male – especially if he is articulate. It is in their interests to keep local white boys illiterate – they would not be able to deride them to their BAME electorate if they allowed them any kind of democratic voice. Evil, ignorant and corrupt snobs.

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2020 at 1:55 pm

In the area of Glasgow I come from I have heard primary school teachers decry white working class boys and their parents in terms that would end their careers and earn them a criminal record were they to say the same about the immigrants whom they eulogise and favour.

Ian Murray

2nd August 2020 at 2:43 pm

By ‘social cleansing’ I suspect you mean that white families decided to move out to the suburbs and beyond and other people have moved in to those inner city areas. It has been happening in the east end of London as long as the east end of London has existed.

a watson

3rd August 2020 at 9:59 am

It is much more sinister than that oversimplification. Working families not on benefits cannot afford the high rents and house prices anywhere near London. Social housing is bursting with large immigrant families on benefits – if working, in the black economy or low paid jobs. Rental in the private sector, say in the inner suburbs such as Harrow or Ealing, is stll too high for an average family not on benefits – hence a huge buy to let market occupied by semi skilled immigrant workers paying full rental in multi occupied housing and sending much of their earnings back home. Huge profits to be made, work going to immigrant labour, money exported and local white flight. I wonder if local politicians have interests in this industry.

Ian Murray

4th August 2020 at 8:57 pm

Suggesting that Labour councils purposely keep white children illiterate illustrates how deranged you are on the subject of immigration.

You complain about the lack of affordable rents. Who was it that destroyed the council housing sector in Britain and created this buy to let market?

Samantha Duggan

1st August 2020 at 11:43 am

I’d be wary of pushing a narrative that it is unreasonable to bring in mandatory masks at this stage because we didn’t have to wear them before. It is a good idea that we adjust our response to the virus as new data emerges.
The problem is for me is that I no longer have the slightest bit of confidence in the Government’s ability to assess the relevant data on the virus and lockdown issues and their interaction with other important variables and coming up with reasonable policy.

Samantha Duggan

1st August 2020 at 11:36 am

I’d love to hear a podcast that tackled the links between a health service free at the point of use, the infringement of personal liberty and the new obesity reducing drive, and the idea, mostly covert, that the health service should be limitlessly funded for all illness and disease.


1st August 2020 at 10:57 am

I was surprised when I helped out with reading at the local I & J school that working class boys were still illiterate at age 10. They had no actually problems such as dyslexia , the teachers just couldn’t be bothered with them, girls were easier to teach. Obviously these boys could not deal with the curriculum at secondary school and usually became trouble-makers. If I were in charge of education I would not let them change schools until they reached the required levels in the 3 R’s and I would charge each teacher ( from their wage ) to pay for crammer schools. Seconday school education also doesn’t need to be so University based. Why not teach more skills, including teaching pupils to drive and how to fix cars and bikes? This isn’t going to happen because those in charge love creating these failures who are surplus to requirement.

Claire D

1st August 2020 at 11:14 am

I agree with you re: the mechanics idea. Ironic is’nt it that that is exactly how the old system worked, grammar schools for the academically inclined and secondary modern schools for the more practical, we can’t go back obviously, but surely we could take the old model and rework it for our age.
The teacher’s unions would never allow it.


1st August 2020 at 12:22 pm

Not just the teacher’s union-there is a whole industry ( government public services ) created to ‘not’ deal with these young men. I first encountered this as a teacher when I observed a room containing a large beautiful satinwood table ( in a poor rundown school ) with crystal caraffes etc. Everyone seated there was on the public purse-dealing in this case with one boy. Eventually -like his elder brother-he would end up in court and go to jail. All those people taking their law degrees and various social science courses are all part of the jigsaw created supposedly to sort out crime , but actually there to create employment for those who go to university.

Claire D

1st August 2020 at 1:34 pm

I’m sure you’re right Kathleen, I am not convinced that social work of the kind you speak of does any good except to line pockets.
Like you I’d concentrate on the 3 Rs + do all in my power to encourage families to stick together + have a boxing or martial arts club in every borough and town of Britain.

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2020 at 3:59 pm

We could revisit the successful model of boys’ and girls’ primary schools.

How does your proposal to punish the boys and the teachers improve the youngsters’ reading?


