The UK’s elite financial services and legal firms are reportedly operating a “poshness test” that systematically locks out talented working-class people. Hooray, another stick to batter public school kids with. There are so few areas left where we have carte blanche to despise people openly that I feel poshos do us all a great service.
During the election, I noticed it was perfectly acceptable to write, tweet, and shout that privately educated ex-boarding school kids shouldn’t be allowed near government as their childhood had been farmed out to strangers, killing their ability to empathise and love, leaving them as depressing husks of humans, not unlike Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.
Imagine writing that about any other section of society? “The thing about Comp School kids,” one might say, “is they don’t get good Maths GCSEs and are the product of divorce and too much ITV.” In the long lift-ride down to reception clutching one’s P45, stapler and neon Post-Its in a box, one might reflect on the cruel glibness of this opinion. I am not posh – no one with silver fillings and a passion for Staffordshire bull terriers is – but after 20 years in London spent in the close vicinity of people whose childhoods sound like a rollicking Enid Blyton adventure tale, I must speak out, lightly, in their defence.
Being born posh to people who ship you off to a fantastically expensive school is as much down to life’s lottery as being born to the tragic souls clinging currently to plywood rafts in choppy seas 60 miles north of Libya. No child chooses either life. It is foisted upon them. And while we may lash out time and again at employers for favouring CVs which feature pricey schools where “customers” are hot-housed to be strong leaders, what we refuse to acknowledge is the other, subtler benefits of this sort of schooling – benefits which employers adore.
My poshest friends are hardy things. They left home aged somewhere between seven and 11, dealing from a delicate age with separation anxiety and loneliness, while learning the law of survival in a dorm crammed with bullies, bickerers, bed-wetters and braggards. By default, many of them can weave and bob through any social situation, small-talking, schmoozing, pointing out the prettiness of the curtains, the exquisiteness of the art and, well, oh aren’t these canapés to die for? Love or hate the posho, but they can fit in anywhere there is money to be made.
Situations that make me stabby – communal dining with strangers; hearty team-building events; long, tedious corporate cocktails; interactive performance art; anything where one must show face and make nice – this is where my posh friends roll up their sleeves and go pro.
They are bred to bound into rooms with a wrist-shattering handshake, steely eye contact and a squirrel-with-acorns enthusiasm to show how ecstatic, nay, honoured they are to be invited. Yes, it’s mostly fake, but employers probably don’t care. And, clearly, their costly, expansive, ambitiously hewn education programme doesn’t hurt in building confidence. Greek mythology, the Plantagenet kings, Latin verbs, Dickens, neolithic Britain and scores of other things I’m only learning about now via BBC4 – the average posho has a light smattering of knowledge on them all. Enough to get by anyway, which is all anyone truly needs.
General Election 2015: The alternative power list
General Election 2015: The alternative power list
1/18 Rick Edwards
He may have started his career as a T4 pinup - best known for saying “awkward” and “now, for more Friends” - but Rick Edwards has re-launched his career as a politico. Edwards' book None Of The Above was published this year, and he was praised for making the prospect of voting and getting involved in politics exciting for young people.
He gave a TED talk last summer, in which he gave suggestions for how politicians could get under-24s to become passionate about drawing a cross next to a candidate's name.
2/18 Ant and Dec
The Geordie cheeky-chappy TV presenters recently took a turn as political pundits when they discussed their disillusionment with the Labour Party in February.
Ant McPartlin said: “I voted Labour all my life but last election I voted Tory because I was thoroughly disillusioned with the Labour government. Now I'm thoroughly disillusioned with a coalition government.
”I feel we're both staunchly Labour and would vote Labour if we could, but I don't know what their philosophy is any more.“
Declan Donnelly added: ”I'm not sure I could picture him [Ed Miliband] as prime minister.“
3/18 Cheryl Fernandez-Versini
The singer gave a candid interview about her political beliefs, saying that as she paid a "f**king lot of tax" she was obliged to pay careful attention to what each party is saying.
Fernandez-Versini, who normally supports the Labour party, told the Telegraph: "I’ve always been Labour all my life but I want to hear what [the other parties have] got to say for myself. Now that I’m a mature woman."
Sport Relief/Gary Moyes
4/18 Jack Monroe
A food blogger who spent years on the poverty line struggling to raise her son as a single mother, Jack Monroe has come out as a supporter of the Green Party.
In 2014, Monroe was mired in controversy after saying that David Cameron uses "stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS". Her contract blogging for Sainsbury's was not renewed.
5/18 Armando Iannucci
The Thick Of It creator has been a loud voice for reminding people to vote, and believes that if you don't go to the polling station on 7 May, you're more likely to be penalised by whoever comes to power.
A supporter of the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 election, Iannucci has said he doesn't know who to back this time around, but has been critical of the Tory party's attempted takedown of the SNP.
6/18 Simon Cowell
X Factor founder Cowell said that David Cameron had the “substance and the stomach to navigate us through difficult times”.
7/18 Eddie Izzard
A staunch Labour supporter, comedian Eddie Izzard has been on the campaign trail with the party's candidates from Southwark to Crewe.
