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Episode 66: Cameron’s Britain and America’s Underclass

Good evening, listeners! What a treat we have for you this week, as our host Richard Aldous welcomes Tim Bale to the show to discuss the surprising results in Britain’s recent elections, before speaking with Richard Thompson Ford about a better way of thinking about race in America.

First, Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, discusses the British elections, saying that the surprising victory for David Cameron and the Conservative party should have pollsters reviewing their methods. He explains that Labour’s dramatic failure can be put down to the fact that it failed to convince the public of its competency, and moreover failed to convince its core support that turning out could make a difference. He notes that, as in any election, voter turnout—especially amongst younger demographics—was crucial to the results, before discussing what me might expect from Cameron and his slim majority in the years to come. He reflects on the Scottish Nationalist Party’s success and says that this re-raises the possibility of a referendum on Scottish independence. He also looks at UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s resignation—and subsequent de-resignation—and what this might mean for that party’s longer term future.

Then, Richard Thompson Ford, the George E. Osborne professor at Stanford law school, revisits his 2012 essay on changes in American race relations and the importance of including class in these discussions. He points out that for many African Americans, fortunes have risen dramatically in recent years thanks to increasing job opportunities, rising incomes, and the lessening of severity of certain prejudices. But he tempers this outlook by remarking that a kind of underclass exists, for whom rising crime, endemic poverty, and chronic incarceration have devastated communities. He says that because of this division, class issues need to be addressed as a distinct problem when discussing race. He describes how America’s police force has effectively been given the job of quarantining this underclass, and that this necessarily antagonistic relationship has hurt all involved. Finally, he looks at the recent riots over Freddy Gray’s death in police hands in Baltimore and explains why this tragic situation requires a more nuanced discussion of race.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and follow our host Richard Aldous @RJAldous, Tim Bale @ProfTimBale, and Richard Thompson Ford @Richard_T_Ford on Twitter.

Published on: May 12, 2015
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