Backchat: Social Class

In response to Sky News article: ‘Suella Braverman faces backlash after saying rough sleeping is ‘lifestyle choice’.

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Suella Braverman may be in the news this week for receiving the sack from Sunak, but her removal has been a long time coming. The precise reason for her removal was over her article in The Times which undermined the independence of the police and ignored Number 10’s request for edits. However, her controversies began far earlier than this. In light of this week’s Backchat theme I’d like to take another look at her comments labelling rough sleeping a ‘lifestyle choice’ – comments that coincidentally were not deemed a sackable offence. These comments are emblematic of an out of touch government: a Prime Minister who has “friends who are aristocrats, friends who are upper class and friends who are working class… well not working class” , and now a new (or not-so-new) foreign secretary who famously didn’t know the price of a loaf of bread because he’s “got a bread-maker at home”. Braverman said of Britain’s homeless population that they were “mainly from abroad” and that they were “aggressively begging” and “blighting our communities”. I think her stance highlights a return to Victorian era ideals that attach morality to disadvantage, perpetuating ideas which distinguish deserving and undeserving poor. What this does, in my view, is allow the government to assume a god-like status, passing judgement over swathes of people whose struggles they couldn’t even begin to relate to. This year’s Christmas countdown, cast in the shadow of a cost-of-living crisis, puts Braverman in the role of a Dickens-esque antagonist. I half expect her to enquire if the Treadmill and the Poor Law are ‘still in full vigour’.

I think her stance highlights a return to Victorian era ideals that attach morality to disadvantage

The reference may seem crude until you look at her argument to criminalise homeless charities for providing tents, charities whose very existence point to failings of the state. Instead, what we’ve seen has been the cruel removal of the tents, which for some is their only shelter in these bitter winter months, along with what small worldly possessions they contain. I think what she does is severely misrepresent the issue of homelessness, choosing to partake in the creation of a ‘scapegoat’ society, causing division and stoking up hatred, to deflect responsibility and avoid accountability. The fact it has taken this long for her to go highlights the pervasiveness of these ideas in government, indicating a real lack of empathy in a society where nearly 4 million are living in destitution across the UK. It seems a GCSE English class would be better equipped for government office, that is, of course, provided they had safe classrooms to learn in.

The embodiment of class is not just a façade but a studied equilibrium

In response to the topic of social class within the wider British society.

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Having class in the UK is not a birthright but an art, an alchemical blend of nature and nurture. It’s the ability to convey a sense of effortless superiority, akin to a swan gliding across a perfectly still pond – serene on the surface, paddling frantically beneath.

More than the sheen of affluence, it’s about projecting an air of refinement that could rival the grandeur of a stately home’s oak-panelled library. Elocution elegance is key and one must wield the English language as a Glyndebourne conductor would a Philharmonic Orchestra. Conversations are not just exchanges of words; they are articulate dances where vowel placements and consonant pronunciations matter more than the content. Yet class is not merely curated through linguistic acquisitions but sartorial ones, too. The well-heeled individual understands the difference between a top hat and a bowler, the appropriateness of a cravat versus a necktie, and when to deploy a tartan scarf for that added touch of Highland sophistication. However, never (and I mean never), confuse your clothes with your social calendar.

From the Ascot ascendancy to the Wimbledon wonders, navigating these cultural extravaganzas demands more than just a ticket; it requires a knowledge of hat etiquette, an understanding of Pimm’s protocol, and the ability to seamlessly integrate into a social milieu where traditions are sacred and class distinctions are omnipresent. It’s an ode to strawberries and cream, where class is as much about an understanding of the game as it is about the elegance one brings to Centre Court. If you are partial to tea rather than Pimm’s, it is absolutely not appropriate to be raising your pinky finger while holding a tea cup. Pinkies down, scones stacked, and never, under any circumstances, dunk your digestive biscuit for too long. The embodiment of class is not just a façade but a studied equilibrium. The exterior exudes a composed and sophisticated demeanour, with each gesture and expression finely tuned to convey an air of understated distinction. It is an artful presentation that masks the unseen efforts beneath the surface – the meticulous grooming, the honing of social graces, and the assiduous acquisition of cultural knowledge.

In response to The Daily Mail’s Headline: ‘Come for Suella and you come for us all”

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When Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists rose to prominence in the 1930s can you guess who was the first paper to support him? If Mosely was Hitler’s “Man in England”, then for a brief period The Daily Mail was Hitler’s publication in England. This endorsement of course did not last—and was probably the last time The Mail supported anyone who had any association to Labour (Mosley was the Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster before he became disillusioned with the party). Is it any surprise then, why Fleet Street refer to The Mail offices as “The Death Star”?

But with this headline The Mail returned to its fascist roots in support for one its brand-new stars. In the same week in which Suella Braverman branded homelessness a ‘lifestyle choice’; in the same week she called pro-ceasefire marches in Gaza ‘hate marches’; in the same week she incited alt-right violence during Armistice Day, the paper rejected all the valid calls for her dismissal by aligning her views as the popular majority: “you come for us all”. Apparently, according to The Mail, we are all under threat because bigotry should not be permitted in high office. 

There is a common stereotype that The Daily Mail appeals to bigots in the lower-class. This is a misconception not only untrue but also dangerous in The Mail’s favour—for it allows them to play the “everyman” card. But of course, whilst they ostensibly wear a “Conservative” outfit it is hard to imagine they appeal to those who traditionally read The Telegraph. No, what is more accurate is that The Mail are seeking to create their own class. Not High or Low, but rather, With or Against. Their strategy in the culture war is for this end: to form a new class in which ideology is the designation. Class in Mail-speak takes an educational definition, in which its readers must repeat lessons from Edward Verity, Sarah Vine and Peter Hitchens. 

Image credit: itay-verchik via Pixabay

One thought on “Backchat: Social Class

  • I enjoyed to read the article

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