"The upper classes have got a lot of experience and history behind them, and a gift for cunning and camouflage," the author of the report, Professor Jeremy Thursday, told me in an exclusive interview. "Also, they have got an inherent sense of their own superiority. It's significant, I think, that we talk about the upper classes in the plural, but the working class in the singular."
What's significant about that?
"I don't know. I just have a gut feeling that it is."
So, which classes have performed best in the league table?
"The working class have done very well. So have the middle classes. And the upper classes too. All social classes have shown progress under the government's new class performance incentive scheme."
What does the scheme involve?
"Making everyone feel better even if they're not better off."
Hmm... Isn't it surprising that the upper classes continue to thrive under a Labour government?
"Well, that might be so if we actually had a Labour government. What we've got is a New Labour government which is dedicated to keeping the Tories in opposition for the foreseeable future by stealing Tory policies and operating as a crypto-Tory government."
Phew! Isn't that a bit satirical, a bit sort of alternative comedy, coming from a professor of sociology?
"Yes, it is, and one interesting thing that comes out of this British class league table is that almost all alternative comedians and sociology professors do come from the working class or upper working class. And if they don't, they pretend they do."
And did Professor Jeremy Thursday himself have a working class background?
"With a name like Jeremy Thursday? You're kidding! I had to struggle to get where I am today."
And where are you today ?
"Near the top of the professional classes."
And who are they?
"They are that part of the middle class who are ever so middle class but who don't want to call themselves middle class. But I tell you, if I had known what I know now, I would never have started from the middle class to become a sociologist. I'd have joined the working class first and got the right background.
"If you want to get into a certain profession, you would be well advised to choose your class carefully first. That's why parents like to study class league tables. You want your son to be a comedian or a footballer? Sign up for the working class. You want him to be an accountant or a bureaucrat? Go for the middle class."
How easy is it for someone to move from class to class? If you reckon you're in the wrong class, can you change without trouble?
"If you're prepared to work at it. Relocating from working class to middle class seldom involves a great deal more than modification of accent, change of table manners, revamping of meal times and a change of dog."
Change of dog?
"Dog By Class Chart, see page 165, Table 78. But going from middle class to upper class would be a lot harder. Unless you married into the upper class. That's quick and easy. Otherwise it could take a generation or two."
Presumably, though, it will be less attractive to become upper class now that peers' hereditary votes are being removed?
"Rubbish! The upper classes aren't interested in governing the country any more. They're just interested in owning it. That's why extreme wealth is the key to entering the upper classes. And why extreme poverty is the key to leaving the upper classes."
I thought birth and position were the key to entry?
"No, no - that comes later. You get birth and status after you've become upper class. Nobody ever became upper class by being upper class. You start with wealth and move on to breeding later. You don't know much about this, do you? What class are you?"
Um... middle class, I think.
"Then you should seriously think about polishing your shoes more often. Next!"
The `Government Report on Social Standing Success', commonly known as the Class League Tables 1999, is published by HMSO, 196 pp, price pounds 19.99. Or free, if you know the right peopleReuse content