Pride And Privilege: The Icing On The Cake For George Osborne

21/03/2017 16:28

Come on, let's not kid ourselves: Osborne's appointment as editor of the London Evening Standard has less to do talent - no matter what Michael Heseltine said on Radio 4's Any Questions over the weekend - and more to do with the size of the wallet. Yes, we're still there. Money counts.

Actually, the issue here is not so much money per se, but rather how money and privilege masquerade as talent, and how then that 'talent' is used as justification for hogging all the top jobs. Osborne is no more talented than anyone else - a 2:1 bachelor's degree in Modern History hardly makes him a genius - he simply has a bigger wallet than most. Talk about the winner taking it all. In Britain today, the wealthy are still taking it all, not because they are proportionally smarter or inherently more talented than anyone else, but simply because they start the race halfway up the track.

And that's what's so riling about this situation. It couldn't be more 'let-them-eat-cake' and 'have-another-rum-old-chap' if it tried! Quite simply, this is a flagrant, barefaced display of the very entitlement that underpins, and perpetuates, the inequalities that riddle our society to its core. As someone who has worked in some of the poorest schools in the UK, I can say there is plenty of talent out there. Yes, these children are poor, but their brains are brimming. And will likely, given half a chance, achieve more than a 2:1 at university. But how can these kids be allowed to shine when all the top spots bed blocked by the wealthy? Why should the rich hog all the opportunity?

And so here lies the central issue with Osborne's appointment; it is a pattern of privilege that remains rife throughout our society - whether it be journalism (54% of the current top journalists and editors have been privately educated, compared with about 7% of the total school population), or politics (32% of MPs have been privately educated), or medicine (61% of top doctors were privately educated), or law (74% of the top judiciary were privately educated), or even theatre (42% of BAFTA winning actors are independently educated). The equation is simple: privilege buys opportunity; the poor remain locked out.

So, the question remains: how do we iron out these problems? How do we break down the barricade that is the historical link between wealth and top jobs? I don't have the answer. But perhaps a good start would be for those like George Osborne to step aside and allow someone else a job. This would be part of the answer (although let's be honest, most likely someone else from the Bullingdon Club will sweep in). But of course, the best solution would be that people like Osborne use their privilege not to hog opportunity but to share it, to offer it around, to spread the love to those from less fortunate backgrounds, to join them and work alongside them, sharing knowledge and getting to know one another. They can use their privilege to open the very doors they spend their time closing, allowing the disadvantaged to genuinely feel hopeful, giving them buy-in to a society from which they feel so marginalised. Then the wealthy can genuinely feel proud about their privilege, and the poor will finally be able to taste the brioche.