The Rich Will Always Be With Us
Exhibit A: The Honourable Member for the 18th Century, Jacob Rees-Mogg AKA The Haunted Chimney, about whom the writer Ian Trevett had this to say:
‘He is famed for filibustering, where MPs block bills by talking for long enough to block the progress of a bill. In his long speech to filibuster the Sustainable Livestock Bill, he recited poetry, spoke of the superior quality of Somerset eggs, and mentioned the fictional pig, the Empress of Blandings, who won silver at the Shropshire County Show three years in a row, before moving on to talk about the sewerage system and the Battle of Agincourt.’
While he seems merely an absurd caricature, what happens when upper class inbreeding goes too far, his actions do tend to radiate evil.
Countering him is Elvis from Dagenham, a working class lad who had his sights set on becoming a city trader. At Birmingham University he got a 2:1 in political economy, becoming the first member of his family to get a degree.
His mum used to clean Morgan Stanley’s offices and wanted her son to get a job there, but he quickly discovered that many top companies look for candidates with a certain ‘polish’, code for the wrong class, possibly also for the wrong colour.
According to research by the London School of Economics, if you’re a working class graduate with a first class degree you’re less likely to land an elite job than a middle class graduate with a 2:2. And even if you do succeed in getting the position, you’ll earn on average 16% less than your middle class counterparts.
When WS Gilbert wrote, ‘Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes’ for the peers to sing in ‘Iolanthe’ he was waging a class war of his own that delayed his knighthood until over 30 years after Queen Victoria’s death.
Class snobbery has been openly admitted and praised for so long that a new generation of forelock-tuggers has arrived, encouraged by newspapers like the Mail and the Evening Standard. The good news is that the new generation of royals reflect the modern world.
The problem arises in keeping class out of crime novels. I’ve a scene in the next B&M with Bryant causing havoc in a posh restaurant, and realise that what I’m doing is pure Norman Wisdom – thumbing one’s nose at institutions. Class has never automatically been linked with money (indeed, the uppers on their uppers were a familiar sight) but it has become so now, so today I’m wrestling with a new problem. How do you catch someone who’s rich enough to not get caught?