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Aliberal elite out of touch with the conservative instincts of the British people. A political realignment defined by an electorate more culturally conservative but economically leftwing. A working class hostile to liberal norms, especially on immigration.

It is a picture of contemporary politics that many have come to embrace, assiduously promoted as it is by a range of academics and commentators, from conservatives to “postliberals”. It shapes policies of left and right, from Labour’s debates about how to win back the “red wall” seats to Rishi Sunak’s desperate attempts to turn “stop the boats” into a wedge issue. 

It’s a perspective that has gained traction because it contains a germ of truth, particularly in its understanding of the corrosiveness of social atomisation and of the gap between working-class and elite perceptions of the world. But reality is also more nuanced and, as the new British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey reveals, these nuances often cut against the grain of the postliberal argument.

It is 40 years since the BSA launched its first survey of social attitudes, and this year’s report focuses on how British society has changed over that time. Often forgotten in debates about “social conservatism” is that what today we consider to be conservative or liberal is very different from that of 40 years ago. On issues from gender roles to same-sex marriage there has been, in the words of the psephologist John Curtice, “a near-revolution in the country’s cultural outlook and social norms”. Contemporary conservative beliefs about gay rights or the relationship between race and British identity would have seemed outlandishly liberal in the 1980s. 

This “onward march of social liberalism”, in the words of a previous BSA report, has enmeshed with shifting attitudes to class in complex ways that have served often to distort perceptions of that liberalisation. “We are all middle class now,” the former Labour deputy leader John Prescott claimed in 1997. We are not, either objectively or in our self-perceptions.

The BSA survey shows that people today are more likely to declare themselves working class than they were in the mid-80s at the height of Margaret Thatcher’s assault on the unions. This is true not just of the mythicised “white working class” but also of ethnic minorities, who are more likely to identify as working class than white Britons, of women, and of young people, too.

How we perceive class boundaries has, however, dramatically changed. Education is now a more discriminating class signifier than occupation. To be “working class” is defined less by whether you are in a white-collar or blue-collar job than by whether you went to university. While 60% of people who left school with a GCSE or less identify as working class, just 28% of university graduates do so. 

No longer does the workplace, or the trade union, or the community bind people together, infusing them with a sense of common purpose. Class is perceived less as a collective identity than as a personal disposition, not so much an economic or political marker as a cultural identifier. 

People who identify as working class are more leftwing (on issues such as the redistribution of wealth and the significance of class conflict) than those who view themselves as middle class. They are also, however, less liberal and more sceptical of immigration. This might provide weight to the postliberal argument about the significance of a socially conservative working class with values distinct from those of the liberal elite. It is, however, not so straightforward.

For a start, the working class, like the rest of society, has also become more liberal on social issues, even if less so than the middle class. The BSA uses a “libertarian-authoritarian” scale, based on attitudes to issues such the death penalty or “traditional values”. A majority of working-class people (56%) are on the “libertarian” rather than the “authoritarian” side of the divide.

Those who see fewer barriers to social mobility are more negative about immigration and more rightwing

Working-class attitudes to immigration have also become more liberal. The BSA defines respondents as “pro-” or “anti-” immigration depending on the degree to which they view it as “bad or good” for Britain. Working-class respondents have over the past decade become increasingly pro-immigration, and those pro and anti are now almost evenly divided, 48% to 52% (where have we seen that ratio before?). 

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not that working-class people have become more hostile to immigration but that liberalisation within the working class has moved at a slower pace than within the middle class. Nor does polarisation exist simply between the working class and the liberal elite but lies within the working class, too.

At the same time, what the report calls “class awareness” dampens hostility to immigration. Working-class respondents who are more concerned by inequalities and think it more difficult to move between classes – that is, those who have a more politicised view of class – have more positive views about immigration and are more leftwing. 

Those who see fewer barriers to social mobility, and so are less concerned with inequalities, are more negative about immigration and more rightwing. Another way of reading this is that those for whom being working class is a cultural identity are likely to be more rightwing and more hostile to immigration whereas those for whom it is more a political marker lean to the left and are more welcoming of immigration.

The BSA report adds to the wealth of data that has accumulated in recent years providing for a more nuanced understanding of working-class attitudes to social issues, including immigration. The distinctions it draws between cultural and political identities, and between class “identity” and “awareness”, are important, both in shaping policy and for engaging with voters.

As Oliver Heath and Monica Bennett, authors of the survey’s chapter on social class, observe: “People who are concerned about class inequalities in Britain may be more receptive to economic policy proposals that seek to limit the influence of big business and of the rich and powerful than they will be to policies that seek to blame immigrants for squeezing the labour market and making economic conditions more difficult for British workers.”

That is a significantly different approach from the claim that politicians can appeal to working-class voters only by embracing social conservatism and hardline immigration policies. It is a lesson the left would be wise to heed. • Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist/Guradian


Transport at the Uganda-Rwanda border along the Kabale-Katuna road was on Saturday morning paralyzed after a fuel tanker burst into flames after failing to negotiate a corner.

