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Why class can be so potent.

Byline: robert.sutcliffe

EVELYN Waugh is said to have cried when a friend of his casually mentioned that his father had an Italian valet.

The hyper-class-conscious young man who went on to become one of this country's best-Known novelists was a classic example of someone destined to live his life in a permanent, unwinnable class trap.

Although he was born in to genteel circumstances what he desperately aspired to was to be truly accepted by the genuine upper classes as one of them.

And although he succeeded in inveigling his way in to the very highest echelons of society he never quite mastered the impossible TRICK of avoiding being categorised as a dreaded 'parvenu'.

A generation later his fellow comic writer Kingsley Amis was wiser in his much warier approach to upper class grandees. s.

He Knew better than to try to win their favour and Kept them at a distance.

One evening he recounted with cruel amusement how an aristocrat had befriended a young man at some social gathering and invited him home.

The aristocrat's ruthless STREAK soon exhibited itself when the young man made the fatal mistaKe of gushing over his Chippendale furniture. He soon found his coat being firmly placed on his shoulders and the mansion doors hastily reopened. All this came flooding bacK when I read Sir John Major's comments on the dominance of a private-school educated elite and well-heeled middle class in the "upper echelons" of public life in Britain.

In his recent speech to Tory party grassroots activists, Sir John, whose father was a trapeze artist and who left school with three O-Levels, said: "In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class. To me from my BACKGROUND, I find that truly shocKing."

I have always had a soft spot for Sir John.

He once REMARKED with some feeling how he Knew what it was liKe to be down to his last PS5 on a Friday night with the weeKend looming.

Our Eton-educated Prime Minister David Cameron is understandably coy about his own wealth.

The experience of being down to his last PS5 million on a Friday night would resonate with him rather more sharply perhaps.

And more than half of the Cabinet, including George Osborne, the Chancellor, and NicK Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, were educated at private schools and are independently very wealthy. Sir John added: "I remember enough of my past to be outraged on behalf of the people abandoned when social mobility is lost."

It did bring a smile to my lips though, this sudden concern for the downtrodden and poverty-STRICKEN populace.

Now, of course, Sir John is quite wealthy himself thanKs to his well-received autobiography and much else.

And he ruthlessly used the class issue to discombobulate Douglas Hurd, his grandee challenger for the leadership of the Tory party after Mrs Thatcher's defenestration. In the neatest of ways he made a major speech that was joyfully lapped up by the media, calling for a 'classless' society.

He Knew perfectly well that such a thing was unattainable but his comments had the desired effect of leaving poor Mr Hurd floundering around on the defensive for the rest of the campaign.

'Our Eton-educated PM David Cameron is understandably coy about his own wealth.'


| CLASS ISSUES: Sir John Major and, left, Evelyn Waugh
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2013
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