1st August 2020 at 6:22 pm

I went to a traditional working class Victorian school-outdoor toilets , boiler in classroom and all. The teaching method had the entire class chanting our times table/alphabet etc. We all left at age 7 being able to read and write. I have seen present day teachers sit with a coffee and biscuits while the children played havoc. If a teacher does not say ‘Jimmy’ is having problems with his work and report and try to sort it out , surely this is the same as a person in a factory who does not report a fault?

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2020 at 8:54 pm

I had a similar experience, with the flexibility offered by a six monthly intake, and children being pushed on or kept back by that amount, rather than a year at a time. Primary three to seven was boys’ school.

Angela Towers

1st August 2020 at 1:25 am

how are we defining “lost”?

Poverty? Attainment? Opportunity? Ambition?

A healthy, white, English speaking, heterosexual Male in England has opportunities, obviously.

One of my mates went to prison for drug dealing but he had the same opportunities at school as the girls who never got into selling MDMA for a Saturday night profit.

I know he had the same opportunities because I can remember him in some of my classes. Our white, English speaking teachers certainly never hid books or tools from him nor did they encourage him to pursue a career in illegal activities when there was money to be made legally by getting qualifications and then a job.

If a white, English speaking boy doesn’t want a career in British retail, healthcare, catering, the arts, the sciences, tech, media, sport, the clergy, the army, navy, agriculture, tourism, banking, video games, journalism, engineering, mechanics, hairdressing, comedy, building, property, logistics, politics or anything else that white men do to earn money then yes, sure, he’s doomed.

My working class, white cousin earns about 270k a year now. He was motivated by money and career and as a white, heterosexual, English speaking Male from Essex he had no problem whatsoever finding the other white males in Sussex, Essex, Hampshire and London who would train him up and give him references and hire him. His mother never had those opportunities 30 years earlier and his East London grandmother certainly did not have anything even remotely like his opportunities.

Gordon Al Gopher

1st August 2020 at 2:58 am

Schools are more interested in girls than boys because teachers fear masculinity.

So he’ll get no encouragement and motivation from teachers. Mum and Dad work all the hours god sends due to immigration pushing down working class wages. They’ve got no time to encourage him. And he loses out on BAME scholarships because he’s the same colour as most boys at Eton, so dim witted progressives think he’d privileged. Scholarships for working class white boys are frowned upon.

I suspect your cousin is an outlier. The only encouragement the working class white kid will get is from his mates.

Claire D

1st August 2020 at 11:02 am

That’s a very sweeping statement, that white working class boys will get no encouragement, I think it’s more a case that teachers are too quick to write off troubled youths who find school difficult for one reason or another, + our education system is underfunded and deeply flawed.
More single sex schools might help, at high school level I mean.

Gordon Al Gopher

1st August 2020 at 9:01 pm

Claire I think we’re saying the same thing.

They’re writing off troubled youths – who are mostly male – because they fear masculinity. This starts at primary schools – in fact it’s possibly too late by the time the boys get to secondary school because the damage to their willingness to learn has already been done.

And it’s not just teachers who fear masculinity. Mental health services don’t even try to help people who don’t want to talk about their feelings (mostly men and boys) even though talking is just one of many different ways of communicating.

If you ever read something that uses the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ – roughly translate that as the author admitting they fear masculinity and probably don’t even want to try to address that.

Anakei Ess

2nd August 2020 at 12:07 am

I don’t know about fearing masculinity, but schools certainly find boys hard to teach.
As a mother of 3 boys who went through school in the 90’s/2000’s I saw this first hand. Even in kindergarten girls would sit in circles playing quietly with toys while the boys would be outside on the jungle gym ( obviously there was some cross-over but overall this was true) I was taken to one side by a primary school teacher and asked if my son had ADHD as he was finding it hard to settle. He was age 6 and in a class of 29 children . Teachers are very quick to pin labels on children who don’t conform to the “norm” even at that early age.
For many boys the idea of spending another 3 or 4 years in university and then sitting in a desk job is hard to contemplate, but alternatives such as apprenticeships are hard to find. Firms no longer offer training, as it is easier to find an experienced immigrant, than go through all the red tape that an apprenticeship now involves.
Having said that, trades are no longer the “easy” option for a boy with poor schooling. Most trades now require good levels of maths and english to pass the theory. Without opportunity it is very easy for a boy to drift into a series of low paying unskilled jobs or unemployment and lose motivation altogether.