The accident occurred at Nyakasharara village in Kicumbi parish, Kamuganguzi sub-county, Kabale district. According to eyewitnesses, the fuel tanker was heading to Kigali, Rwanda from Mombasa, Kenya.

They say that the driver, who could have failed to control the vehicle, came hooting endlessly while driving at a very high speed.       

After the driver failed to negotiate a sharp corner at Nyakasharara, the vehicle rolled and immediately burst into flames, burning beyond recognition. They however say that the driver and turnboy managed to get out unhurt and fled. - URN/The Observer

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has seen Western banks pull out of financing the project over environmental concerns. Photo: Handout

China steps in to save Uganda oil pipeline as Western lenders back out over environmental concerns

  • A new pipeline is planned to transport crude oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast
  • Several major Western banks have pulled out of investing in the project due to pressure from environmental groups 
Chinese lenders will provide more than half of the US$3 billion debt that Uganda requires to build a crude oil pipeline after financiers from the West backed out following strong opposition from environmental groups.
According to Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, the East African nation expects to finalise talks with the China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) and the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank) by next month to finance the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Irene Bateebe, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said Sinosure, the Chinese state-owned provider of export credit insurance, is working with Eximbank to provide funding for the pipeline, which “is the largest portion – above 50 per cent of the debt”.

“We are at the tail-end of the discussions [with Chinese lenders] for financial close. We are confident that by the end of October of this year, we will close the debt component and we would have mobilised most of the funding for the project,” Bateebe said on Friday. 

Uganda needs about US$5 billion for the pipeline running from Lake Albert’s oilfields to a storage and loading terminal in the Tanzanian port of Tanga. Financing is set at a 60:40 debt-to-equity ratio, meaning US$3 billion will be secured as debt with the remaining US$2 billion to be financed by shareholders through equity contributions.

TotalEnergies controls a 62 per cent interest in the pipeline; the Uganda National Oil Company holds 15 per cent; Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation has 15 per cent; leaving 8 per cent for Chinese oil giant China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).


The 1,443km (896-mile) pipeline would transport crude oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields in northwest Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania on the Indian Ocean where the oil would then be sold onwards to world markets. 

Besides the Chinese lenders, Bateebe said Uganda expects to get some funding from Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank and some African banks, including the African Export-Import Bank.

Bateebe said initially many Western-backed lenders had expressed interest in financing the pipeline but pulled out due to strong opposition from environmental and human rights groups who have said the oilfields and pipeline threaten the region’s fragile ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands of people. Further, environmentalists say Uganda is going against the global push for energy transition away from fossil fuels. By Jevans Nyabiage, South China Morning Post

Around 70% of Derna’s infrastructure damaged by floods, according to Libyan officials


East Libya-based government plans to hold an international conference for rebuilding the city of Derna following this month’s deathly floods.

“We invite the international community to participate in an international conference on Oct. 10 to rebuild Derna and other areas affected by Storm Daniel,” Osama Hamad, head of the eastern government, said in a statement.

Mediterranean storm Daniel struck eastern Libya on Sept. 10, leading to floods in several cities, including Benghazi, Bayda, Al Marj, Soussa, and Derna, resulting in massive destruction to infrastructure and a significant loss of life.

Derna was hardest hit by the deadly flooding, causing the city’s dams to burst, washing away homes and people.

According to UN figures, nearly 4,000 were killed and over 8,000 others still missing following the flood disaster.

The conference “aims to present modern and rapid visions for the reconstruction of Derna and other affected cities, including the rebuilding of roads and dams,” Hamad said.

"The conference comes in response to the calls of the people of Derna and other affected cities,” he added.

On Monday, hundreds of Derna residents demonstrated to demand accountability after floods wreaked havoc in the city.

According to Libyan officials, around 70% of Derna’s infrastructure was damaged by the catastrophic floods. *Writing by Ikram Kouachi, Anadolu

New-look DCI Headquarters. [Samson Wire, Standard.]

Nine suspected linked to mysterious dissapearance of Sh160 million belonging to the National Intelligence Services Sacco have been arrested.

The suspects some senior employees of the Sacco in question were arrested on Friday by the Directorate of Ciminal Investigation detectives.

Those arrested are Amos Kipchumba the Sacco's internal auditor, loans manager Violet Wali, accountant Caren Langat, system analysts Hamisi Zaunga and Miriam Nthenya and Moses Ntoinya an NIS officer.


Others are Nicodemus Osiemo, Eric Rono from Sure-step Systems, and Tony Wabomba a former employee of the Sacco Society.

The DCI on its Twitter said the nine, all employees of Njiwa Sacco were rounded up following comprehensive joint investigations, conducted by detectives and officials from the spy agency. 

The directorate said the suspects will be arraigned in court on Monday, September 25, 2023 to answer to their crimes.

It said its detectives are on the trail of three other suspects who have since gone into hiding.

“The agencies involved in the investigation of this high level fraud shall continue to investigate and expose corrupt individuals and networks, while taking concrete steps to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public entities,” read part of the statement. By Esther Nyambura, The Standard


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