Claire Black: Despite my two university degrees, I define myself as working-class

Claire Black

Claire Black

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I HAVEN’T taken the test. I don’t want to and I don’t have to either.

I’m referring to the BBC Lab UK’s Great British Class Survey, which asks questions such as “Do you listen to hip hop?” and requires you to reveal whether your social circle includes chief executives or electricians.

Perhaps you know where you fit on the new seven-tier system concocted now that the Cleese-Barker-Corbett scale has been deemed no longer adequate. Are you in the privileged elite, or the established middle-class? Maybe you’re a new affluent worker or one of the traditional working class.

I may not know whether I’ve scraped into the heady heights of the “technical middle class” or slid down into the “precariat” (the precarious proletariat) at the bottom, but I do know that class is infinitely more complex than any of these surveys ever allow and knowing whether I listen to Wagner while eating oysters or watch You’ve Been Framed while partaking of a chip butty will tell you very little. (I do all of the aforementioned, of course.)

Tony Blair once proclaimed that we were “all middle class now”, and Jill Kirby, a Conservative adviser from the Centre for Policy Studies, last week insisted that class has “eroded almost completely”. Only that’s not how it feels.

Not when the tiny proportion of the population who have their education bought for them overwhelmingly dominate places at the best universities and then continue unperturbed into senior positions in government, the law, the civil service and, yes, even journalism.

Not when a boy born in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas has a life expectancy eight years below the national average and 14 years below a boy born in the least deprived area.

I remember being told by an aspirational working-class boyfriend of my sister that I would be the first of my working-class parents’ children who would be middle-class. I didn’t take it well. I still don’t.

It’s true, of course, that I was the first (but not the last) in my family to go to university. But despite my two university degrees (what can I say? I had a lot to prove), I define myself as working-class.

What I listen to and who I hang out with changes nothing. When it comes to class, a new set of categories seems like the last thing we need when we’ve done so little to face up to the intransigence of the old ones and what they really mean.

Oh God, Edinburgh is the most sensible city in the UK. Wouldn’t we rather be the most gregarious? Or the most generous? No, no, we are sensible. We eat a proper breakfast in the morning, we make sure to get at least seven hours sleep, we save for our retirement. I can’t argue against any of these things, ahem, sensibly, and yet still I want to say, “Edinburghers, come on, we only have one life, let’s live a little”.

GOOD to know that the multi-talented Sophie Dahl, the model, turned cookery book writer, has decided to bestow her largesse upon us by designing a new capsule collection for cashmere brand Brora. Her inspiration? “The-morning-after-the-night-before”. Yes, Sophie, we know that to you that means “a woman on an island after a party, walking home with her shoes in her hands”, but to the rest of us it means the shame-fuelled trudge to the shop to buy Nurofen and a bottle of fizzy pop. Cashmere? Not so much.

Twitter: @Scottiesays

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