Monday, 7 December 2009

Class War, Huh, What Is It Good For?

Good God y'all.

Looks like the battlelines are being drawn. If you're not sure which side of the barricades you belong on, a short fill-in-the-blanks quiz based on the latest Mel Philips piece should help you decide. Simply replace the blank with one of the following: A - Working; B - Upper; C - Middle:

It is the ________ class whose children are discriminated against by the rigging of university admissions against candidates from high-achieving schools.

It is _______-class aspirations for their children which have been attacked by the war of attrition waged against grammar and independent schools.

It is the _______ class whose ethic of professionalism - whether in medicine, education, the law or other disciplines - has been under sustained attack by government interference in order to snuff out the independence of mind and spirit which is one of the principal sources of ________-class robustness.

How you scored:
Mostly As - don't take the piss.

Mostly Bs - well done, comrade. You gut the last banker, I'll hang the last Master of Fox Hounds.

Mostly Cs - Bad luck. If you can't already smoke a cigarette blindfold, I'd start getting some practice in.

That anyone, even Melanie Philips, can suggest with a straight face that doctors and lawyers who can afford either to pay the fees for or live in the cachement area of a high performing school are somehow "middle" class is a joke. Here's the bottom-line: if your personal income is over £50K, you are not only one of the top 10% of earners in the UK, but you are quite comfortably one of the richest tenth of one percent of people who have ever been born.* Anywhere, ever. If your response to being in this situation is to get resentful that people worse off than you are getting government support for e.g. childcare while you miss out on tax-breaks on your second home, then you are whining in a rather unattractive fashion. If you think that you or your financial situation are in any way a priority for government, you're either phenomenally ignorant about your good fortune, or you're pathetic. Good news! You're well-off, and you're going to stay well-off. Even if you have put your child into a state school, or only pay half the deposit on his first home, you're still going to be sitting pretty damn pretty. So don't keep sticking your hand out.

The language of priorities isn't just for politicians. All of us need to start wondering whether "policies that will see me right" are really the same as the policies needed to help the country.

*Probably. Don't be fooled into thinking I'm making that statement on the basis of rigorous economic and demographic analysis.

1 comment:

Mike said...

You suggest a £50k salary puts people in the top 10% anywhere ever. I think that's wrong. For a start the average and median salary figures on which (I think) you rely are only for employees not the self-employed - see

Even looking at just employees, the average London salary is about £46k ( The London median must be lower but I am not sure people earning over 50k are anywhere near the top 10%.

Moreover, we must differentiate between earnings and wealth. A salary of £50k will not get you a mortgage on a house at the average price in Greater London (£260k).

Insofar as salary and "class" can be assimilated in this fashion I would not call someone earning over £50k anything like "upper" (in London at least).