Apart from the Chavs, the British have no class

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Intelligence Squared Debate Autumn Series ’05

Apart from Chavs, the British Have no Class 7.12.05

Chaired by Sir Clement Freud

For: Deborah Moggagh, Boris Johnson, Howard Jacobson

: Kate Fox, Ferdinand Mount, Simon Fanshawe

Debate opened by Charles Moore.

Sir Clement recited The Garden Party by Hilaire Belloc:

The Rich arrived in pairs
And also in Rolls Royces;
They talked of their affairs
In loud and strident voices….

The Poor arrived in Fords,
Whose features they resembled;
They laughed to see so many Lords
And Ladies all assembled.

The People in Between
Looked underdone and harassed,
And our of place and mean,
And Horribly embarrassed.

Deborah Moggagh kicked off with a lively description of Chavs (council house and violent) and how we look up to them and desire bling jewelllery and fake designer clothes. Hello magazine with Posh Spice types and the ‘face lifts of Croydon’ with hair tied back high are obviously hugely admired. Many retire to Spain and feel they have made it.

Kate Fox, the social anthropologist in a foxy outfit, claimed that for an objective and balanced approach we must assess whether or not we are a classless society. It all boiled down to whether we called our midday meal dinner or lunch. She claimed we are all acutely class conscious although we shared cross-cultural universal values. And not everyone could have a posh, floppy mop, like Boris’s.

Boris bounced up to explain that he originated from the commercial classes as he had a great great grandfather who had a monopoly on beeswax in Istanbul. He said there is a divide between the bottom 20% of society – from which are derived chavs – and the rest. He asked what Labour was doing for the bottom 20%. Education is increasingly correlated to class with Labour keeping up a jihad against selection in schools. The bottom 20% are being grossly over-taxed and are increasingly ensnared in means tests that make them dependent on the state. Most of the British, he believed, are a ‘hybrid melange of middle classdom’. He said:

We have a gigantic homogenous grouping of people: we’re all middle class

Ferdinand Mount continued the Belloc theme by quoting from Lord Lundy and ‘The next Prime Minister but three’. He claimed that the perception of class in society was as likely to disappear as binge drinking. There are divisions of opportunity and deepening inequalities of opportunity. The reason for the huge exodus of the rich to the Dordogne was they had to escape the unpleasant tone of the people – so as not to speak to the poor. He rounded up saying that it is a total illusion to think that we live in a classless society.

Howard Jacobson, in an amusing speech full of wild gesticulations, illustrated his belief that to be common is a value judgement – he quoted the Da Vinci Code as an example of a book that polarised views. He considered it to be uberchav.

Simon Fanshawe was eloquent and achingly funny in his mockery of the upper classes with Bremmer-style impersonations. He referred to chavs as NQOCD [high-pitch tone] – not quite our class dear. He said the Conservatives kept having leadership elections because they’re the only ones they win.

The final result – sorry Chavs – the British do have class.
The result was 216 Undecided, 167 For and 345 Against.

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16 thoughts on “Apart from the Chavs, the British have no class”

  1. I may be able to understand this when I find out what a ‘chav’ is.

    Is it pronounced “chav” or “shav”? And does it have anything to do with C

  2. Boris has got it all wrong. The bottom 20% are doing just fine. They get income for no work, free accommodation and endless concessions on everything from travel to holidays. Of course, in return they have to give up on aspiration and self-respect but apart from that what is their problem exactly? Seems to me they have a good deal, relaxing watching daytime TV, sitting in pubs, sauntering round the shops in unhurried fashion.

    No, the people who get the worst of it are the honest working class – still very numerous thank God or we would all be in schtuck – and the lower middle classes. The latter in particular more or less have to find the money for everything from their own salaries.

    Cameron and co. – Boris on board I presume – have got off to a bad start with the bottom 20% nonsense. I have a horrible feeling the sinister-looking Maude (almost as disturbing in his looks as his father Angus, now deceased) is behind a lot of this.

    Why is Cameron giving up on Europe and immigration? Does he really think these problems are going to go away? He’s living in cloud cuckoo land if he does. The EU isn’t going to stop the drive to statehood – it could no more stop that than a man with St. Vitus’s dance coudl stop twitching – and poor people from abroad aren’t going to stop trying to get here – many of them bringing with them education-proof beliefs that run counter to everything that we hold dear in British culture, such as free speech, democracy, female emancipation. These are serious issues which no serious party should try and write out of the record.

