Friday Ephemera
Peeled and Juiced

Stiff Competition

Among the terms used to search this site is the phrase “well-heeled class warrior.” The results of that search include several references to the Guardian’s associate editor, Seumas Milne, whose disregard for reality and repeated attempts to mislead will be familiar to regular readers. While Milne is incorrigible in his evasions and distortions, it’s perhaps unfair to single him out as uniquely hypocritical. Plenty of Milne’s colleagues could vie for the title quoted above. Among them, Milne’s employer, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, whose prodigious capacity for hypocrisy was revealed in this exchange with Piers Morgan, from which the following is but an appetiser:

PM: In the Guardian, you never stop banging on about fat cats. Do you think that your readers would be pleased to hear that you earned £520,000 last year? Are you worth it?

AR: That’s for others to say.

PM: Do you ever get awkward moments when your bonus gets published? Do you wince and think, “Oh dear, Polly Toynbee’s not going to like this one”?

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Or is Polly raking in so much herself that she wouldn’t mind?

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Are you embarrassed by it?

AR: No. I didn’t ask for the money.

PM: I heard you bought a grand piano for £50,000.

AR: £30,000 - the most extravagant thing I’ve ever bought.

Speaking of noted egalitarian Polly “two villas” Toynbee, let’s not forget that her reaction to being revealed as a textbook eco-hypocrite remains one of Question Time’s finer moments. (There is, of course, some stiff competition in displays of ostentatious eco-virtue.) Nor should we overlook Toynbee’s colleague Zoe Williams, whose recent contributions to human betterment include a suspicion that the state education system is being “squeezed” due to “demand from parents who, in non-recessionary conditions, would have gone private.” This suspicion of unwelcome “privateers” prompts the following question:

Why isn’t there already in place some kind of formula that puts people who would normally be aiming for the private sector at the bottom of the waiting lists for the sought-after places in community schools?

The scrupulously class-conscious Ms Williams goes on to ponder in some detail the admissions hierarchy that could be applied to “whittle out” such cash-strapped “privateers”:

At the very bottom of the waiting list, put the kids who have been removed from a private school, since the intentions of their parents are the most transparent; somewhat above them, but below everybody else, put the kids who have siblings at private schools.

Other criteria are cheerily volunteered:

Do they have a 4x4? Can the parents provide a letter from any local leftwing organisation, attesting to their commitment to open-access state education? Did they go to any meetings?

If the whiff of leftwing vindictiveness is insufficiently obvious, Ms Williams makes her feelings clear:

As for vindictive, ha! Good.

And if such comments should strike anyone as pithy and original, it’s perhaps worth bearing in mind the words of Leszek Kolakowski, commenting on education in the Soviet Union during the 1920s: “The enrolment of students was subjected to class criteria so as to exclude ‘bourgeois’ applicants, i.e. children of the old intelligentsia or the middle class.” (Main Currents of Marxism, Vol.3, pp47-48, quoted by Fabian Tassano here.)

Readers will doubtless be shocked – shocked – to discover that prior to attending Lincoln College, Oxford, Ms Williams was a student at the pricey and elevated Godolphin and Latymer School - a voluntary aided institution of the kind to which well-to-do socialists so often send their children, and whose list of extracurricular activities includes visits to the Sinai Desert. Much like the after-school activities of so many local comprehensives, whose “excellence,” Ms Williams tells us, was built by “regular teachers and parents who were never trying to create an elite, who believed in parity.”

Writing in today’s Sunday Times, Minette Marrin notes the class war vitriol and asks the inevitable question:

Should [Williams], too, be punished for the class crimes of her parents in educating her privately? Which queue should Williams be shoved to the back of to atone for her inherited class guilt?

It would, I think, be interesting to hear Ms Williams’ reply to that, though previous attempts to elicit clarification have proved disappointing. As, for instance, when Siobhan Butterworth quizzed Williams on her heated indignation regarding the election of London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. Asked about her portrayal of Johnson as a “snob,” a racist and a “moneyed creep,” Ms Williams, herself no pauper girl, replied,

I tell people what to do all the time. I don’t expect them to take me seriously.

Egad. Can’t imagine why.

Related: Fellow Guardianista Arabella Weir performs much the same manoeuvre. Hm. Does anyone see a pattern?