Alienated white working classes should attend citizenship ceremonies to help them feel part of British society again, says Cameron's poverty tsar
Labour MP Frank Field said white working classes are unsure of identitiesHe told conference that English society has 'lost confidence in what it is'Concerns over immigration's impact on white working class communities
15:36 GMT, 4 April 2013
00:59 GMT, 5 April 2013
Ideas: Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said at a symposium that the white working classes are increasingly unsure of their identities
The white working classes are so alienated from society that they should attend citizenship ceremonies with immigrants, according to David Cameron’s poverty tsar.
Frank Field said some working class people were increasingly unsure of their identities.
He suggested that going to the ‘wonderful’ citizenship ceremonies could help them feel like they were part of British society again.
Mr Field, who was welfare minister under Tony Blair, told a conference that society had ‘lost confidence in what it is’ and needed to ‘relearn the rules’ it used to live by.
The Labour MP criticised his own party for having lost touch with the working classes, the very group which created it.
He said: ‘There are dangers for that group which used to run the Labour Party, [but] now is almost forgotten by it – the working class.’
Mr Field, MP for Birkenhead, made his comments amid growing concerns about the impact of immigration on white working class communities, some of whom are turning to the far Right as unemployment rises.
In March, Ed Miliband pledged to limit the number of unskilled people able to enter Britain to protect jobs and apologised for the previous Labour government getting it ‘wrong’ on immigration.
Mr Field told the audience of academics: ‘In my lifetime, we’ve moved from a Labour Party which was working class-dominated. Some trendy London middle classes went along with it but were subjected, at least publicly, to the moral economy of the working class.
‘We’ve moved to a stage where what was that minority is in a governing position, which imposes upon the working class its moral economy . . . there is a real crisis of representation.’
He added: ‘I argue not to have these wonderful citizenship ceremonies just for people who want to come here. I think the poor working class in Birkenhead needs them.
‘We need to relearn what these rules are because they are not taught by the intermediary organisations which used to be very strong.’
Border control: Mr Field made his comments amid growing concerns about the impact of immigration on white working class communities, some of whom are turning to the far right as unemployment rises
Mr Field served as a minister between 1997 and 1998, with a remit to ‘think the unthinkable’ on the welfare state. But his inability to work with his boss, Harriet Harman, meant both were removed.
He led the fight against Gordon Brown’s controversial scrapping of the 10p tax rate, and campaigns to reduce immigration.
In 2010, to the consternation of many of Mr Field’s colleagues, Mr Cameron appointed him as poverty tsar.
The MP was speaking at a symposium called ‘Diversity and the White Working Class: white flight, anti-immigration politics and integration’, hosted by Birkbeck, University of London and the think-tank Demos.
Anyone wishing to become a citizen must attend a citizenship ceremony, led by a registrar.
During the ceremony, applicants must take an oath of allegiance, and pledge to respect Britain’s ‘rights and freedoms’.