Gordon Al Gopher

2nd August 2020 at 8:31 pm

Anakei the education system is definitely more set up for girls than boys.

Thing is many local authorities recognise this – google something like “youth employment programs for BAME” and you’ll see hundreds of links from agencies and local authorities with programs aimed specifically at under-privileged non-white kids.

I challenge you (or anyone else) to find one single program for working class white kids.

Claire D

1st August 2020 at 10:47 am

Good point Angela.
Where I live in the East of England, some of the young men I know get by more or less, some are ambitious, as well as lucky perhaps, and do very well, though it’s far from easy, then there are a few who are lost in a drug filled world, and they are not all working class either. It seems a sad waste, especially the suicides which are tragedies.
One thing I have noticed is that having a support network of mates really helps, passing on chances for employment as well as emotional support.

Mor Vir

31st July 2020 at 7:13 pm

Did I imagine it or did masks become mandatory after c19 rates went right down – and the rates then shot back up again, doubled, after masks were brought in?

Kathryn Barbara

31st July 2020 at 8:02 pm

I don’t keep a track on the rates of infection thing, I go by mortality, which in the final analysis is the literal end point of all this Infection control!

Vast majority of people who get Covid recover. I do believe in herd immunity, with anti-bodies and cross infection T Cell activity acting up.

Actually I was asked (at random) to take part in community pillar 3 Covid testing. I was sent a kit, but now it’s here I’m concerned about false positive results and the fact that there has been a Covid cluster at an Iceland depot, as well as the fact that isolation is now 10 days rather than 7.

It’s a mini-moral dilemma, take the test or not……?

James Conner

1st August 2020 at 7:41 am

“I go by mortality, which in the final analysis is the literal end point of all this Infection control! ”

It might be, if the mortality figures accurately represented those people dying ‘as a result of’ covid. Unfortunately they do not. As things stand, if a person tests positive for covid and then dies, it’s recorded as a covid death, even if it’s weeks later and the person was hit by a bus, murdered by a maniac or hung himself because he didn’t win X-Factor.

Vivian Darkbloom

31st July 2020 at 8:15 pm

I don’t think you imagined it, Mor. It’s to do with the testing and reporting of cases rather than deaths. The Covid death figures are right down but the cases are up. Whether this has anything to do with mask wearing as such, although some sources reckon masks can increase susceptibility, I couldn’t say. Looks like a nudge straight from the Behavioural Insights Team or some other disseminator of governmental propaganda in order to encourage mask wearing. Things are getting very strange in the dog days!

Jim Lawrie

31st July 2020 at 10:22 pm

The mask lobby will you that rates would have quadrupled had they not been made mandatory.

We do not know who is being tested but it is a certainty that if tracing, and targeted testing, is carried in areas with previously low rates of infection that have shown a slight rise, then the results will show more infections, but cannot be compared to indiscriminate mass testing of 2 weeks ago, or even to the test carried out in those same areas 3 weeks ago.

Without knowing who is being tested, where and precisely when, we can only speculate.

Kathryn Barbara

31st July 2020 at 7:03 pm

I should also add that since 64% of people did not wear masks before the mandatory thing that we were the MAJORITY and mask wearers were the minority. It should have been kept as was!

Kathryn Barbara

31st July 2020 at 7:00 pm

Covid numbers went down drastically without Mandatory mask wearing and as I recall only about 36% of Brits wore them, so I do not see mandatory masks as the reason Covid will suddenly disappear. Sadly there does not seem to be any notion of what success of wearing masks will be. Mandatory masks are unnecessary.

I cannot agree with Chris or Brendan being snide about people who do see the mandatory bit as being against their civil liberties. The state has no business telling people what to wear! Very disappointed with those comments.

I shopped in Aldi and Morrison’s without a mask on Wednesday, and yes I was the only person not wearing a mask. As it happens I am exempt as I have asthma, and I had my patter ready in case anyone spoke to me about it. As it was it was fine, didn’t feel I got any adverse reaction from any other people there. I have no plans to shop until next week, when I shall yet again get up my courage to go “maskless”.

Gordon Al Gopher

31st July 2020 at 6:43 pm

Because white male privilege is a myth.

And because progressives are a bit dim. They can tell the difference between black and white and man and woman but class needs a bit more thinking.

And finally because if you don’t measure class then wealthy middle class whites are in the same group as working class whites which makes the middle class look less privileged so they don’t have to feel as guilty.

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