    What is he putting in their place? Soft centred greenery and compassion cream – to be applied
    liberally to all affected areas*.

    *Warning – some parties may experience a reaction with painful side effects like loss of votes.

  3. Idlex – here is a definition of chav – a new word in 2004:

    Main Entry: chav
    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: the lower class; uneducated and ignorant people
    Etymology: perh. Romany chav child
    Usage: derogatory slang

  4. Not that this is the right thread to be posting in, but congrats to Boris on returning to the shadow cabinet!


  5. Shadow higher education minister… interesting. As I’ll be going to university next year, I’ll be watching Boris like a hawk.

  6. Congratulations to Boris

    News flash: Congratulations are due to Boris Johnson, who has been made Shadow Minister for Higher Education. Does this mean that he has to give up his role in the Spectator? This seems a good time to remind people of…

  7. Will Taki be new editor at The Spectator?

    Taki’s column on Dec 3:

    “And now for some good news. The powers that be have told me that I shall be named editor of The Spectator if Boris becomes a front bencher and resigns. This is only fair. I’ve been waiting for the top job for 28 years, seven proprietors and five editors. My first act will be to move Mary Wakefield’s desk next to mine, lock the door and exercise my droits de seigneur. The next act will be to fire myself having excercised my rights. Well worth waiting for.”

    The story here: http://ronmwangaguhunga.blogspot.com

  8. Are OAP’s (or Senior Citizens, as we prefer to be called)in the same catergory as chav’s? We are definitely well into the “on benefits, watching day-time TV, living of cheap food etc.” class, thanks to that nice Mr Blair. The fact that we had a GBP200 ‘gift’ to help with our Council Tax is an admission by the government that we are too heavily taxed, and that the pension is low as to warrant help with our heating bills.

  9. Congratulations on returning to the top team!

    Re: Field’s comments about Cameron giving up on the EU & immigration. Having seen Camo’s meteoric rise in the past few days, his stunning performance against Blair at PMQ’s and his and the party’s rapid ascent in the polls, have the faith in your hugely talented leader to treat him and his policies with the respect he’s earned, Field. Or make a good case for opposing policies. You do neither!

    I’m not a Tory, yet I trust David Cameron and his vision of a society which shares wealth and life quality among us all. His vision of green policies are not soft options but the strategies which we must employ to try to ensure the survival of our planet. I trust Cameron’s judgement sufficiently to allow him the time he needs to properly develop detailed policies for the benefit of all of us in Britain.

    You seem not to like Cameron’s vision. Would you rather return to the prospect of another decade or so of New Labour’s destruction of our country and our Civil Liberties – with the Conservatives able to offer no compelling or winning alternative? Or perhaps you have an alternative election winning strategy? Let’s hear it. Be mindful that’s it useless to simply regurgitate the old lack lustre visions which have helped keep New Labour in power. What well grounded vision do YOU have?

  10. Liberty Rose: “I trust Cameron’s judgement sufficiently to allow him the time he needs to properly develop detailed policies for the benefit of all of us in Britain.”

    I would certainly like to see the Conservatives led by an effective leader who has integrity and can bring higher standards to Westminster, but is Cameron capable of this? He may be a nice man, but he is an insider with little or no experience of the real world. His own website explains “Outside work, David’s interests include playing tennis, riding, country sports and watching television. He is a keen cook.”

    By the time Churchill was 39, he had served in the army in India and Africa, been a war correspondent, a prisoner of war (and escapee), and written four books. He had also been Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty – all before 1913.

    And Cameron? Has he written books? Does he speak any foreign languages? Does he have research degrees? Has he travelled extensively, lived abroad? Maybe not.

    Does he cook and watch television? Yes.

  11. Today , I browsed through the paraphernalia in a Charity Shop, and what did I find but a serires of items of Burberry apparel. It seems as though the chavs in our area are getting rid of their badges of recognition.. Does this mean that a new escutcheon of Chavdom is being designed, or is it merely a sign of maturity?

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