Thursday, April 04, 2013

Class - the great British obsession

Class isn't just a British obsession but it is one topic that everybody seems to have an opinion on. The debate has entered the messageboards, radio and newspaper discussions again over the last couple of days thanks to the BBC.

A few years ago everybody seemed desperate to pin their colours to the working class flag, it was actually quite noticeable how, during his Budget speech last month, that George Osborne seemed to be adopting the accent of 'Estuary man', something Tony Blair was taken to task over more than once. Historically it had always been easy to pigeonhole which class you were in simply by determining which of the three groups headed by landowners, doctors or shop workers (shop keepers) you identified with, but post WW2 everybody was encouraged to become more aspirational. As I have pointed out before it was Danny Baker who once commented that simply because you were born working class it shouldn't mean that you had to stay there out of gratitude.

My Mum and Dad were working class by background and job status to begin with but then through a combination of hard work and circumstance managed to move socially upwards. I know my Dad is proud of his East End roots (as am I) but my Mum hates to be reminded of it, it's not just in looks that she resembles Babara Windsor with her hiding of her Bethnal Green accent. I have inherited certain working class traits, all sub consciously, whilst rejecting other and I think the fact that I went into a profession that is firmly grounded in middle class aspirations has seen to that. I have tended to think of myself as middle class by profession but lower middle class by economic and social status.

 It's interesting to look around our road and see what a social/economic mix we are: printer, health worker, shop worker, bus driver, trainee solicitor, former postman, chip shop owner, taxi driver - we don't look very middle class do we? I know some twenty five to thirty years ago we did an experiment at work and asked people whether the evening meal was dinner or tea and based our class on that linguistic decision, the other question was whether you had grown up with 'aunties' and 'uncles' who were actually neighbours rather than relations - the old working class habit of giving anybody you came into contact with socially an honorary title.

I did the test linked to above and I am one of the new class of technical middle class, which upon examination seems to make me a bit of a 'Billy no-mates' but with money to spend.    

9 comments:

The Great Gildersleeve said...

I came in at the lowest category...so though I am going to say I am intelligent I am at the bottom of the pile materialistically which these tests are really judging class on wealth.

Span Ows said...

Agree with Gildy, I did this test a couple of days ago via Spectator and BiasedBBC, I'm 'Established Middle Class' even though I rent and don't have much saved up.

I went back and did it again with 500K house, 100K salary and 100K savings (to get 'top' money) then put 'lorry driver' as the only person I knew and hip-hop as the only pastime...of course it comes out as Elite.

Also, those past-times, what happened to walks, 'Nature', fishing, hunting, swimming etc. All a bit urban trendy centered to make any real sense.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Good point Span about us being judged on the test by having an urban lifestyle.

Paul said...

I agree with you both in thinking income has been the most important criteria judging by the various comments across various sites I have read. Interestingly I put 'lorry driver' in my answer as well (one of my brother in laws) and that knocked me back.

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