Sunday Post column in full
Well, what are you? An emergent service worker or a member of the technical middle class? Frankly my dears I don't give a damn. Yip – I've just made up an eighth special category in the BBC's new social rankings – the utterly thrawn. Just as humanity can be divided by books read, meals bought, music heard, holidays taken, disposable income and education level, so we can also be divided into those who accept and those who refuse to be graded, measured, compared and divided as if we were a bunch of stirks or ewes. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying class is non-existent. Far from it. That would be naive in a country where the poorest tenth receive 1% of national income while the top tenth receive 31%. But the Brits just love to be distracted by the trappings of class difference instead of tackling it. We could recognise Britain's tolerance of inequality is society-sapping and prompts squabbling amongst ourselves. We could take action to equalise opportunity and achieve the better health, wellbeing, happiness and education scores of our European neighbours. Or we could just keep doing tests like these.
Mind you, living in a nation with a caste system as rigid as India has its advantages – Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs for example. Who but the Brits could produce class-based costume drama with such panache and export it across the world? Who but the British -- still have the dream that one day we will all wear silk dresses, call our children Peregrine knowing they won't get teased at (private) school and consider ourselves broad-minded for sharing jokes with the maid? I'd be surprised if the BBC's new epic -- The Village --ever catches on despite the marvellous John (Life on Mars) Simm in the lead role. Why – because we know where we are when the posh folk are in control. Their dresses are nicer and their problems more escapist. Watching the trials and tribulations of the worn-out workers in The Village is like taking a Busman's Holiday for mot anxious working Scots – especially the thousands with benefits docked by Iain Duncan Smith for daring to have an extra bedroom. Actually we should be grateful to the Work and Pensions Secretary for coming up with a set of welfare changes so patently unfair he has united all classes behind a common cause – to see him actually live on £53 per week as he claims he can. Tomorrow (Monday) an internet petition with almost half a million names will be handed in asking IDS to get the tent and the begging bowl out and prove he's not just all talk.
That's not just "chattering class" action. That's a mass movement by people who care and will not be divided, deflected or turn on the poorest when the going gets rough. Yip – that's thrawn. Call me cynical but making more distinctions between people when we need concerted action seems nothing short of Thatcherite. She was the woman who once told us "there is no such thing as society." And yet evidently there is. We need to feel connected to one another to survive – and in Scotland we generally do. At a time like this with ice caps melting and everyone facing uncertainty (apart from bonus-packing bankers) we need to be weeded apart by pseudo-science "class tests" like a hole in the head. So I've got a new survey that divides all of humanity into just three classes -- those who can remember their designation from the new class survey, those who cannae and those who didn't try. I'm betting my thermal vest most Scots are in Camp Two or Camp Thrawn. And I'd humbly suggest that knowledge is a lot more useful to guiding the nation than any more licence-fee funded surveys from Aunty.