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We are creating a new feudalism in this never-ending game of thrones

In one breath we denounce the monarchy, in the next we are voting for a new king or queen of anything – even the jungle. Andy Martin on the stupidity of handing out prizes for being more interesting

Monday 09 December 2019 13:26 GMT
Another personality gets a throne: Jacqueline Jossa is crowned Queen of the Jungle
Another personality gets a throne: Jacqueline Jossa is crowned Queen of the Jungle (Rex Features)

Who am I going to vote for? Will it be an insanely wealthy, extremely successful racing car driver, or an insanely wealthy, extremely successful footballer? So hard to choose. I am not, of course, speaking of the general election but of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year contest. And my simple answer is: I won’t be voting at all. I refuse to give someone a prize for their personality. You might as well start handing out prizes for the colour of someone’s eyes or the greatest laugh or the biggest feet in Britain. But, for all I know, perhaps people are flocking to vote for their favourite eyes right now.

Despite all the talk about voter fatigue, the fact is we are addicted to electing our favourites, to ranking everyone, in every field (and even in the outback). It feels as if we cannot live without surrounding ourselves with hierarchies. Feudalism never really went away. Even if we set aside the madly archaic royal family and assorted lords and ladies (and perhaps, let’s face it, they really should be set aside), we can’t get rid of the idea of an immense ladder, with a few occupying the higher rungs and everyone else fighting for space lower down. There is no level playing field, everyone is living on the vertical axis. Even after revolutions and royal executions, our obsession with nobility lives on. We keep on recreating imaginary kings and queens, even if only for a year or a day. And we are now approaching the season not so much of giving as of judging the “Best X or Y of 2019”.

In figures published this week by the Equality Trust the UK’s six richest are richer than the bottom 13.2 million people. It’s Ferraris vs food banks as the Equality Trust’s Dr Wanda Wyporska put it neatly. It used to be the top 10 per cent owned nearly everything. Now it’s more like 1 per cent. And in the Most Unequal Christmas Ever Yet To Come we will have a handful of powerful people owning this planet and others while everyone else is in hock to them. Karl Marx was the first to nail down how wealth accumulates (via “surplus value”).

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