Blog post

Owen Jones in response to James Delingpole: Posh people are not a persecuted minority

Owen Jones 1 June 2011

I have a lot of respect for James Delingpole: it takes a lot of courage to argue that "posh people are the last persecuted minority" in Britain. But perhaps I would take him a bit more seriously if he wasn't guilty of using his newspaper column to repeatedly "chav-bash" in the most blatant fashion.

Take an article he wrote back in 2006, entitled 'A conspiracy against chavs? Count me in'. Like other right-wing commentators, Delingpole used Little Britain's Vicky Pollard—a "horrid caricature of housing-estate young motherhood", as he puts it—as a template:

"The reason Vicky Pollard caught the public imagination is that she embodies with such fearful accuracy several of the great scourges of contemporary Britain: aggressive all-female gangs of embittered, hormonal, drunken teenagers; gym-slip mums who choose to get pregnant as a career option; pasty-faced, lard-gutted slappers who'll drop their knickers in the blink of an eye; dismal ineducables who may not know much about English or History, but can damn well argue their rights with a devious fluency that would shame a barrister from Matrix Chambers."

Vicky Pollards were, he argued, "every bit as ripe and just a target for social satire as were, say, the raddled working-class drunks sent by Hogarth in Gin Lane."

I'd agree with him that Vicky Pollard is a damning indictment all right - of a society in which attacking and caricaturing working-class people is entirely mainstream. Pollard is, of course, a grotesque caricature of a young white working-class mum invented by two wealthy, privately-educated men. A few years ago, a YouGov poll revealed that the majority of people working in TV thought she was an accurate representation of the white working-class.

When a privileged journalist such as Delingpole uses his newspaper column as a platform to spray abuse on those with no ability to defend themselves, it is difficult to sympathise with his own claims of persecution.

Of course, Delingpole's argument that posh people are a persecuted minority is as ridiculous as it is offensive. Well-bred white men dominate every sphere of life: not least politics and the media. In our radio debate, Delingpole compared the treatment of posh people to the persecution of gay men and black people. Until forty years ago, people were imprisoned for being gay; homophobic abuse is rampant in our school playgrounds; and violence on the streets against gay men remains disturbingly high. Similarly, black people have faced decades of systematic and institutionalised discrimination; racial hatred and violence continues to plague our society. To compare all this to a quip about posh people on a daytime TV show a disturbing lack of perspective.

In our debate, Delingpole argued that private schools produce Britain's best minds. If his logically contorted arguments achieve anything, it is to bring that theory into real disrepute.

Owen Jones debated whether posh people should be protected as "the last persecuted minority" with James Delingpole on the "Today" programme. Visit the BBC Radio 4 website to listen to the debate in full, and the Daily Telegraph to read Delingpole's take on the discussion. 

Visit Owen Jones' blog jonesblog to read more of his writing. 

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