John Morrish: On the fiddle? On the sick? Who are you calling dishonest?

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The Independent Online

Look, let's get something clear. The middle classes do not commit crimes. They are not dishonest. They are not "on the fiddle", "on the take" or "on the sick", to use the nasty vernacular. They do not "like a bung".

Au contraire, the so-called middle classes are the surging, pumping, vermilion lifeblood of Britain. They have bank accounts and loyalty cards for several supermarkets. Their privet hedges are clipped, their children shod.

They drive nice German motor cars, with silencers, tyres with tread and tax discs that did not come out of a photocopier. They buy proper newspapers, like this one, even if they don't contain articles about celebrities' breasts. And when they die, as even the middle classes must, they selflessly ensure it is not from obesity, lung cancer or anything else unsightly or expensively protracted.

I mean, what does society want? They - by whom I mean we - are doing everything they can to build a Britain fit for honest, decent people rather like ourselves. And yet, a misconception has arisen: a false perception, if you prefer.

Viewed from the perspective of, say, a newly redundant schoolteacher, the compromises and accommodations that ease the little sticking points in middle-class life can look - what's the word? - crooked. Bent. Corrupt.

And, of course, there's always an envy-driven leftist academic ready with figures to try to prove the point. Only last week, a researcher from something called the University of Keele suggested that middle-class "crimes" - keeping excess change, paying cash to the man who tidies the shrubbery, taking home post-it notes - cost the country £14bn a year. To him and all the others pointing the finger, we say one thing: prove it.

For any academics and similar naifs reading this, let me explain how it works. Yes, you do pay people in bundles of greasy fivers. But that's not avoiding anything, except embarrassment. You can hardly ask the resourceful Romany who offers to cut random lumps out of your trees to take your debit card and run it through his machine, can you? He probably hasn't even got a computer in his caravan.

Then there's education. No, it's not making liars, frauds and hypocrites of us all. It is making us take the long view. When your middle-class child reaches double figures, you worry. Now, you may accept that the comprehensive system makes all senior schools equally good. But you have a sneaking suspicion that a school nestling amid houses in the high six figures will be, if not better, more "appropriate" for your child.

But unaccountably, you can't afford one of those houses. You live in a street where, it is said, some neighbours have jobs where they "clock in". So now you campaign. If your parents live in the good catchment area, tell the school you still live with them, aged 45, with your family. If not, you might arrange a hopefully temporary separation, so that one of you - with custody naturally - can get lodgings, with your 10-year-old, in the right street. But frankly, if it's a good school, you'll need to be able to see the front gate from your bedsit window if you're going to manoeuvre yourself in front of all the siblings, teachers' children, governors' children and government ministers' children.

Or go private. But if you can't afford the mortgage on the double-fronted Georgian with the gravel drive, you won't be able to afford Fallingdown College, let alone, say, Fettes College. Explore the scholarship market. Are you a Catholic? Considered becoming one? It will cross your mind. Trust me.

Or you might have to play down your cushy lifestyle. Hide the other Beamer in Ma and Pa's second garage. Put a fence across the lawn, hiding the pergola, the ornamental lake and the orchard: just for that gap between filling in the form about your modest means and getting the cut-price fee offer.

Some might have a rude name for this. Cheating. Not playing fair. Or perhaps obtaining money and services by deception. Rot. It's doing the right thing, for Britain and for you. You have to take responsibility for yourself and your loved ones. Because, in a middle- class country like ours, no one else will.

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