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The art of the possiblePolitics and governance in modern British history, 18851997: Essays in memory of Duncan Tanner$
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Chris Williams and Andrew Edwards

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090714

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090714.001.0001

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Public and private languages of ‘class’ in the Luton by-election of 1963

Public and private languages of ‘class’ in the Luton by-election of 1963

(p.188) 9 Public and private languages of ‘class’ in the Luton by-election of 1963
The art of the possible

Jon Lawrence

Manchester University Press

Labour gained the marginal seat of Luton at a by-election on 7 November 1963. It was seen as an important sign that Labour could still win in the prosperous, expanding seats of southern England, and that so-called ‘affluent workers’ were not necessarily Conservative in their politics or ‘bourgeois’ in their tastes. This was good news for sociologists John Goldthorpe and David Lockwood, since they had recently begun researching the attitudes of Luton workers in order to find empirical evidence to support their trenchant critique of the so-called ‘embourgeoisement’ thesis. This essay uses newly-created digitised interview transcripts from the Luton ‘Affluent Worker’ study. Respondents were quizzed about their social attitudes, about their perception of class and class differences, and also about their political attitudes and allegiances. The essay will compare the language of these Luton workers with the formal political languages used by all parties during the 1963 by-election. For this purpose extensive use will be made of the Luton local press and surviving political propaganda from the campaign. A case study in the relationship between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ political languages is used to draw conclusions about the nature of political culture and partisanship in a classic ‘affluent’ industrial community.

Keywords:   Sociology, Luton, By-election, Language of class, Embourgeoisement, Affluent workers

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