Page last updated at 19:37 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 20:37 UK

A community alienated by change

Blurton's white working class struggle

With two seats in the European Parliament the BNP has made inroads into the political mainstream. Observers say that much of the party's support comes from white working class who feel they are being overlooked and ignored. Jackie Long has been to Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, to test opinion there.


Blurton is getting better. The hoardings and the new street signs say so. But for many of the families who lived here for generations, it does not feel like it.

Fifty years ago, if you lived in Blurton, work meant the pits or the pots - the coal mines or the potteries.

Now, if you live in Blurton, there is a good chance you will be unemployed. The most recent government statistics show almost half of the people who live here are out of work, almost a third are registered sick or disabled.

The effect it has had on the community is devastating.

Diane Stanley is a true daughter of Blurton. Her father and both grandparents worked in the potteries. Her ex-husband was a miner.

You can't get a house because you haven't got a job and you can't get a job so it's a vicious circle
Diane Stanley

Now she is out of work and so are her two sons:

"The majority of families live on benefits," she says. "It's hard. You can't get a house because you haven't got a job and you can't get a job so it's a vicious circle."

Her boys are poorly educated. The sort of unskilled work they are looking for is very hard to find.

Diane says she feels let down, by the education system, employers and politicians. It is a feeling shared by many.

'We have been forgotten'

In the local pub, men still clinging onto some form of work share a pint with those whose working days are over.

When I was out of work they sent me to factories looking for jobs where people weren't looking for 56-year-olds
Derek Toplis, Blurton resident

All agree that mass unemployment has robbed the community of Blurton of more than just wages.

"We've been forgotten," says 56-year-old Derek Toplis. "No-one's done nothing for me. When I was out of work they sent me to factories looking for jobs where people weren't looking for 56-year-olds. I want work but there's nothing for me."

"We've got to put some pride back into the community," Alfie Gleghorn says.

Sixty-seven-year old Alfie left school on a Thursday and was down the pits by Monday. With tears welling in his eyes, he says:

"There was no-one had more pride than I had when I got my overalls and pit boots on and I went to work. To me if you've got an income, you've got respect and you respect everyone else."

That respect in the community is gone, he says.

'No jobs to take'

Anti-social behaviour is a real problem. And now there is growing resentment about immigrants.

The BNP's upcoming appearance on Question Time has sparked controversy

Though the population of Blurton is more than 98% white, people I spoke to endlessly blamed immigrants for taking their jobs and jumping the housing queue.

Stoke Council say less than 4% of social housing in Blurton is occupied by ethnic minority tenants.

And as for jobs, as one council official put it, immigrants are not taking anyone's jobs - there are no jobs to take.

Nevertheless, all of this is fertile ground for the British National Party (BNP).

Michael Coleman is a councillor in a nearby ward and his party are actively targeting Blurton. He says the party speaks the people's language.

And there were certainly those who agreed.

Dave Gore is a 40-year-old tradesman. He has just been made redundant. He says there is work out there but immigrant workers have pushed wages so low, he refuses to do it.

He has voted Labour all his life. Now he is getting ready to vote BNP for the first time.

"Labour took us for granted," he says. "They've done nothing for us. Now I'm going to give the BNP a chance."

Watch Jackie Long's full report on Britain's white working class on Newsnight at 10.30pm on BBC Two, then afterwards on the BBCiPlayer and Newsnight website.



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