Owen Jones is a British columnist, author, commentator and political activist from a democratic socialist perspective. He is a columnist for The Guardian and, since 2015, for the New Statesman and a former contributor to The Independent. He has also recently set up a YouTube channel whereby he uploads videos and interviews, some of which appear on the official website of the Guardian.
Jones was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport, Greater Manchester and briefly in Falkirk, Scotland. His father was a local authority worker and trade-union shop steward, and his mother is an IT lecturer. He describes himself as a “4th generation socialist”; his grandfather was involved with the Communist Party and his parents met as members of the Trotskyist Militant tendency.
He attended Bramhall High School and Ridge Danyers Sixth Form College before studying history at University College, Oxford, graduating with a BA in 2005 and a Master of Studies (MSt) in US history in 2007. Before entering journalism, Jones worked as a trade-union lobbyist and was a parliamentary researcher for left-wing Labour politician John McDonnell, a backbencher who became Shadow Chancellor in 2015.
Jones is a weekly columnist for The Guardian after switching from The Independent in March 2014. His work has appeared in the New Statesman, the Sunday Mirror, Le Monde diplomatique and several smaller publications. He has made television appearances as a political commentator, including several BBC News shows, Sky News, Channel 4 News, ITV’s Daybreak and BBC One’s Question Time programme. Jones writes from a left-wing perspective; Andrew Neather has cited Jones’ Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class as a contributory factor in a resurgence of left-wing-themed ideas. He is a member of the National Advisory Panel for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, a left-wing think tank.
In 2011, Jones’ first book, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class discusses stereotypes of sections of the British working class and the use of the pejorative term “chav”. The book received attention in domestic and international media and was selected by critic Dwight Garner of The New York Times as one of his top 10 non-fiction books of 2011 in the paper’s Holiday Gift Guide and was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. The Independent on Sunday named Jones as one of its top 50 Britons of 2011, for the manner in which his book raised the profile of class-based issues. Jones’ second book, The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It was published in September 2014.
Jones has received attention as a significant commentator of the left, with The Daily Telegraph placing him 7th in its 2013 list of Britain’s most influential left-wingers. In November 2012, Jones was awarded Journalist of the Year at the Stonewall Awards, along with The Times journalist Hugo Rifkind. In February 2013 when Jones was awarded the Young Writer of the Year prize at the Political Book Award, he donated half the prize money to support the campaign of Lisa Forbes, a Labour parliamentary candidate and the other half to Disabled People Against Cuts. In an interview with The Student Journals, Jones commented that several people have accused him of using politics only as a tool to raise his own profile and that he risks being seen as a “lefty rent-a-gob”.
Jones spoke at a press conference to launch the People’s Assembly Against Austerity on 26 March 2013 and regional public meetings in the lead-up to a national meeting at Central Hall Westminster on 22 June 2013. In November 2013 he delivered the Royal Television Society Huw Wheldon Memorial Lecture, Totally Shameless: How TV Portrays the Working Class.
Jones identifies as gay and was described by Gay Times magazine as a “prominent voice for the LGBT community”. “The fact that I can be openly gay is a product of all the struggles that’ve gone before me”, he said in early 2016. Jones has spoken out against the perceived homophobia of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, and is a supporter of a United Ireland, speaking at a Sinn Féin summer school in Ireland in July 2015.
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