Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain, Andrew Neil's polemic about the gentrification of British politics, began with the most modish of documentary style flourishes – one of those tilt-shift long-shots that transforms the real world into something that looks like a model village. For once, though, the gimmick had a justification in the script. As the camera panned across a Legoland vision of Westminster, with dinky toy cars streaming past outside, Neil described it as "a tiny toy-town world beyond the reach of most of us... the playground of a rich elite." After a brief Prague Spring of meritocracy – when grammar school-educated premiers such as Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher achieved the highest office in the land (no mention of Jim Callaghan, perhaps because he didn't think he had any merit) – we'd now reverted to business as usual, with private incomes, public-school backgrounds and the old boy network providing the keys to the gate.
You couldn't really argue with Neil's figures. Three-quarters of the coalition cabinet, he claimed, are millionaires and 66 per cent of the cabinet were privately educated, while that's only true of seven per cent of the country at large. Oxford, which over the years has supplied us with 26 Prime Ministers, has also supplied us with 100 of our current MPs. That latter fact might not be at odds with a meritocracy, of course, provided that access to Oxford was open to all, but Neil's case was that entrance to the ante-rooms to power was becoming more restrictive too. He got Sarah Teather to agree with him, to his surprise but not mine (what was she going to say? "We're trying to cut down on the number of oiks who get in, but it's hard to keep them all out"?). And he also took David "It Should Have Been Me" Davis off to a greasy spoon, where the former leadership candidate more circumspectly backed up the case that meritocracy had faltered – anxious, I think, not to look too chippy about the shiny-faced Lord Snooty who'd beaten him to the top job.
There was a certain amount of vanity to Neil's argument, and the depiction of himself as someone who had achieved through "ability and ambition". I'm not convinced that he had to include the Hello!-style tour of his expansive Knightsbridge house and boast about his chauffeur and housekeeper to make his point. But he had rightly identified that the heart of the problem was educational. "Did they make you think you were born to rule?" he asked Douglas Hurd. No, replied Hurd, which was a bit economical with the truth. They made them think they were born to do whatever they wanted to, and if that happened to be ruling, they approached the matter with supreme self-assurance. You could see it in the preposterous figure of Jacob Rees-Mogg, approached here at a constituency fête. "I'm a man of the people," he'd drawled smugly. "Vox populi, vox dei," a line that presumably goes down better in North East Somerset than it would do in Scunthorpe. There was also a richly ironic moment when Lord Mandelson – who did more than most to tie the people's party in with big money and old schools – deplored the erosion of the traditional links with the unions, one of the few entrance doors to a political career that was open to ordinary working men. "You're not just seeing things get posher," said Mandelson, "you're seeing things get narrower as well." He can perhaps convene an impromptu discussion on to how to put this right next time he's on one of the Rothschild yachts. This is, incidentally, a problem for the Conservative Party as well as Labour. Neil suggested, with some persuasion, that diminishing perceptions of the Conservatives as a party for the ordinary Joe might have been a factor in depriving Cameron of overall victory at the last election.
In my day, The Joy of Teen Sex would have been a cruelly ironic title. We weren't getting any, for one thing, and the fumbled approximations of congress that did occasionally come our way were usually anything but joyful. Judging from Channel 4's problem-page series, though, things have changed. Now it's a question of fine-tuning your sex life, rather than the agonised hope that you might one day achieve one. Take Michaela and Luke, for example, very happy together but for Luke's reluctance to perform cunnilingus, a delinquency that seems to have its origins in a phobic dread of Michaela's nether regions. "There's only so much you can do to change a vagina," she said wearily, but none of the things she's already tried have worked. So they'd come along to share their intimate problem with anyone who cared to tune in. First of all they got a soft-porn instruction in possible techniques. "You've got to be careful that your guy's still breathing," noted the helpful expert, as a female model rode bareback on a male model's face and Luke looked on ashen-faced. Then they went off to Brighton, so that Michaela could have a plaster-cast made of her crotch. Also on the programme were Chloe and Louis who were aggrieved because Louis's parents wouldn't let them have sex in the family home (nice smackback, Louis!), and 16-year-old Mo, who, astonishingly, was prepared to pose next to a giant title card reading "I Cum Too Quickly". Why do so many girls want to be glamour models these days, the programme asked at one point. Perhaps because they live in a frantically sex-obsessed world? Of which this programme is a perfect symptom.