Intelligence Squared Debate Autumn Series ’05
Apart from Chavs, the British Have no Class 7.12.05
Chaired by Sir Clement Freud
For: Deborah Moggagh, Boris Johnson, Howard Jacobson
Against: Kate Fox, Ferdinand Mount, Simon Fanshawe
Debate opened by Charles Moore.
Sir Clement recited The Garden Party by Hilaire Belloc:
The Rich arrived in pairs
And also in Rolls Royces;
They talked of their affairs
In loud and strident voices….
The Poor arrived in Fords,
Whose features they resembled;
They laughed to see so many Lords
And Ladies all assembled.
The People in Between
Looked underdone and harassed,
And our of place and mean,
And Horribly embarrassed.
Deborah Moggagh kicked off with a lively description of Chavs (council house and violent) and how we look up to them and desire bling jewelllery and fake designer clothes. Hello magazine with Posh Spice types and the ‘face lifts of Croydon’ with hair tied back high are obviously hugely admired. Many retire to Spain and feel they have made it.
Kate Fox, the social anthropologist in a foxy outfit, claimed that for an objective and balanced approach we must assess whether or not we are a classless society. It all boiled down to whether we called our midday meal dinner or lunch. She claimed we are all acutely class conscious although we shared cross-cultural universal values. And not everyone could have a posh, floppy mop, like Boris’s.
Boris bounced up to explain that he originated from the commercial classes as he had a great great grandfather who had a monopoly on beeswax in Istanbul. He said there is a divide between the bottom 20% of society – from which are derived chavs – and the rest. He asked what Labour was doing for the bottom 20%. Education is increasingly correlated to class with Labour keeping up a jihad against selection in schools. The bottom 20% are being grossly over-taxed and are increasingly ensnared in means tests that make them dependent on the state. Most of the British, he believed, are a ‘hybrid melange of middle classdom’. He said:
We have a gigantic homogenous grouping of people: we’re all middle class
Ferdinand Mount continued the Belloc theme by quoting from Lord Lundy and ‘The next Prime Minister but three’. He claimed that the perception of class in society was as likely to disappear as binge drinking. There are divisions of opportunity and deepening inequalities of opportunity. The reason for the huge exodus of the rich to the Dordogne was they had to escape the unpleasant tone of the people – so as not to speak to the poor. He rounded up saying that it is a total illusion to think that we live in a classless society.
Howard Jacobson, in an amusing speech full of wild gesticulations, illustrated his belief that to be common is a value judgement – he quoted the Da Vinci Code as an example of a book that polarised views. He considered it to be uberchav.
Simon Fanshawe was eloquent and achingly funny in his mockery of the upper classes with Bremmer-style impersonations. He referred to chavs as NQOCD [high-pitch tone] – not quite our class dear. He said the Conservatives kept having leadership elections because they’re the only ones they win.
The final result – sorry Chavs – the British do have class.
The result was 216 Undecided, 167 For and 345 Against.