I HAVE been wrongly accused, more than once, of having a chip on my shoulder about being working class. It’s actually several chips.
From a young age I knew what I was and where I came from, but was blissfully unaware of the likely backgrounds of others.
That started to change when, for some reason, we had to read out our addresses one day in school and a couple of people in my class actually lived in houses that had names rather than numbers. That didn’t prompt me to explore much deeper, but I always remembered it.
In my late teens I would read music magazines, in particular the NME, which was extremely political back then and would grill most bands about their opinions and backgrounds.
I was stunned that many left-wing bands originated in independent schools, using “from Sheffield”, “from Manchester” or “Leeds-based” descriptions to disguise their Bucks/Berks origins.
Then music got almost completely taken over by the middle classes. It would. Why would a record company sign someone as unreliable as the Happy Mondays ever again when they can operate much more profitably and safely with Mumford & Sons and not have to worry about whether the musicians they have invested in have a) died, b) been imprisoned or c) been responsible for someone else’s death?
On entering journalism I was shocked to find out how many starting out were doing so with parents who had worked in newspapers, on TV or radio, and of the 46 on my course I would estimate around half had attended public school and/or moved onto Oxford/Cambridge, a situation I would come across often over the years.
The advent of the internet and in particular Wikipedia meant Googling famous people was particularly easy and led me to discover that the majority of cricketers and rugby union players also had privileged schooling and a shocking number of actors, musicians and TV presenters/personalities. Almost all of them. Try it.
Frank Turner can sing all the politically-charged songs he wants but he went to Eton. Tom Hardy can play as many rough-arsed villains as he wants, but he was educated at exclusive independent schools.
Comedians and TV writers Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Miranda Harte are almost royalty. Literally.
Politics as well, Labour party MPs as much as any other party.
Does it matter and, if so, why?
It does, because this country likes to claim it has moved on from its class-based nepotistic past, but, while there will be the odd breakthrough from the lower ranks, most of those who ‘succeed’ in life still do so because of who they know and the connections they have made.
There is no point moaning about it — even though I just have and I suppose it gets it off my wheezy chest, inherited from my father who spent most of his life working in the mills (ha!) — but we do like to pretend this situation no longer exists.
Those “chip on your shoulder” comments usually come from people who have one on the other side of their head defending their privilege.
For now, I might as well continue carrying those chips around. We like chips here — a much better use of a potato than dauphinoise.