Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Let's hear it for Harumphrys!

There ought to be more radio like John Humphrys' series of reports on social mobility on this week's Today Programme. Humphreys is one of the last of a breed who will probably be professionally extinct in ten years: people who have reached great eminence in British life despite leaving school at fifteen and starting work as an office junior.
He goes back to the poor area of Cardiff where he was brought up and on to the council estates of Middlesbrough and finds that, despite huge amounts of investment, hundreds of well intentioned "initiatives" and the energetic efforts of our educational institutions, a child from a poor background is now less likely to "get on" than at any point in his lifetime.
Unlike your average guilt-ridden middle class BBC reporter, what Humphrys is not afraid to bring out is that some people don't want to better themselves because they can get by on benefits and anyway it's all the immigrants' fault.
What he probably won't bring out, because his antennae aren't adjusted that way, is that we live in a Culture of Display and as long as the kids in the underclass have the same iPods, mobile phones and fashionable clothes as the kids in the middle class, they've got even less to "aspire" to.


  1. I was listening to that yesterday morning. The accents were astonishing. The guys sat outside the pub on a warm afternoon with nowhere much to go and nothing much to do seemed to have willingly embraced wilful, beery sloth and navel-gazing as a new career in itself.

  2. I wish I could do that. I figure twenty-odd years of tax-paying and not having kids has entitled me to a life of leisure and watching Trisha for a few years, courtesy of You, The Taxpayer.

  3. Isn't that life of leisure called retirement? I used to live near Middlesbrough - god it was grim. A friend who teaches there tells me that the lack of aspiration is ingrained by primary school. Very sad.