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Toffs v toughs

by J. C. Greenway
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Here we go again, round 342 in the continuing national sport to see if England will ever be able to lose its hidebound sense of class and move on from 18th century notions of who’s in and who’s out. Reading the story of the posh (or ‘rah’) takeover of Newcastle University from the weekend’s Sunday Times, you could sense that some of the exchanges quoted were as likely to fan the flames of class war as a clumsily thrown can of petrol:

‘Is that a can of cake?’ a boy asks his friend’s girlfriend. ‘No, vodka and cake, do you want some?’

Ha, ha, ha – or ‘haw, haw, haw’, as the ST has it – aren’t the posh kids hilarious? Yet the paper solemnly records the darker side to this braying sense of entitlement:

It’s a club you can only belong to if you’ve been to a school with manicured lawns, toured exotic lands with a backpack, partied your way through university, and are going to get a job through an ever-extending network of people just like you.

Now, given that the Sunday Times is pretty much the house journal for those who prefer their kids to be educated around manicured lawns, it seems a little unlikely that they would be up for this kind of rah-baiting. Especially given that they are the main cheerleaders for another group of privileged university friends…

There was also an interview with Trevor Phillips in the same paper, in which he sets out a future where the Equality and Human Rights Commission introduces measures to combat this age-old problem:

The most blaring and substantial thing that best predicts disadvantage is class and place: who your parents were, what they did and where you grew up.

He mentions some things that seem to make sense:

All internships should be competitive. You shouldn’t have people waltzing into development opportunities, chances to learn the ropes, courtesy of the fact that the parent knows somebody.

And now, the Sunday Times methods become clear. This is a rallying cry for the posh, which you would imagine probably sounds like a hunting horn, putting them on alert them to any potential reduction of privileges, no matter how unlikely to happen. Even if Phillips did have in mind to tackle this situation head on and the Government were prepared to alienate the few middle class voters who don’t already hate them, clever, ambitious people will always find a way around any government-imposed obstacle. It will take a more reasoned response than allowing a few working class kids to intern at Vogue to suddenly turn this country into an egalitarian paradise, more’s the pity.


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rantinnravin 2 March 2010 - 5:00 pm

Without our class system we wouldn’t have such a amazing musical history. Imagine a world with no Sex Pistols or The Clash? Every cloud and all that.

They can have a bit of a leg up if you ask me. It’s a kind of payment for being such a rich source of amusement.

Julia Smith 2 March 2010 - 8:15 pm

It’s true. Joe Strummer is the exception that proves the rule, but from Kula Shaker to the Kooks, I think music’s better when the toffs are kept out of the game.

rantinnravin 2 March 2010 - 8:55 pm

Keep them out of the game by all means, but keep them in our lives to give people something extra to be angry about.

Imagine a socialist world. It’d be shit. We’d all be listening to Ben Folds Five on repeat.

Julia Smith 2 March 2010 - 9:50 pm

This is why you need anarchists, so there’s the Clash and Billy Bragg.

Although I think East Germany had amazing underground rock bands…


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