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How the scourge of the middle classes missed the point


How the Middle Class Ruined Britain; BBC2 July 23, 2019 

CHEEKY chappie Geoff Norcott, 42, claims to be the only Tory voter on the comedy circuit. I was keen to watch his film, which was shown on BBC2 last week, particularly wondering why the BBC had commissioned comment from anyone from the Right, who was going to attack the type of Islington bourgeois who run the BBC.

In Britain we all love the issue of class – the programme gained a million viewers – but it was like an hour-long trip down a rabbit hole where we followed many an amusing trope but got nowhere. Norcott accused the middle classes of ‘drinking red wine and watching foreign-language films’ and, blinded by inverted snobbery, failed to discuss any of the issues which bother most people, such as why many of our state schools are so bad, and why class division seems to be widening.

Norcott, who was brought up by a single parent on a council estate in Sutton and attended the Rutlish School for boys, as did Sir John Major, named one of his tours ‘Right Leaning but Well Meaning’. He might be, but he completely missed the point, which is perhaps why the BBC likes him.

‘Schools, this is where the middle classes chuck their ethics out of the window and start to play games,’ he whined. And what games they are; listening made one proud for once not to be a parent. Father Martin from St Luke’s Primary school, Kingston, pointed out that when the school ‘prioritised Christian children’, after a month of a child getting into the school, all pretence at church-going ceased. He added meaningfully that none of the parents in the nearby council estate ever went to church. No hypocrites they.

‘The middle classes work all the angles,’ said Norcott accusingly. He visited Havering Council where they have ‘super sleuths’ who catch out posh parents. Some move into temporary accommodation with a relative near a preferred school, others pretend marital splits.

Those better-off former yuppies sounded like scoundrels until a council officer said that it happened ‘across the class divide’. Norcott’s case fell apart with those words, but as a class bigot he was out to show that the ‘middle class keep the wealth for themselves’; the avocado-eating ‘Olivers and Jemimas’ were also guilty of ‘social cleansing’ by moving into an area and doing it up.

His argument was weakened as despite a poor background he has an English degree from Goldsmiths, University of London, became a teacher and is now a successful social commentator. He was about as realistic as Jeremy Corbyn who sent Mrs May on her way with a complaint about an increase in class sizes. He knows that class sizes have increased with the size of the population.

Norcott must know too that many working-class people are failing through their own fault, often outclassed by more ambitious migrants moving in around them. He didn’t ask why none of the parents on the local estate availed themselves of a chance to cook the school books by simply going to the CofE church.

He could have asked them if they preferred to stay in bed on a Sunday morning rather than get their children to church, as their forebears did, to increase their chances of getting a good education. He must have some view on failing white working-class boys, as he could so easily have been one himself.

Neither did he ask why so many parents have to chase so few places in ‘good schools’. What are all the bad schools doing there? As a conservative he might have pointed out that most state schools are now echo chambers of radical Left-wing views, the sort we hear constantly from the BBC, such as the time recently spent considering what to call pupils: ‘children’ is now deemed derogatory, ‘girls and boys,’ ‘he and she’ are completely out. Oxford University recently suggested ‘ze’ as a solution to this pressing problem. There is even controversy about basic uniforms because of the obsession with transgendering.

Instead of attacking the despised entrepreneurial bourgeoisie for moving in with their farmers’ markets and Ocado vans, he might have asked questions about how we can end the ‘postcode lottery’ whereby comprehensives are neighbourhood schools, a disaster if your area has not yet been gentrified. Perhaps that kind of conservative perspective would not have gone down well with the BBC who wanted something chirpier and pointlessly chippy. It seems that somewhere along his own road to success, well-meaning Norcott took on the Left-wing notion that to aspire is wrong, elitist and a kind of class treason. It’s that idea and the people who carry it like a bacillus which has ruined Britain.

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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