One cannot help but feel a sense of foreboding when confronted with a question that leads to the answer “Lee Anderson”. This newly-promoted figure within the Conservative Party has garnered scathing criticism for his insensitive remarks on poverty and food banks. And now, it seems, he is set to join the likes of Esther McVey and Rees-Mogg on GB News. What do they say? Birds of a feather flock together.
Anderson’s comments on poverty and food banks have been rightly criticised for being insensitive and out of touch. He has so far been quoted as suggesting that those who rely on food banks should learn how to cook, claiming that a meal can be made for as little as 30p. Additionally, he expressed surprise at seeing individuals who claim to be poor eating at McDonald’s. These comments are incendiary and have generated significant controversy. Anderson’s lack of political acumen and clumsy communication style has earned him a reputation for being a liability but in today’s Tory Party he is seen as an asset. His lack of tact and finesse seems to appeal to the Tories’ penchant for controversy and division, making him a valuable addition to their leading ranks.
Anderson’s remarks actually betray a deep ignorance of the realities faced by those living in poverty in modern-day Britain. Despite his background as the son of a miner and a former mineworker himself, his crass comments betray his class. Perhaps this son of the soil now fancies himself superior to his peers, having found favour in the ranks of today’s Conservative Party. Anderson initially made headlines when he secured a Red Wall seat in the 2019 general election. Prior to this his political career, had been associated with the Labour Party, making his move to the Conservative Party all the more surprising.
Amidst whispers and murmurs in the hallowed halls of Westminster, doubts have arisen about this newly-appointed joint chair of the Conservative Party, and his ability to truly embody the working class population he so ardently claims to speak for. The Tory’s promotion of Anderson has been viewed by some as nothing more than a political ploy to curry favour with those ex Labour Party voters in those highly cherished red wall seats, this despite his lack of experience and questionable track record on working class issues. The notion that Anderson is a bona fide representative of our class must be met with raised eyebrows and furrowed brows in Ashfield & Eastwood. Sceptics contend that Anderson’s purported working class credentials are nothing more than a calculated political manoeuvre, aimed at winning over blue-collar voters. His true values and beliefs, they assert, remain shrouded in the murky depths of political expediency.
With his move to GB News, Anderson is set to join a network that promotes right-wing views and stoking division within society (Imagine Fox News, but with a significantly reduced audience size, a news channel attempting to make a mere ripple in the turbulent sea of British politics). Anderson claims that GB News is the true voice of the great British silent majority, a statement that is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, the term “silent majority” implies that there is a large group of people who are not being represented by the mainstream media or political parties, which is just not true. It also suggests that this group is homogenous in its views, which is unlikely given the diverse range of opinions held by individuals within any population.
Furthermore, Anderson’s statement can be seen as an attempt to appeal to a certain demographic of the population, namely those who identify as being part of the “silent majority.” This type of language can be divisive and further entrenchs the divide between different groups within society. Anderson’s claim that he is joining the “people’s channel” to ensure that their voice is heard is somewhat disingenuous, given that he is a member of the Conservative Party, which is already well-represented in the mainstream media. It is possible that his motives for joining GB News are more politically motivated than he is letting on. According to the latest polling data (see below), Anderson is predicted to lose his seat to Labour. As a result, it may be wise for him to consider alternative career choices!
With the UK’s crucial council elections fast approaching, Councillor David Hennigan is not taking any chances when it comes to impartiality in the media. Hennigan has directed his concerns towards Ofcom, questioning whether GB News, with their plethora of Conservative MP guest speakers, can be deemed unbiased. Despite the channel’s editorial director, Michael Booker, praising Anderson, for his fresh perspective on politics, Ofcom has confirmed that special regulations must be adhered to during election periods. Hennigan’s actions demonstrate a powerful commitment to fairness and transparency in the political process.
The Silent Majority
The “silent majority” is a phrase that has been tossed around now for over fifty years (old tricky dicky popularised the term in a 1969 speech – see video below), describing a group of people who are perceived as disengaged from politics and unwilling to speak out on controversial issues. But what if this group is not as passive as we think? What if they are not disengaged but rather disenfranchised by a system that seeks to suppress their voices and interests?
A Marxist analysis of the “silent majority” would suggest that this group may have more in common with socialist movements than with the capitalist goals of most political parties. This includes working class people, people of colour, women, and other groups of the oppressed who have historically been excluded from political power and economic opportunity.
Even though they are called “silent,” these people are very involved in the struggles of everyday life. In fact, their silence may be seen as a form of resistance to a system that seeks to exploit and oppress them. The “silent majority” may not have the money or connections to get involved in mainstream politics, or on TV news channels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any power or agency.
Conservative ideology in the UK today is still that of Freedman/Thatcher neoliberalism, which emphasises individualism, free markets, and minimal government intervention. (While some may argue that the Tory party’s response to the pandemic was supportive, I contend that this was actually a departure from their usual character. Instead, I believe that the views espoused by figures such as Andrew Bridgen, the COVID Recovery Group, and the anti-lockdown/work-until-you-drop-dead from COVID brigade are more indicative of the Tories’ underlying ideology). These policies benefit the ruling class at the expense of the working class. By framing themselves as champions of the “silent majority,” conservatives and creatively biased reporters are able to obscure the class interests that underlie their utterances and maintain the illusion that they are working in the best interests of us all.
Recent polls and surveys, on the other hand, show that the “silent majority” in the UK might be more open to progressive economic policies than the Tories would like to think. A Survation poll last year demonstrated that over 65% of the sample wanted to take back control of key utilities, which shows there is a pushback against the neoliberal ideas of privatisation and deregulation.
From the labour movement to protests against austerity, the “silent majority” has a long history of getting together to fight for social and economic justice. By focusing on the experiences and struggles of this diverse group through a Marxist lens, we can begin to see the potential for collective action and solidarity across different communities.
As the UK continues to face a cost of living crisis, and an ongoing wave of public sector strikes, it is more important than ever to prioritise the needs of working class and our communities. The rising cost of living is not just an economic issue but a political one that demands systemic change. By challenging the exploitative dynamics of capitalism and placing emphasis on the political power of the “silent majority,” we can demand a more equitable and democratic system that benefits everyone, not just the ruling class!
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