Class war to the death?

Terminal illness makes you think.

And the coverage of Jade Goody’s cancer has prompted some thinking about class.

Brendan O’Neil writes about “the unpleasant distinction between ‘chic’ and ‘chav’ cancer”, pointing out that Ruth Picardie, John Diamond and Kylie Minogue were praised for talking about their cancers, while Jade has been attacked. The same theme is picked up by India Knight in today’s Sunday Times.

People used to find cancer shameful; it’s not. But snobbery is.

Class prejudice is a cancer in our society – malignant and hard to treat.

I still remember the culture shock of arriving at Oxford – the first girl from my grammar school ever to get to Balliol – to find public school socialists proclaiming solidarity with the miners one moment, then sneering at my Kays catalogue the next (although to be fair, it was probably a first for Balliol too).

I’d grown up in a Labour-voting household that was about social justice, not inverted snobbery; about seeing the divine spark in everyone. So I found the Liberals; I was captivated by their commitment to liberate people as individuals not just promote rival groups, fighting poverty, ignorance and conformity, and swiftly joined them instead.

Now we have a Labour government has failed badly on social mobility; and a culture that kicks people when they are down. Class may determine where you start, but it musn’t limit where you go. That’s why the Lib Dem policies to give the poorest pupils in state schools the same levels of funding and teacher attention as in private schools are so radical and so exciting.

Meanwhile, time to give Jade a break. Death is, after all, supposed to be the great leveller.


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