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Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I bet he keeps coal in the bath

Amid all the media comment about David Blunkett's departure from office last week has been an unpleasant recurring theme. Apparently the man had ideas above his station.

Aren't there enough legitimate political reasons for opposing Blunkett, principally his instinctive authoritarianism? Instead, there has been a litany of snobbish remarks to the effect that a man who is not only working class in origin but also from the north should have had the temerity to visit the Mayfair nightclub Annabel's.

One commentator (I forget who) likened Blunkett to Icarus. The message from such snobs is clear: if you're from Sheffield, know your place. (If you went to Eton, on the other hand, then snorting coke is just a bit of a lark).

A bizarre variant on this theme was Nick Cohen's
column in last Sunday's Observer, which suggested that provincial socialists should stick with their own. Cohen's criticisms of the plutocracy are spot-on but his advice to politicians that "rich, Tory southerners" inhabit "a strange and potentially vicious world whose rules you don't understand" is frankly patronising.

Several Liberal Democrat bloggers have been getting worked up lately about the alleged iniquities of the state education system. While they're about it, they might also ponder the problems of the fee-paying 'public' schools, which still do more than anything else to perpetuate Britain's nasty culture of class prejudice.

Of course people from Sheffield have as much right as anyone else to visit Annabel's. But might not a "legitimate political reason" for opposing anyone who visits this or any other nightclub be that their judgement must be suspect if they enjoy anything so meretricious? The commentators have missed a trick in being sufficiently blinded by snobbery not to have noticed this point. Personally I would rather visit Sheffield which, since I twice failed to enter its university, is something of a lost elysium for me.
I was just wondering how you thought fee-paying schools- or was it the public schools in particular?- reinforced class prejudice? Does it do so in a way that BUPA does not? Or shopping at Harrods rather than ASDA? When Asquith said that the Liberal party was 'the party of all classes and none', I believe he might have been making a reference to how we shouldn't get in the game of dividing people- and that means defending Old Etonians from unnecessary abuse as much as 'chavs'.
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