I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Not quite, anyway. I was born arse-first into an NHS hospital, weighing seven pounds and more yellow than an alcoholic in banana pyjamas. It wasn’t the golden glow of good breeding; it was jaundice.
You see, I am part of that lower middle class contingent that drinks Earl Grey tea with milk, listens to Radio 4 while cleaning the toilet and quotes GCSE Keats badly at dinner parties. I’m about as posh as HobNob biscuits; half chocolate-covered snob, half oat-chipped inverse-snob, which makes me perfectly positioned to point out our current class conundrum.
The morning our brave and stupid Chancellor George Osborne announced the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, a number of people posted up his infamous Bullingdon Club photo on Twitter. “Whatever happens today, remember this photo,” declared one comedian. It was time, Twitter implied, for those public school boys to show their true colours. For the elite to delete. For the posh to push.
For this, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a cabinet of absolute rambunctious poshos. Real whizzbanging members of the aristocracy. Absolute ruddy Etonians, fossicking great chumleys and chuffing great toffee-nosed rotters. They have been plopped out by a pin-striped conveyor belt that stretches back to King William IV. The very men who are loading students up with more debts than RBS and who have just introduced the biggest public spending cuts since 1918 are just about as press-my-tail-coat-and-call-me-m’lord upper class as a fox-lined top hat.
So, it comes as something of a surprise that during this age of austerity, when such bastions of public school, private income and aristocratic upbringings are pinching the working person’s purse, so many of us are glued to Downton Abbey….
First published, Ideas Tap, October 2010