Via a link on bloggers4Labour I came across this piece of crap in which Harriet Harman is slated for devoting part of her speech to the TUC this week to ‘what she would have us believe is the biggest issue of our time: class.
“People’s life chances”, she said, are impacted by “where they were born, what kind of family they were born into, where they live and their wealth” as well as their gender, race, disability and age.’
Now, you could argue that it’s too easy to make me angry just by having a go at Harriet Harman (he has a go at Polly Toynbee in the same article, but I’m having much more mixed feelings towards her at the moment), but:
…how is that not the biggest issue of our time? (And yeah, I know, climate change. But it’s the poorest people in society who would be hardest hit by a massive tax on shortfall flights and it’s the same people who get hardest hit when Doncaster gets flooded, so don’t tell me I can’t bring class into everything.)
Pollard’s proof that class no longer exists? Well, he makes three points with which one just can’t argue:
1. People don’t wear hats anymore.
2. Alan Sugar has been knighted.
3. ‘…neither Kate Middleton nor Chelsy Davy could even be described as posh, let alone aristocratic.’
It’s quite obvious what’s happened here in Stephen Pollard’s head. There’s a joke in ‘The 2nd Secret Diary of John Major‘ where Major says to a minister (I forget which one, probably Norman Lamont) that Britain is now a classless society, and the minister replies “That’s right. There’s no class left.”
Now, I’m happy to concede that Chelsy Davy, Kate Middleton and Alan Sugar are not what you might call classy. I might even be tempted to agree that people who go about without hats on are terribly vulgar (but that may just be because I think that Keira Knightley looks stunning in a bowler). But the assertion that ‘there’s no clarse left’ is very obviously not going to convince anyone that every person born in Britain today has the same opportunities as every other. A few people getting rich without being born rich doesn’t mean classism has disappeared, any more that Hillary Clinton’s coming close-ish to the chance to lose the US presidential election means that women now get power handed to them on a plate. (Slightly tortuous sentence there, but you’ll get it if you read it twice.)
Having utterly failed to even try and argue that there is any equality of opportunity in Britain, Pollard then gives up pretending and insists that only he (and Lord Adonis, who Pollard says may be ‘the only minister in the entire period of Labour government to have done something worthwhile’ – seriously, am I making an idiot out of myself here? Is this entire article a parody?) had ever noticed that this social inequality was rooted in the inequalities of education.
Now, inequality in education has already been in the comment sections this week following the assertion by Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor that universities should not act as engines for promoting social justice. Pollard, of course, supports this – as he would, for it is utter bullshit. What definition of ‘well-rounded education’ does not include ‘the promotion of social justice’? Nowhere offers better opportunities for inter-class mingling than being a student. Even at the noToryous University of York (where my boyfriend was at one point the only member of our University Labour Club who had never learnt Latin) there was a reasonable sprinkling of first-in-my-family-to-go-to-university types to enliven the ranks of boys who looked like Marcus from the Yellow Pages advert. If you ever hear a young-ish posh person and a young-ish broad Scouser chatting as friends, you assume they’re students, or at least that that’s how they met. Where else does society intersect like that?
Pollard’s solution, of course, isn’t to keep pressuring universities to accept a student intake that vaguely resembles the makeup of the British population. Nor is it to do away with the hysterical focus on Oxbridge and accept that there may be more than two decent universities in the country. It is, of course, to do away with the focus on state schools, and build academies. That is, if you have one really good school in your town, and get all the parents who have the time and money to focus on their kids’ primary education to arrange for those kids to be able to jump and limbo through the admissions criteria hoops, and let all the other kids go somewhere else, that will result in complete equality. Almost instantaneously. Fact.
After all that he has the nerve to criticise Harriet Harman for having sent her kids to grammar school. Yes, that was a hypocritical thing to do. But being parents makes people hypocritical – she’s far from the only one. This is something Zoe Williams used to mock people for. Now that she’s a parent herself I will try very hard not to judge her when she does the same.
Sorry, this has been a marathon demonstration of why I should never blog at 2am. If you’ve skipped ahead, here’s a summary: class war = not over. Cambridge VC = talking out of arse. Academies = not the answer. Harriet Harman = not awful. (If you don’t know me and are gearing up to point out that academies were a Labour idea and that it was Tony Blair who said class war was over, then feel free to get in touch and I’ll email you a list of Labour politicians who are not Tony Blair. I tend to agree with them more.)