Tiffany heart? I'd rather have a neck chain from Argos

Bad taste is the new good taste, the Royles are the new Royals - we're all common now. JAMES SHERWOOD gives three cheers for vulgarity

There's a revolution going on, and it's definitely more polyester than velvet. Sushi, Stella Tennant, Harvey Nichols and Tara P-T have come and gone. Chips, Kate Moss, H&M and Liza Tarbuck are eternal. It's time to ditch the espresso and hunt down one of the new tea shops popping up all over London. Two sugars? Aye, luv.

Even the world of high fashion has finally understood that, as Vogue doyenne Diana Vreeland said, "There are a lot of things in this world far worse than a dash of bad taste." Vulgarity is literally written all over this season. Funky Soho boutique Shop is selling out of the gold "name" necklace beloved of Shazzas and normally found at Argos. For autumn/winter 99, Dolce & Gabbana is peddling electric blue fox furs, leopard-skin micro minis and diamante belts. The flash Eighties logo is back in business. A Louis Vuitton logo rucksack doesn't whisper quality. It shouts, "I'm a gold card holder and I'm worth it."

"People are less interested in people just because they are aristocratic," says Lydia Slater, features editor of Harper's & Queen. "We are much more interested in the new aristocracy. Society is much more celebrity-oriented and it is relatively easy to get into. At smart parties today you'll see Tracey Emin stubbing her fags out in the canapes and rubbing shoulders with David Beckham. The mix makes life more interesting. The Season was dying on its feet before the new establishment demanded they join in. It really doesn't matter if you weren't born an aristocrat. Wear the right clothes and say the right things and you shall go to the parties."

The common touch is not to be confused with dumbing down. McQueen may talk like a barrow boy but he has the hands of a magician. Ditto cab driver's son John Galliano. The new establishment is simply more meritocratic. You can no longer measure culture on a Richter scale of high or low brow, which is why Joan Collins can be profiled by The South Bank Show and Coronation Street's Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) deserves her hour- long tribute on ITV. BBC1's The Royle Family is as perceptive about working class family life as Dickens or Alan Bennett. Compared with the current glut of vacuous costume dramas, The Royle Family scripts are a Nineties answer to Jean-Paul Sartre.

We pretend to hate Posh and Becks but in fact we can't get enough of them. Julie Burchill's pop culture bible the Modern Review once ran a cover line, "Posh Spice: is she f---". But to insult Posh is to miss the point completely. Of course she's common. Her dad drove her to school in a Rolls-Royce for God's sake. What's Victoria's secret? She's vulgar as a rhinestone G-string. That's why we cherish her as a national icon. Compared with Posh & Becks's OK! wedding, Edward and Sophie's nuptials were hopelessly bourgeois.

The House of Commons is an all too accurate tag for the current crop of politicians. You can almost see Clare Short sucking on a clay pipe, cackling and knitting as the Lords' political power is neutered. With the fox hunting ban now likely, we're left wondering what is left for aristos to occupy their time. The Bastille that is British politics has been stormed by a Prime Minister with the mannerisms of a Saturday night gameshow host, a deputy who could run Bernard Manning a close second for gurning offensiveness and a Chancellor who looks like a provincial bank manager. The new establishment is as common as goat's knees.

Regional accents outnumber Radio 4 Received Pronunciation in the broadcast media. Being in possession of a posh accent doesn't denote intellectual or social superiority. The voice of Britain today is Sara Cox's Yorkshire brogue, Michael Owen's flat vowels and Denise Van Outen's saucy Essex snigger. A posh accent could even be classed as a handicap in the employment market. It suggests nepotism, inbreeding and Tim Nice-But-Dim ineptitude. Hence the Trustafarian's attempt to adopt Estuary English: "Seriously cool, yah?".

Elocution guru Sheila Mahoney coaches aspiring actors, TV personalities and public speakers from her London studio. "In the Eighties, there was a demand for upper-class intonation. The decade was aspirational and upwardly mobile. The Sloane Ranger speech pattern opened doors. Accents evolve as values change. Now we connect a Northern accent with honesty, humour and common sense and I encourage people to go back to their phonetic roots."

Sentimentality is a working-class trait despised by the coolly indifferent upper classes. Tatler magazine famously called Princess Diana an Essex girl because she rebelled against stiff-upper-lip restraint. Post-Diana we have permission to wallow in sentiment. We can also burn the rule book where manners are concerned.

