A touch of class

The author Joan Didion commented that ‘I write to know what I think’. A great quote, and one that I use in lessons every so often. I write probably because I’ve never done much writing, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll get better if I write more; there’s some quality output in me somewhere, I’m sure of it. Maybe there’s a novel? I’m always surprised to hear abou the percentage of novels that get rejected. Who’s writing them all? I think I move in pretty intelligent circles, and textbooks aside, I hardly know anyone who’s submitted a book to a publisher. My TV career (one appearance on ‘eggheads’) didn’t really take off, so maybe it’s as a writer of pithy modern blogs that I’ll finally find my true vocation. I also write becasue it gives me a sense of achievement in the evening, and a night spent in front of the TV is generally a night wasted, unless I’m trundling through a disc full of ‘Mad Men’. George Orwell had a pretty good idea of why he wrote, so much so in fact he wrote rather a famous essay on the very subject.

I don’t even know what I’m going to write about now, but BBC2 seems to be running some kind of a ‘class war’ season, so that’s inspiration enough. It can’t be in doubt that we have a class system in this country, from the genuinely very posh at the top, and the very very poor at the bottom. The middle-classes are intriguing, but only in the sense that virtually everyone thinks they are in the middle-classes. Does lower-middle really move seamlessly into upper-working, like some sort of pyramidal feudal system from yesteryear? Does it matter what we class ourselves as, when it’s how we treat and are treated by our peers that really matters?

I remember the last round of class documentaries (in one sense of the word), which was clumsily presented by John Prescott. He goaded a young Vicky Pollard, suggesting she was working class, when in fact she felt she was middle class. ‘I’ve never worked; how can I be working class?’ was her heartfelt riposte. Andrew Neill had a go last night, and his programme seemed to focus only on two things. One was spaded on very thickly – namely that he had come from humble beginnings, but had risen to the dizzy heights of hobnobbing with Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. The scene where he returned to his old Primary School in his flash silver motor was as grusome as it was predictable. The other point (and the whole premise of the show) was that we used to have working class Parliamentarians (Major, Thatcher), and now we have an influx of posh boys (Cameron, Clegg – neither of whom are truly posh – more upper middle, if you will). One might have thought that such flimsy evidence wasn’t really enough to justify an hour of TV, but Andrew managed to drag it out. The fact that people actually VOTED for each of these people in their millions seemed to have passed him by, and the fact that everyone (even the poor, and sub-middle) get a vote these days should ensure fairness on polling day. Far more interesting is to ask why people have been so turned off politics that so few actually turn out for a general election. Far more interesting would be to ask why so many of the population are overcome with apathy where politics is concerned. Probably not wise to ask, when you front a show about politics. If you want to shoo out the posh brigade (sorry, upper-middle brigade), just vote for someone else.

I take the point that many politicians have never really been anything other than politicians, or speech-writers for politicians (Wallace Milliband for example), but beyond that, the boring drone about class-divide sounds like something to churn out when no-one has any better ideas. I even saw a graphic this evening where a large saw cut the UK into North and South, emphasising the divide that only exists in the minds of people who want it to, giving them something to moan about. If Andrew Neill really wanted to see where the class divide is bypassed, he could come along to an old-fasioned British pub, and I’ll get him a Hendrick’s and cucumber…

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