Middle class and proud of it (really)

By Simon Round, April 16, 2009

Our right to protest is considered inviolable in a democracy. This is as it should be. However, I would suggest one modification to this fundamental part of our unwritten constitution — that people should have the right to protest only as long as they have something sensible to protest about.

By all means, protest against capitalism, against war and against nuclear weapons. However, it is not acceptable to stage a protest against the class profile of a graffiti artist. I’m normally a pretty liberal kind of guy but when angry protest groups start protesting against other people’s daubings, you can’t help but wonder whether they just ought to be rounded up, thrown in prison and lightly flogged.

The protest group in question defaced a Banksy graffito in Bristol on the grounds that he, Banksy, the world’s most famous dauber, had become too middle class.

I have no idea whether Banksy resides in a council flat in Barking or a suburban semi in Stanmore, because no one knows who he is — he might be a United Synagogue rabbi for all we know. However, is it such a crime to move to the other side of the class divide (if he wasn’t middle class to begin with, which of course he might have been)?

It reminds me of when I was at university in the ’80s. We all pretended desperately hard to be the alienated children of Thatcher’s Britain — from tough areas and tougher comprehensives — deprived kids who, somehow, made it to university against all the odds. Of course we were all middle class. Pretending to be working class is actually a complete giveaway.

Now, 20 years on, I am happy to be middle class. It is part of who I am. It might not be true that every one is middle class now, but it probably is true that nearly all Jews in this country are pretty bourgeois.

That is not to say there are not class distinctions, but in our case they are disguised as geographical ones— ie north-west London versus Essex.

North-west Londoners are stereotypically a little hoity toity, while Essex Jews are considered only one step removed from the East End.

Of course, enlightened north-west Londoners like myself do not engage in this unseemly prejudice. I do not look down on Essex people just because they have travelled a shorter distance from Stepney than I have and, let’s face it, sound like it. I have nothing against gaudy jewellery, fake tans or taxi drivers. I don’t necessarily think that we all need to speak like newsreaders.

We were all created equal and remain so despite the unfortunate accident of birth which landed some unfortunates east of the Lea Valley. The fact that people (admittedly rough and ready types) like Sir Alan Sugar can rise above his Essex upbringing surely proves that the Essex middle class is almost as middle class as we are (which is more than them).

Oh, and before you get the green ink ready, or indeed get your spray guns out, let me just add that the above is purely tongue in cheek — merely a reflection of prejudices of some of my Hyacinth Bucket-like fellow north-west Londoners. I’m certainly no class traitor, but who knows, I could be Banksy.

Last updated: 10:29am, April 16 2009