Izzard has said he will stand as the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2020 and has been a party donor since 1998. During the 2015 campaign, he has been dismissive of what he believes is the Conservative party flaunting their wealth by erecting giant billboards.
8/18 Al Murray the Pub Landlord
South Thanet’s finest, comedian Murray is running against Nigel Farage in his constituency. Leading new party Free United Kingdom Party, Murray’s policies include bricking up the Channel Tunnel and giving the public a British moon on a British stick.
9/18 Russell Brand
Despite famously saying there was no point in voting, Brand has now urged his followers to vote for Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton, and told the rest of England "You gotta vote Labour".
Brand's YouTube channel The Trews has prompted debate, and he hit back at David Cameron describing him as a joke, saying that he didn't think there was anything funny about the Tories cutting public services.
10/18 Joey Essex
The Only Way Is Essex star – famed for wearing a watch around his ankle and shoes a size too small so they don’t turn up at the toes – has now dipped his toe into politics. Essex (real name) interviewed Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg for ITV. He didn’t learn a lot, but reckons voting is “reem”.
11/18 Robin Grey – aka David Cameron’s favourite busker
In April, as David Cameron strolled through Alnwick, Northumberland, a ukulele-playing man who told the Prime Minister to "f*** off back to Eton".
That ukulele player was Robin Grey. He told The Independent: "I started singing it ('f*** off back to Eton') [and] I was like, that's a bit crass, I thought I could do better than that. But I just kept on going, because it was coming from the heart."
12/18 Steph & Dom from Gogglebox
The super-posh couple from Sandwich staged an interview with Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Very little actually came out of the debate – apart from Farage spilling a drink down his slacks – but the couple got on with him like a house on fire.
While the couple never expressed their political allegiances, they managed to humanise Farage even more, and we can't exactly see them voting Green at the polls.
13/18 Royal baby
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s daughter Princess Charlotte could sway the election in favour of the Conservatives as people will be happy with the status quo. If it was a boy called Edward, Tories had worried it could sway the public in favour of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
14/18 Myleene Klass
The Hear’Say singer turned businesswoman gave Ed Miliband the grilling of a lifetime, saying that his proposals for mansion tax were unfair, and that: “You can’t just point at things and tax them.”
Posting a picture of Margaret Thatcher, the singer showed her support for the often-controversial Conservative Prime Minister. Apparently free milk in schools and miners rights are less important than a de-regulated financial market to the Like A Virgin singer.
16/18 Martin Freeman
Bilbo Baggins has poked his head out of his Hobbit home to endorse the Labour party. Freeman has filmed passionate messages for the public to encourage people to vote for Miliband’s party.
17/18 Gary Barlow
The Take That singer endorsed the Conservatives in the 2010 election, joking: “I've only known David Cameron for about year. In fact, I was slightly worried at first, because he thought Ronan Keating was part of Take That.”
18/18 Caitlin Moran
Perhaps the essential Twitter follow, and a booming voice for the left in Britain. Times columnist Moran constantly writes thought-provoking articles about women and being working class.
Add to this the rather infectious eccentricity of the ex-Winchester, Roedean or Charterhouse alumni – nurtured on a schedule of hymn-singing, secret languages, house loyalty, point-scoring, flag-hoisting, prize winning and cups – and it’s not exactly bewildering to see why employers favour the posh. Their headmaster informed them they were future leaders. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The most honking elephant in the room is that while the general public claims to love the underdog and cries out for more poor backgrounds and rough diamonds in public life, we are inevitably dazzled and charmed everytime a true posho takes the stage.
Zac Goldsmith, by default, would no doubt make the perfect London Mayor. Not only is he earnest, handsome and beautifully educated, but also because being Mayor of London is one long arduous round of ceremonial ribbon-cutting, nodding in building sites and six-course banquets with foreign trade officials. It is a poisoned chalice of snoozesome committee-attending, budget juggling and sounding happy to be called a prat by cab drivers on BBC London radio. It is a job for a thick-skinned, socially brilliant posho and, to be frank, he’s quite welcome to it.
And obviously, in this tepid defence of my posh friends, I don’t mean “all posh people”, because I’m aware that some, despite all that daddy spent on them, are socially inept porridge-brains.
But then the difference between a brilliant education and a tepid one is that the former allows a person to scan this column and recognise it as anecdotal, speaking in raffish brush strokes, without wasting a full morning on the internet shouting, “NOT 100 PER CENT OF POSH PEOPLE ARE CLEVER”.
Because one of the most employable things about posh people is their ability – thanks to constantly being at the top of the pile – to not have to get tangled up in time-consuming battles to be heard or respected. Posh people tend not to fritter time on the internet – or in meetings, or in industrial tribunals – table-thumping about why they should be treated fairly, as they are already being treated bloody wonderfully, thank you.
As one interviewee in the report about the advantages of hiring posh people said: “I can write. . . an obscure comment in the margin and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. You get my jokes. There’s not a risk that I’m going to offend you by saying something, because we get each other.”
As a commoner, I hate the game, but I still find it difficult to hate the players.Reuse content