"It's a minefield," says Lydia Slater. "I went out for dinner with a gang of twentysomethings and started to eat asparagus with my fingers, as you should. The other guests looked at me with abject horror and I used the knife and fork. You really have to be flexible these days - almost a cultural chameleon who can fit in anywhere. However, if you have confidence you can get away with anything. If you've got the guts then you can make it anywhere."

Who'd have thought a Northern working men's club singer could sell out the Royal Albert Hall? When the BBC filmed The Cruise, cabaret performer Jane McDonald dreamed of playing the London Palladium. Jane was carried to the Palladium stage on a wave of public sentiment and notched up a Number One album which pushed Massive Attack off the top spot. "With me being Northern, a pub singer and a bit overweight, the press went to town on me. I was amazed the public didn't seem to mind," she says. "You've got to

make the best of it. If nobody likes it then sod 'em." Why did we take Jane McDonald to our hearts? Because the lady is as Yorkshire as Tetley Bitter.

Jane McDonald wouldn't have existed in the Eighties. In those days ownership of an Abba CD was as covert as Class A possession. Now the entire population knows the actions to Steps' Tragedy and we're not afraid to do them in public. There may still be those who blast Puff Daddy from the car stereo but behind closed doors we are a nation lip-synching to Shania Twain's Man! I Feel Like A Woman.

Country music is trouncing hip-hop, hard house and techno in the UK chart. With the best will in the world, which of us can sing along to "Pimpmotherf- ---erkickassbitch" with any conviction? We like cheesy pop and to hell with the cool music cognoscenti as they sneer at our Best of Cilla Black CD. Cheap and cheerful Britney Spears, Adam Rickitt, Atomic Kitten and S Club 7 sell because they pander to our baser instincts. We aren't being common to be contrary. Teenypop is cool.

Our heroes today have feet of clay. They are flawed and - here's that Northern sentiment again - we love them because, not despite, of their failings. We like to know they do "normal" things like get pissed (Robbie Williams), enjoy casual pick-ups (George Michael) and feel lonely (Geri Halliwell). "I think I wanted to smash down the mystery," says Geri Halliwell of this year's Channel 4 documentary Geri. "I wanted to show that everybody laughs, everybody cries and the millennium is about being honest. As for doing things for my career, it wasn't about that at all." Frankly we don't give a damn if Big Breakfast presenter Johnny Vaughan did time, Kate Moss did drugs or Geri's working-class candidness helped her career.

Those in the new establishment have earned our respect and their own money. We expect more of our leaders than posturing and privilege. Henry Dent-Brocklehurst and his lovely wife Lili may look aesthetically pleasing in the pages of Tatler, but what precisely do they do? Passive is passe. Our role models have to be active. That's why Hollywood is loving Vinnie Jones and Bond villain Goldie rather than stumbling, bumbling Hugh Grant. The British have a reputation for elevating their idols only to tear them down. As Vinnie Jones told Vanity Fair, this attitude is changing: "Back home, people are more likely to look at me and say `Lucky bastard'." Lydia Slater diagnoses Britain's "Have a go" philosophy as an American import. "We are more inclined to applaud success, especially if someone has really made something of themselves because, let's face it, we all think we could do it too."

Just as water always finds its level, society is readjusting to the cultural revolution. Only a year ago, who'd have thought good taste could be the victim of a coup d'etat? Las Vegas routs Mustique as the hip global destination. Celeb-worshipping In Style magazine pulverises Vogue as a style bible and EastEnders' Troy and Irene - not Liz and Hugh - are the nation's sweethearts. Now group hug everyone and down to the pub for half a bitter.

COMMON BAROMETER

IN

Tetley's tea

Leeds

Champagne

Cocaine

Shag rugs

Shania Twain

The Royles

`OK!'

`EastEnders'

Rose

`South Park'

Steak

Whippets

Red Ken

Red talons

Wool mix

H&M

Steps

`Living etc'

Troy & Irene

Las Vegas

Suburbia

Fake fur

Argos

Scouse

Two Jags

Liza Tarbuck

OUT

Espresso

London

Evian

St John's Wort

Stripped pine

Lauryn Hill

The Royals

`Hello!'

`Newsnight'

Merlot

`The Simpsons'

Sushi

Shitzus

Lord Archer

Manicure

Cashmere

Harvey Nicks

The Corrs

`Wallpaper'

Liz & Hugh

Mustique

Urban jungle

Velvet

Tiffany's

RP

Range Rover

Tara P-T

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

    £40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

    Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

    Design Technology Teacher

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

    Foundation Teacher

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes