The British obsession with Class

Monday 27th February

The British seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Class.  Maybe we always have had.  It has certainly been a part of my life since I was a child, though I like to think that I have moved away from all that sort of snobbery in my later years.  I have to keep telling myself that everyone’s life is just as valid, and it really doesn’t matter if they watch Springwatch or The Only Way is Essex; and for all I know there may be millions who watch both, and why not.  Part of the fun of our culture though is in puncturing the pretensions that class carries with it, it has been the basis of so many comedies from Dad’s Army, Steptoe and Son, The Likely Lads, and of course Keeping Up Appearances, where Patricia Routledge superbly exposed all the foibles of a snobbish middle class existence.  In some ways it all seems a bit dated now, especially when we watch re-runs of Fawlty Towers, which was mostly about class too.  We can pat ourselves on the back that we have come such a long way, from that class-ridden way of life.  And while class may be less important today, it is still there.  Hunting, with those well to do county types in red riding jackets and silver hip-flasks is as popular as ever, and we do like to shop in John Lewis, and eat at Celebrity Chef’s restaurants, defending our choices as liking nice things, whereas the working class idea of niceness, with DFS sofa’s, chips with everything and shopping at Asda, can raise more than a touch of snobbishness in some of us still.  We seem to be having trouble getting class out of our system, and out of the system itself; class is far more deeply embedded than we like to think.  You only have to look at the bosses of large companies, most of whom were educated at public school to realise that the working classes still have a long way to travell.  In fact it is probably harder now than in the egalitarian sixties for a working class kid to really succeed on talent alone, what with student loans and middle class internships and help up the social ladder.  One only has to look at our politicians, with a cabinet made up old Etonians and Oxbridge graduates, and even the opposition is determinedly middle class these days.  The only working class voices one hears are advertising on-line casinos or on those wretched DIY makeover shows, or am I simply showing my class by even mentioning them.