Terence Blacker: Rich soup for the national soul

The Rich List is a propaganda tool for unconstrained capitalism

Share
Related Topics

It will be a good week – yet another good week – for those who believe that the pride of our nation lies in its ever-enduring respect for wealth and class. The Sunday Times Rich List, a slavering celebration of "billionaire Britain", has just been published, bringing the good news that the extremely wealthy have not only avoided the recession but have taken advantage of it to make more money.

The richest Briton, the Duke of Westminster, saw the value of the property portfolio he inherited increase over the past 12 months by a very acceptable £250m, bringing his value to £7bn.

The week's TV elaborates on a similar theme. Last night saw the launch of Made in Chelsea, a "reality drama" which will invite viewers to gawp at the excesses of "a group of globetrotting twentysomethings who live in an affluent pocket of south-west London and party on the most elite social circuit in the world". Laughing at young toffs is said to be a riposte to The Only Way is Essex, which plays the same trick at the other end of the social scale.

Finally, in this bumper week for the aspirational, Lord Sugar is back with the latest group of ambition-crazed grotesques competing in The Apprentice. Youngsters will be taught how to become rich and successful by putting themselves first, blaming others, and pulling a fast one on those doing business with them.

What happened? How did we get here? I could have sworn that, not so long ago, two successive Conservative prime ministers supported breaking down class barriers. I'm almost certain they were followed by two Labour prime ministers who made commitments to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Yet not only is class thriving as never before but it is feeding on those other contemporary obsessions, money and fame, and growing stronger as a result.

The new snobbery may be marginally preferable to that of the past in that at least it involves a small amount of effort. The old-fashioned class consciousness, which enjoyed its tedious heyday in the 1980s with the Sloane Rangers and their lovely young goddess Princess Di, was essentially about being in an exclusive club. No matter how thick or idle a person was, he or she was thought to be all right if they belonged to the right kind of family, did the right kind of jobs and held the right kind of values.

Today sees a small improvement: if you dream of becoming a globetrotting twentysomething on the most elite social circuit in the world, class will not necessarily be a barrier. Somewhat belatedly in our history, background is losing its importance as an indicator of social worth.

It is money which is now the unquestioned good. In The Apprentice, real qualities of character – loyalty, modesty, sensitivity – are derided by Alan Sugar as absurd hangovers of a lost age. Reading, thought, even education itself, are presented as a waste of a successful person's time. The only talent that matters is the capacity to make money.

The Labour peer is presenting a show which enshrines Tory values. Champions of Thatcherism used to argue that a country's strength is built on the money-making activities of its entrepreneurs. Their successors go further. The rich are not only supporting the economy, but are good for the national soul. Their dynamism, the values which they represent, are the foundations of the Big Society.

Eagerly, their camp followers in the press taken the cue. With smiling faces and happy families on every page, the Rich List is a propaganda tool for unconstrained capitalism. It devotes much space to the charitable activities of these lovely people. There is even a Giving List, listing the most generous of our billionaires. Greed was once said to be good. Now it is positively saintly.



terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen