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Class and all that

Obviously life is far harder than it used to be for young graduate professionals, and an increased reliance on the state (which the Labour vote represents) would be a completely natural, self-interested response. Today’s Labour middle classes, though, do often sound a little bit like they themselves don’t quite recognise that this is the dynamic here. ‘It is vital that we keep having free healthcare and education so that you do, too!’ they’ll say, effectively, to the far poorer. Or better still, ‘My mediocre philosophy degree contributes to the intellectual health of the nation at large!’ And at what point, I’m wondering, do the people who aren’t ever going to have a mediocre philosophy degree call bullshit on that? At what point do they look at the resources doled out to people far richer than them and ask bluntly whether this alliance is really working in their favour?

Hugo Rifkind, pondering on the love by some affluent people for Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of hard-Left politics

There are of course several factors in play: forgetfulness about how awful 1970s Britain was in an era of strikes, hyper-inflation, price controls, etc; a period of (relative) affluence that dulls the senses (at least for some of those, such as those without student debts); a Tory Party led by a “blue-rinse socialist” who seems almost as keen on regulation and state interference as some on the Labour side, thereby blunting the appeal of Tories to genuine limited-govt. conservatives; an education system that has turned out a group of “educated” people blind to the dangers of state power and reflexively hostile to the open market economy, and a legitimate sense of grievance over inflated house prices (planning laws, QE), heavy student debt/worthless degrees. As a set of background conditions, these are all ideal soil for a leftist politician, never mind a devious one as extreme as Corbyn, to grow in.

Rifkind is right to ask the question as to at what point does the middle-classness of Labour come into conflict with its purported “soak-the-rich” agenda particularly when said middle classes realise they are “rich” for the purposes of said agenda? For the time being, though, a large chunk of the “middle class” (well, the bit that works in the public sector and hence from the taxpayer) think the bearded one and his colleagues are just great.

All this stuff about class got me thinking. Recently, there was much muttering about how utterly middle class these days the Glastonbury music festival is, what with the fact also that the price of an admission is just shy of £250, which even today is a lot of money. Last weekend I went with friends to the utterly non-Corbyn spectacle, the Royal International Air Tattoo. It was noisy; the air was full of thunderous aircraft roaring about and doing their stuff. And as I looked about at the crowd, I saw lots of middle-aged blokes such as me in shorts and T-shirts with pictures of planes on them; wives and girlfriends who were just as keen; some ex-military types (you can tell by the haircuts and the physiques) and young kids all excited about these planes. There were a lot of people who, from what I can tell, were quite affluent but not showy apart from from camera lenses the length of RPGs; there were no loud Sloanes (maybe the aircraft noise drowned them out) or Islington scruffs. In some respects RIAT is an aviation version of Le Mans, the 24-hour motor racing odyssey I like to attend every year.

Frankly, the air show is a mental health break from the current news agenda.

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21 comments to Class and all that

  • Mr Ecks

    “wives and girlfriends who were just as keen; some ex-military types (you can tell by the haircuts and the physiques) and young kids all excited about these planes. There were a lot of people who, from what I can tell, were quite affluent but not showy apart from from camera lenses the length of RPGs; there were no loud Sloanes (maybe the aircraft noise drowned them out) or Islington scruffs. In some respects RIAT is an aviation version of Le Mans, the 24-hour motor racing odyssey I like to attend every year.

    Frankly, the air show is a mental health break from the current news agenda.”

    Thank God for that. For a moment I thought you were going to say they were all wearing Corbyn tee-shirts.

  • AKM

    I had a similar reaction this weekend. For the first time I went to the Silverstone Formula One with a couple of friends; the range of body and face types in the crowd was impressive, indicative of almost every class and region in the UK (as well as F1 fans from across the world) despite the eye-watering cost. The usual middle-class SJWs tell us that there should be an undercurrent of tension between the sexes, races and classes, yet everyone was relaxed and friendly united, I supposed, by a common love of motor-sport.

  • staghounds

    I’m confused. What does “middle class” mean in England? Has it become a euphemism for people who are rather well off but maybe didn’t go to Eton?

    In the U. S., it means people who neither work with their hands nor have an investment portfolio, the struggling to stay clean class.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Mr Ecks, by mentioning ex-military types in that sentence it ought to be pretty obvious to you that no-one there would be seen dead in a Corbyn t-shirt, given how he and his allies are loathed by the military. God, I bet the security folks would probably not let anyone in so attired.

  • AKM

    Staghounds.

    Good point. I’ve been trying to make a distinction between the middle class and the intellectual class for ages, but I still lazily fall back on traditional usage from time to time.

    Generally the middle class in the UK is everyone who isn’t working class and isn’t part of the aristocracy, so it’s always been a broad group of people though not always a large group of people. The divide between the commercial middle class, the artistic and the academic middles classes has been around for a long time now.

  • Alisa

    Personally, I have always been grated by the ‘working-class’ label – as if only manual labor should count as proper work. As to the middle, it tends to move in tandem with the changing (/rising?) standards of living.

  • Mr Ed

    James Dellingpole (PBUH) used a term which appears to encompass the Glastonbury set and the artistic/academic middle classes in question, but unfortunately the term might be regarded as impolite and too broad, so one might call them ‘the wankerati and their followers’.

    None of whom would be seen dead at an air show.

    However, air shows ain’t what they used to be, as this clip from c. 1961 shows. Planes landing at opposite ends of the same runway, at the same time.

  • JS

    staghounds,
    Up to about the 1970s it was very common to refer to the Lower Middle Class and the Upper Middle Class.
    I assume in retrospect that the former was generally lower white collar and lower managerial workers while the latter was top management, professionals and assorted well-off but not quite aristocratic.
    It wasn’t entirely to do with income as some higher-status professional people like teachers would be higher up the scale than, say, a specialist manual worker who might be earning more.

    The distinction between upper and lower middle class seems to have been dropped quite suddenly only for us to be left with a very woolly Middle Class which means almost anything and therefore nothing much.

  • bobby b

    I believe that “middle class” now means “employed, can’t afford to retire”, while “working class” means “employed, can’t afford to miss a paycheck.”

    What’s the new term for the 30% living on the various doles? Indolent class?

  • Laird

    Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes!
    Bow, bow, ye tradesmen, bow, ye masses!
    Blow the trumpets, bang the brasses!
    Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!
    We are peers of highest station,
    Paragons of legislation,
    Pillars of the British nation!
    Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!

    – W.S. Gilbert (“Iolanthe“)

  • Sam Duncan

    “Le Mans, the 24-hour motor racing odyssey I like to attend every year.”

    Didn’t know that, Johnathan. I’ve always wanted to go, but being able to afford it and being bothered to arrange it have never coincided. Post some photos next year, eh? 🙂

    “For the first time I went to the Silverstone Formula One with a couple of friends”

    And that’s another one. But I noticed the same thing on TV, all walks of life having a blast together, and sod politics.

    “the wankerati”

    I like it. I’m also glad to see baizuo seems to be catching on.

  • I have never understood the American definition of Middle Class as it seems to mean everyone who is not either living in a dumpster under a bridge or a plutocrat in the Hamptons.

  • Alisa

    Excellent, Laird!

  • Laird

    Sam, that’s the first I’ve seen of “baizuo”. A good word; I hope it catches on here.

    Perry, over here if you’re not on welfare or a billionaire you’re “middle class”. We’re basically all middle class (although sometimes the modifier “lower” or “upper” is appended to it). I suspect that’s because we fancy ourselves as egalitarians living in a “classless” society, without any history of hereditary aristocracy. You, on the other hand, until relatively recently referred to “middle classes” in the plural, which I find interesting. How many are (were) there, and how defined?

    Thanks, Alisa. I realized that I hadn’t posted any verse here in quite a while; time to remedy that oversight!

  • bobby b

    “I have never understood the American definition of Middle Class as it seems to mean everyone who is not either living in a dumpster under a bridge or a plutocrat in the Hamptons.”

    You understand it just fine.

  • Magnocrat

    Its comfortable being middle class but I’ve crept in surreptitiously and it could be I don’t really belong here. Dad was a plumber and my IQ is 105 or just above average but no grammar school and no higher education. My spelling is pretty good these days but then whose isn’t? I’ve dabbled in many things and puzzled over many more since I’ve been retired for fourteen years. I’m 75 and looking to the future that’s left. Computers often make me scratch my head but then so do modern motor cars , but it’s said all things come to those who wait.

  • Alan Peakall

    The essence of the lower middle class is that there is an upper lower middle class and a lower lower middle class, but no middle lower middle class.

  • nemesis

    I’ve occasionally slipped into using labels myself (middle class, intellectuals etc) but try to avoid it. I see it mainly as a tool of the left and their identity politics. Far better to judge people on their own individual merit and treat people as the individuals they are rather than conforming to a stereotype and playing the left’s game.

  • Royal International Air Tattoo

    De plane, de plane!

    😉

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    Always wait until the plane has come to a complete stop at the terminal, and the air stairs are in place, before deplaning.

    Cheers

  • Paul Marks

    The Royal International Air Tatoo – I would have liked to have been there.

    I dare say that Mr Ed would have like to be there to – perhaps he was there.

    As for rich leftists.

    Oh well there we go.

    Even I can not think about these people all the time – partly because I would go over the edge from near insanity to formal insanity, and partly because they are a bore.