I realise this is a bit tiny-violin territory, but why has it become acceptable in the last 30 years or so to dismiss someone’s opinions, abilities, right to a complex interior life, emotions – you name it – purely on the basis that they’re a bit posh?
For me, pretty much the LEAST objectionable thing about Boris, Osborne and Cameron is their education and background. Conversely, Gove often gets credit (or anyway a grudging “at least he wasn’t born posh”) for being an adopted scholarship boy. Music journalists and musicians have been making a massive deal of the assumed virtues of being working class ever since (yawn) punk. Nicky Wire still won’t shut up about it. It’s presumed relevant that Corbyn isn’t state educated. It all seems a bit odd.
What’s it all about, then? Is it just resentment at the hold the posh still have on public life? What’s the statistic? – something like 7% of the population went to private school and yet they make up 32% of MPs.
That’s often quoted in horrified tones, but – devil’s advocate in excelsis here – isn’t it the case that private schools until quite recently did offer a vastly superior all-round education? Otherwise why pay? (Incidentally, many minor public schools are now struggling because the standard of state schools is perceived by parents as now sufficiently high that the premium for private is less worth paying.) But people who are now of electable age went to school in a different era, and simply were, on average, better educated than the state school competition, weren’t they? Or weren’t they?
(The Graun ran a piece a couple of years ago decrying Britain’s elitism, which contained the sentence “people educated at public school and Oxbridge creating a “closed shop at the top”.” That seems to me to conflate two things: public school and Oxbridge. Even if we accept that public schools don’t turn out a better-educated end product and that it’s all old-boy-networking that’s to blame, why is it a bad thing that the two best universities in the world are the source of most of our political and business leaders?)
But anyway, side issue.
It’s basically fine, in Britain, to slag someone off and discount their opinions purely because they’re posh. Meanwhile, “working class” is a badge of honour even if the person wearing it is a complete waste of skin. It’s not the posho’s fault that they’re posh, any more than it’s the working class person’s achievement that they were born in a council house.
Anyway, I hold no brief for the upper classes, particularly. It just seems a bit weird that it’s out of order to use the circumstances of a person’s birth against them – unless they’re posh, in which case it’s fine.